How to Build a Business by Playing Nice (+ Book Giveaway!)

Lisa Sugar is a pretty cool person. She has attended the Oscars, had a Hollywood-themed Bat Mitzvah, and her first concert was Michael Jackson. 

She's also the founder of POPSUGAR, a global lifestyle media and tech company inspiring and engaging over 100 million readers. Since its beginnings in 2005, POPSUGAR has embraced a vision to "modernize the newsstand" and connect readers to all the latest trends in lifestyle and pop culture. It is now the #1 independent media company for women. 

Of course, a successful business like POPSUGAR doesn't just appear. It takes a lot of hard work and passion, and Lisa Sugar's new book Power Your Happy details her steps to success in both life and career. 

One of Sugar's overarching philosophies is to "work hard, play nice." She believes that you don't have to cheat or be cutthroat to get to the top—working hard and playing by the rules is rewarded just as well. Sugar notes:

For me, nice doesn't mean saccharine or relentlessly positive. It can mean being fiercely competitive (which I'll be the first to admit I am) as long as you play by the rules. Nor does nice mean being sickly sweet or timid (I also curse like a sailor). My brand of nice comes from a place of honesty, supporting others, and being empathetic. Nice is the simple lesson you learn in preschool: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

3 Ways to Build a Business While Playing Nice

1. Make friends with your competition

It's easy to think of your competition as the enemy—a person or entity from which you want to distance yourself and keep secrets. But Sugar recognizes that a huge part of POPSUGAR's early success is due to the support of other writers and celebrity sites:

It felt as though these fellow bloggers were my coworkers. ... We gave one another advice—about coding, finding images, tools, and navigating legalities—and become friends in the process. We were fond of one another and knew how much hard work we all were putting into our sites. ... Rather than see one another as rivals, we figured out how to collaborate. As a result, all of us grew our sites' traffic much faster than we would have alone.

As you build your business and navigate your career, consider doing so with a mindset of collaboration and abundance. Going it alone and feeling as though you are in a stressful state of "survival of the fittest" is not healthy. 

2. Stay true to your values

When it comes to building a business or career, know that you have a unique understanding of your industry—the good and the bad—and have an opportunity to consciously choose how you want to participate. 

When Sugar started POPSUGAR, she knew she wanted to promote a positive voice that inspires women to build confidence, celebrate their diversity, and feel supported. While many other celebrity and media sites thrive on a negative voice, Sugar was sure to cultivate an online community where people were safe. For instance, a primary editorial guideline from the beginning was to never write anything about a person you would not say directly to their face. Comments and audience engagement are also well-monitored to encourage positive conversation and weed out the trolls. In the end, POPSUGAR's values-drive business practices were rewarded with a rapidly growing community. 

3. Focus on team culture

The success of your business depends on many people, which is why it's so important to thoughtfully grow your team and team culture. Sugar notes that by focusing on building a work atmosphere that is happy and supportive, her employees are better able to do good work, suggest new ideas, and appropriately resolve conflict. 

More specifically, Sugar encourages transparency and an all-hands-on-deck mentality in her team:

I want to create a safe, positive environment where I'd rather hear what the twenty-two-year-olds have to say than make them cower in fear. ... At POPSUGAR, we have the mentality that everyone should know how to do a little bit of everything. Sure, you need to start by learning the basics and train your way up to bigger tasks, but being at the top doesn't mean you are ever above doing a little dirty work. That's part of working hard and playing nice and being a team player. 

Book Giveaway

We're excited to announce that one awesome Life After College reader will receive a copy of Lisa Sugar's Power Your Happy!

To enter to win, please answer the following question in the comments by Friday, March 10. We will pick a winner via and let you know! Good luck!

Comment to Be Entered to Win: 
What does "playing nice" in your business or career mean to you? 

Marisol Dahl graduated Yale in 2015 as a Sociology and Education Studies major. She is currently a New York-based freelancer in communications and brand strategy, and loves exploring minimalist blogging and social media practices at her site Mindful & Minimal. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

3 Things I Learned About Productivity from the Perfect Day Method (+Giveaway!)

Written by Marisol Dahl

As a freelancer, I often feel like I have the best of both worlds. I get to work with amazingly talented people and companies who are doing important and impactful work. But I also get a certain level of freedom in terms of how I work—how many hours I work, where I work, how I schedule my days, and when to take vacation time.

But that’s not to say that freelancing is easy or is the “perfect” situation for everyone.

There have been many mornings where I wake up and have a plan for the day: a few client calls, time blocked out to do certain things, some admin stuff in the afternoon. But then it all goes out the door when the emails come flooding in: new (more pressing) assignments, mini-emergencies, the occasional anxious phone call.

Suddenly I have a million new things screaming for my attention. And I know it’s not just freelancers who deal with this work craziness! :)

The fact is we are working in increasingly interruptive environments.

Pierre Khawand, work and productivity expert and founder and CEO of People-OnTheGo, notes that these interruptions are invasive to our lives and our results:

“We are overloaded with too many e-mails, too much social media, too many competing and changing priorities, too many interruptions. Worse, we are led to believe that we need to keep up, to speedup in order to succeed in the modern workplace. As a result, our minds are overwhelmed and scattered. Studies show that work in an interruptive environment, whether or not those interruptions are related to our work, increases the experience of stress, frustration, time pressure, and effort to get work done." —Pierre Khawand

These interruptions come in all forms—from digital communications and people knocking on your office door, to random thoughts and emotional needs. I was amazed to hear Khawand and his team recently developed a new time management method that takes into account these interruptive demands of the modern working world.

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method

In his new book The Perfect 15-Minute Day: Managing Your Time, Thoughts, and Emotions, Khawand walks through a time management method that requires only a journal and a timer. It’s based on doing work within 15-minute focus bursts—enough time to get a good chunk of work done, but not long enough that we get lost in a time warp!

Check out the video below for a closer look at how it works:


I took the Perfect Day Method (PDM) for a test drive in July, and I was amazed at the results. This method goes beyond just helping you get more stuff done.

3 Things I Learned About Productivity from Using the Perfect Day Method:

1. There is power in 15-minute increments.

How many times do you look at the clock and see another 15 or 20 minutes have slipped by without having made progress? While it feels like such a short time block, deciding to focus on something for 15 minutes is such an easy commitment that lowers the barrier of entry into a task. There’s no pressure to complete the task—just to focus on it. You’ll be surprised how being more mindful of your short time blocks really add up in the end!

2. It is important to have a system in place for thought overload.

“The skill of intercepting a thought, before we act on it, needs to be learned and practiced.” —Pierre Khawand

When we set out on a work project, we often find ourselves managing tasks, subtasks, new developments, and other related to-dos along the way. The Perfect Day Method has a designated space for all of these things that we must remember to do— so that we can free up short-term memory, never forget about all the little details, and renew our focus on the task at hand.

3. Productivity means leaving room for the unexpected.

When was the last time your day went exactly as planned? We can set all the intentions, goals, and appointments we want, but the fact is our days develop organically. Our work affects and is affected by the work of other people, life events, and even environmental conditions. With the Perfect Day Method, you don’t have to map out every little thing; the system is tailored to let your day grow organically.

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to announce that five lucky Life After College readers will receive a copy of The Perfect 15-Minute Day Journal!

To enter to win, please answer the following question in the comments by Friday, August 19. We will pick 5 winners via and email to let you know! Good luck!

Comment to Be Entered to Win: 
What is your best productivity tip?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol graduated Yale in 2015 as a Sociology and Education Studies major. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and brand strategy. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Life After College's Big Reads of the Season (+ Giveaway!)

books One of my favorite things about being out of school is being able to read whatever I want. Not being beholden to a course syllabus is an amazing thing. I’m no longer rushing night after night to finish hundreds of pages of assigned reading, and I get to let my curiosity lead whatever I read next.

It’s like being a kid at a candy store—happily overwhelmed by all the choices, I  decide to take a sample of them all!

In this new series on Life After College, I’ll be rounding up the team’s latest favorite reads of the last quarter. These books and articles have inspired us in our work—teaching us new things about our fields and pushing us to up-level our game. Enjoy!

The Life After College Reading List: Q1 2016

1. Lucent List

First up, we’ve been loving everything in the Lucent List emails, rounding up all the latest in meditation and mindfulness. They mention some great reads like 99u’s The Power of Creative Cross Training and Time’s The Mindful Revolution. Check out the Lucent List archive here.

2. The Internet to the Inner-Net: Five Ways to Reset Your Connection and Live a Conscious Life by Gopi Kallayil

Speaking of mindfulness and meditation, I just finished reading Gopi Kallayil’s new book The Internet to the Inner-Net. This couldn’t have come at a better time. Entering the workforce in this age often means being glued to your cell phone and laptop, and I’ve been craving some more balance between my inner world and my online world. Here’s a description:

A fast-paced career in the high-tech industry combined with a deep yoga and meditation practice has allowed Gopi Kallayil—Google’s Chief Evangelist for Brand Marketing and one of the leading voices encouraging yoga and mindfulness in the workplace today—to integrate his inner and outer technologies to a remarkable degree. Wisdom from his yoga mat and meditation cushion guides his professional career, and his work life provides the perfect classroom to deepen his wisdom practice. The Internet to the Inner-Net guides the rest of us to do the same. In some three dozen wide-ranging, sometimes provocative essays, Gopi shares his experiments in conscious living and offers insight, inspiration, and rituals—including yoga, mindful eating, and even napping—to help us access our own inner worlds.

3. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Deep Work  is a favorite of Jenny’s that I’m just now half-way into myself. In an effort to really turn our attention to projects that matter, we’ve been loving Newport’s message.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way. In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

4. Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

We’re always down to read something by Nancy Duarte, and her latest book Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols does not disappoint.

“As a leader, you have the same potential to not only anticipate the future and invent creative initiatives, but to also inspire those around you to support and execute your vision. In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.”

5. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

If you listened to Jenny’s recent Pivot Podcast episode with Michael Bungay Stanier, you’ll know his new book The Coaching Habit is a must-read. Questions are the bedrock of great coaching and guidance—start asking them more!

“Coaching is an essential skill for leaders. But for most busy, overworked managers, coaching employees is done badly, or not at all.  They’re just too busy, and it’s too hard to change.

But what if managers could coach their people in 10 minutes or less?

In Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.”

6. The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha

I’m still making my way through Pasricha’s The Happiness Equation, but it’s already helped me break through how I think of success and happiness in the pursuit of a great life.

“In The Happiness Equation, Pasricha illustrates how to want nothing, do anything, and have everything. If that sounds like a contradiction, you simply haven’t unlocked the 9 Secrets to Happiness.

Each secret takes a common ideal, flips it on its head, and casts it in a completely new light. Pasricha then goes a step further by providing step-by-step guidelines and hand-drawn scribbles that illustrate exactly how to apply each secret to live a happier life today.”

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to announce that five lucky Life After College readers will receive a copy of one of the books above! To enter to win, please answer the following questions in the comments by Friday, April 22. We will pick 5 winners via and email to let you know! Good luck!

Comment to Be Entered to Win What books and other reading have been inspiring you lately? If you let curiosity and intuition guide your next reading choice, what would you read about next?

Happy 7-Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

cake Written by Jenny Blake

I can’t believe it, but the Life After College website turned nine years old this week . . . and the blog seven! No big fanfare or round-up this year; just an enormous thanks to all of you who are here reading. No matter where you are in your life after college, the LAC team and I are thrilled to have you on board, and honored to be writing for you week after week.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a New Year filled with adventure, magnetic personal projects, and momentum in whichever direction excites you most. Not sure what that is? Here’s a template with thought-starters for the year ahead.

How Can We Be Most Helpful? Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

2015, we’re coming for ya! We are eager to dive in and create insanely helpful posts and tools for you this year. In order to do that most effectively, we would love your feedback . . .

If you have 60 seconds, please share your thoughts in this quick 2-question survey about what we can create for you next year and you will be entered to win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards!

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist

Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She isa career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its seventh year!) and at, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.  

Photo Credit: andrewmalone via Compfight cc

The Rise of Online Learning (And Why It's Right For You)

Written by Marisol Dahl

From 2001 to 2011, the number of full-time college students rose 38%. In the same time, the number of people taking online courses rose to over six million. Just ten years ago, only about 13.5% of students were taking at least one online course. Now we’re talking 32%—one third of the college population.

It’s loud and clear: online learning is a force to reckon with. With their accessibility and competitive quality, online courses are allowing more and more people to continue their education and build new skills.

And it isn’t just colleges and universities that are offering online classes—we’re also seeing a rise in the quantity, quality, and affordability of unaffiliated courses, too. Groups like Treehouse and Fizzle offer subscribers tons of classes, support, and training in the fields of web development and business. Thought leaders like Shawn Achor and David Allen have put together entire online platforms to make their knowledge and techniques more accessible.

With more education opportunities at our fingertips, how do you know how or when to dive in? Is it better to go back to school full-time with a backpack and campus ID in hand, or will an online course suffice?

Online learning is here to stay, but how does it fit into your own life?

4 Signs It's Time to Take an Online Course

1. You’ve hit a ceiling with your current job and are ready to move up.

You’re great at your job—fantastic even. But something’s keeping you from jumping to that next level and significantly increasing your earning power. Is it your dexterity in technology? Lack of leadership training? Limited understanding of Facebook marketing?

Learning a new skill might just be your ticket to rev up your workplace performance and position yourself to take on more responsibility and projects. With hundreds of thousands of online courses out there starting at all levels of expertise, you can zero in on the exact skill you want to build without the added nonsense of college major requirements or re-learning the stuff you already know.

2. You’re just not that interested in adding to your student debt.

But then again, who is? With average undergraduate student debt now at $29,400 and average graduate student debt at $57,600, it’s no wonder people look to alternative learning methods. There are thousands of quality online courses out there for a fraction of the cost of a college class credit—many are completely free!

3. You can’t commit to a rigid class schedule.

Let’s be honest. Very few of us have the time, financial ability, or desire to leave our jobs. We want to keep learning, but not at the expense of cutting out time from our families, hobbies and other projects. Online courses are wonderfully flexible. Most are self-paced and location independent, so learning a new skill doesn’t require a complete pause on other things in your life. Also, going to class in your pajamas is pretty awesome.

4. You want to stay competitive in your field.

With a rapidly-changing job market and advances in technology, odds are there’s always going to be something new to master. Keeping up with it all through online courses is a great way to demonstrate competence and dedication to your employers and peers in your field.

Take Learning Into Your Own Hands

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level with online learning, we suggest starting with SkilledUp, an online course discovery platform built to help you gain new skills.

SkilledUp believes anyone can quickly learn something new and become more marketable to employers. SkilledUp curates the world of online learning by comparing courses across different sources and only focusing on the ones with high returns on investment. It has the largest collection of online courses all in one place, so searching for that perfect class is easy.

We’re proud to have a partner so dedicated to a quality online learning experience. SkilledUp allows users to browse course reviews and ratings to find that perfect match. Their new Trends & Insights section offers quality reporting on the trends, challenges, and innovations in education as it relates to workforce development.

SkilledUp’s ultimate vision is to transform education as we know it—how it’s delivered, how much it costs, and how quickly it helps you get to a career you love.

Exclusive Offer for Life After College Readers

SkilledUp is offering 90% off Udemy’s How to Get a Better Job Faster, an online course created to help you find your dream job. With this course you’ll learn how to amp up your resume, ace job interviews and develop a fool-proof job search strategy.

At just $10, you’ll get lifetime access to 28 lectures filled with job hunting facts and hacks. Learn more about this generous offer here.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What new skill would you like the learn this month?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction, and trying out new recipes. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Six Strategies to Play Big (+ Giveaway!)

Written by Marisol Dahl

Did you know that over 70% of people have felt like a fraud at some point in their professional life?

Impostor syndrome is much more common than you think, and it is especially common in high-achievers. This phenomenon occurs when a person is convinced she is a fraud, a fake, able to pass off work that only “seems” good. Despite clear evidence of a job well done and the praise of peers and bosses, she just doesn’t think she deserves such success. It’s inevitable: one day they’ll catch on that she’s an impostor just flying under the radar.

But if you think impostor syndrome is just a matter of confidence, think again. It can have considerable effects on our careers. Studies have shown that when we think we’re fakes, we only apply to safe jobs we think we’re totally qualified for, we’re less likely to show off our good work, and we find it much more difficult to negotiate salaries and work responsibilities. Not to mention the constant anxiety that one day your cubicle mate will turn around and shout, “Aha! Quick Watson, I’ve found the impostor among us!”

There are many classic signs of shying away from your achievements and value:

  • Dismissing your work as “easy”
  • Attributing your success to luck
  • Shrugging off praise from others
  • Thinking your work looks better than it really is

But what if you don’t show the classic symptoms? How can you tell if you are hiding from your true value, strength, and potential?

Hiding Strategies and How to Play Bigger:

In her new book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, Tara Mohr calls us out when it comes to not stepping up to the plate and playing big.

An expert on women’s leadership and well-being, Tara has identified six sneaky “hiding strategies” we use to avoid playing bigger and to trick ourselves into thinking we are making strong progress in our career endeavors when we actually aren't.

Hiding Strategy #1: This then that

What is it? This is the false belief that things must happen in a certain order.

What does it look like? “I want to teach a class, but I need to build a website about my classes first” or “I want to apply to this top-level job, but I need to move up the ladder first.”

Play Big: Know that there is no one right order in which things can happen. What is the most direct action you can take right now to play big and achieve your goal? Go for it. Submit that job application—what's the worst that can happen?

Hiding Strategy #2: Designing at the whiteboard

What is it? Creative work in isolation. It’s safe yet unproductive work that is out-of-touch with reality.

What does it look like? Brainstorming for a project without input from co-workers, building a business without talking to your ideal customers.

Play Big: Get out there and strike up a conversation! People often see advice- and feedback-seekers as smart players in the workplace. They admire you for wanting to up your game and are happy to help.

Hiding Strategy #3: Overcomplicating and endless polishing

What is it? Finding reasons to delay the launch of your finished work, often stemming from a desire to ensure your work is high quality and robust.

What does it look like? Constantly adding new elements and features to your project, finding new parts to revise or write anew, endless researching.

Play Big: Simplify and launch a bold bare-minimum—you can always add to your work later, and publishing an early version of your work allows you to get helpful feedback!

Hiding Strategy #4: Collecting or curating what everyone else has to say

What is it? Leaving out your own opinions and ideas. This is a classic way of presenting great thoughts, but protecting oneself from the vulnerable position of claiming ownership of innovative, sometimes provocative ideas.

What does it look like? Writing a book about people’s perspectives of September 11, but not including your own. Curating other people’s ideas on how to solve the ebola crisis, but not adding your own solution to the mix.

Play Big: Share what you have to say.

Hiding Strategy #5: Omitting your own story

What is it? This is the fallacy that the work you do should stay completely separate of your inner passions, questions, and curiosity.

What does it look like? “If I include my own experiences as a mother in my article on education reform, people will think I’m just another biased, harping parent. My research and ideas will be discredited.”

Play Big: Share why your work matters to you. There is no such thing as pure objectivity in the work we do—own up to how you are approaching your work, and this adds greater nuance, depth and productivity to the conversation.

Hiding Strategy #6: Getting more and more and more education

What is it? Retreating to the comfort of more school, more training, and more instruction, instead of leaping into the next big thing. This is a classic stalling tactic.

What does it look like? “I should get a PhD in education before I get elected to my district’s Board of Education.” “I need an MBA to start my own business.”

Play Big: Share what you already know. Trust that you have enough expertise to make an impact right now.

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to give away a copy of Playing Big by Tara Mohr to one lucky Life After College reader. To enter, answer the following question in the comments by Friday, November 14:

Comment to Be Entered to Win: What hiding strategy do you use most often? What's one action that you could take this week to move past it?

Introducing SkilledUp

This month we’re honored to partner with SkilledUp, an online course discovery platform built to help you gain new skills.  SkilledUp’s ultimate vision is to transform education as we know it—how it’s delivered, how much it costs, and how quickly it helps you get to a career you love.

Exclusive Deal

SkilledUp is offering 90% off "How to Get a Better Job Faster" - an online course created to help you find your dream job! 

Get this exclusive discount just for readers of Life After College.

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction, and trying out new recipes. She can be reached  on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

The Alliance: How to Transform Your Career (+ Giveaway)

By Davis Nguyen the allianceAt first glance, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age seems to be written for managers who want to improve employee retention. What does this have to do with 20somethings looking for a job—the true life after college?

Upon closer look, the book is really about how all of us can be more agile (and honest with each other) in the new world of work. And we have a lot to learn from it.

What if you knew what your employer was thinking when they were hiring people? It is like auditioning for a movie and knowing exactly what type of role the director wanted to cast. This is what The Alliance is: a manual for employers on hiring and keeping the best talent.

The term “alliance” comes from the partnership made between you and your employer. As with any alliance, it needs to be beneficial to both sides and has objectives laid out.

What is Your Tour of Duty?

At the center of the book is the idea that the alliance you form with an employer should depend on your goals: are you looking for a job that will give you broad exposure to different areas? A job that will develop a particular set of skills? A foundation for a career with the same company?

Authors Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), Ben Casnocha (author of The Start-Up of You), and Chris Yeh (co-founder and General Partner of Wasabi Ventures) call each job or role you take as a “tour of duty.” Similar to serving in the armed services, you have goals that need to be accomplished and a clear vision of the type of person you will be at the end of your tour. At that point, you and your manager can talk about the best next move.

There are three types of tours for you to consider:

The Rotational Tour

This tour of duty allows you to rotate between different roles within a company. Rotational roles are ideal for people are still figuring out what they want to do and don’t want to quite settle for one role yet.

Examples of rotational programs include Google’s People Operations Rotational Program that allows you to try out three different roles in three, nine-month rotations and Box’s Rotational Program Associate that allows you to spend three six-months periods in various business rotations such as marketing, sales, client relations, and business development.

But rotational programs aren’t just limited to big tech companies like Google and Box, even negotiating to rotate roles at your local bookstore is a form of a rotational experience.

A rotational tour benefits the employer because they get to evaluate your fit to their culture, and it benefits you as you develop your skills in various areas and evaluate your fit to the company.

The Transformational Tour

Unlike the rotational tour, a transformational tour is personalized and has a specific outcome for you and the company. During your time in a transformational tour, you will transform yourself as well as your company.

In The Alliance, Reid Hoffman tells the story of Matt Cohler, then a McKinsey & Company Consultant, who wanted to be a Venture Capitalist. Reid convinced Matt that gaining operational experience at a successful startup was a better path to a career in VC than trying to join a firm straight out of consulting. Reid and Matt then created a unique tour of duty for Matt who served as Reid’s right-hand man. Reid got in Matt an ex-consultant who would work on various projects and Matt in exchange gained mentorship from Reid and a broad exposure to various functional and operational areas of LinkedIn.

After his a two year tour of duty Matt eventually left LinkedIn for another tour of duty at Facebook and became a General Partner at Benchmark, a venture capital firm that provided early stage funding for Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, and Instagram, four years later.

The Foundational Tour

The Foundational Tour is seen almost as a form of marriage where both you and employer are committed to each other for the long-term.

Because the foundational tour takes commitment, it usually begins with a rotational or transformational tour that evolves into a foundational one.

The authors write of Brad Smith who began his career at Inuit in 2003 as a general manager of the Intuit Developer Network on a transformational tour. Smith eventually chose to stay longer and is today Intuit's CEO.

Giveaway Time!

Want to learn more about tours of duty and how to negotiate with your employers about beginning your tour of duty? We will be giving away three copies of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.

For a chance to win, answer the following question and leave your email in the comments by Friday, October 31. We will pick three winners with and email to let you know!

Comment to be Entered to Win:

What type of “tour of duty” are you most interested in at this point in your career?

Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.


Train Like An Athlete, Speak Like A Pro

Written by Marisol Dahl

In August during the Speak Like A Pro virtual conference, I was struck by something Pamela Slim said in her interview:

“Presenting is a full-contact sport.”


You can know all the rules to the game, but that doesn’t mean you are going to get out there and hit a home run. Giving a speech, much like playing a sport, involves preparation, a sound body, a strong mind, limber muscles, and a full playbook.

You have to exercise, train, and practice.

But as with any athlete or speaking pro out there, nerves can really trip us up and affect our performance. In Fearless Speaking: Beat Your Anxiety. Build Your Confidence. Change Your Life., Gary Genard plays Coach Joe Girardi to our Derek Jeter. This get-up-out-of-your-seat book is all about going on the offensive and getting to the bottom of your speaking fears. Genard certainly knows how to approach speaking with an athlete’s mindset.

The Athlete’s Mindset

  1. Audience members are your fans, not your competitors.

“Most nervousness isn’t visible to others because it’s internal. And if people do see you’re nervous, they’ll most likely have the normal reaction, which is to sympathize with you. Since audience members feel good when you’re succeeding and embarrassed when you’re failing, they’re actually on your side and want you to do well.”

  1. There is no “I” in “team.” Don’t hog the ball.

Genard delivers some tough love when he calls out speech anxiety and self-consciousness for what they truly are—narcissism.

“Hey, what makes you think this audience is here because of you? They’re contributing their valuable time attending this event because they hope to get something out of it. Instead of being concerned about your own feelings, ask yourself if you’re meeting your audience’s needs.”

  1. Hold the dumbbells, focus on your voice.

“Keep in mind that the voice is inherently physical. That fact may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget when you’re preoccupied with the content of a presentation or consumed by performance anxiety.

Because your voice is physical, it is intimately connected to energy and relaxation, as well as tension and stress. That means that the pressures of a too-hectic lifestyle or work schedule will emerge in one form or another in your vocal expression. Anything you can do to relieve those pressures—yoga, sports, and relaxation exercises—will pay off in a more fluid and powerful vocal instrument.”

  1. Keep your eye on the prize.

“Your fear of public speaking and the measure of your success as a speaker are entirely separate matters. It’s easy to confuse these two issues: thinking that just because you were nervous, your presentation had to have been a failure.

Because speaking anxiety makes you so uncomfortable, it sometimes becomes an all-consuming state of mind. That makes it easy for you to lose sight of a critically important fact: Your goal is not to speak without anxiety it is to positively influence your audience.”

Become an MVP and Train With the Pros

How to Speak Like A Pro: Practical Tips for Your Confidence, Deliver and Impact: On October 27, Jenny will be leading a live workshop at Holstee’s new Learning Lab in Brooklyn, NY. Come connect with creatives, entrepreneurs, and others who want to master the skills of public speaking.

Heroic Public Speaking: Michael Port, One of my biggest influences in business and public speaking, will be leading a four-month interactive virtual program starting October 27. The class will culminate in a live workshop for all participants in February. Click here for details and to get Michael's free Heroic Public Speaking Guide To World Saving Speeches.

Can’t make it? You can still learn how to Speak Like A Pro from home.

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to give away a copy of Fearless Speaking by Gary Genard to one lucky Life After College reader. To enter, answer the following question in the comments by Monday, October 13:

Comment to Be Entered to Win: What do you do to beat public speaking anxiety?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

What's Your Cup of Tea?

life by the cup
life by the cup

Written by Marisol Dahl

A daily dose of love and inspiration can be transformative. 

Love and warmth—that’s what I felt after reading Zhena Muzyka’s Life By The Cup. Just as Sri Lankan tea farmers gently pluck only the best of the tea leaves and buds, Zhena chose her words with great care and esteem. With each chapter she invites you in with a warm cup of tea at hand and confides in you her deeply personal story of struggle and success.

In her early twenties, Zhena was jobless, broke, and unsure of her next step forward. Her baby boy Sage was born with a life-threatening condition, and for years to come they would be in and out of the hospital for dozens of tests, check-ups and operations.

Through these years of hardship, Zhena still managed to achieve her dream of starting a tea business. Without any money or assets to her name, she sat down one day and wrote up a business plan, the very beginnings of what is now the multi-million dollar Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.

At the grand opening of her tea shop, Zhena had six dollars in her bank account and her only customers were her sympathetic landlords. She came back the next day vowing to sell more.

After finally gaining a few investors, she was asked to cut costs and use conventional, non-organic and artificial ingredients. Zhena took a great risk in saying no, that she would stand by her commitment to fair trade practices and natural ingredients. She lost her investors and struggled to sell this premium-priced tea, but she came out with a renewed mission and passion.

Zhena’s story is one of perseverance and heart. But her story doesn’t have to be extraordinary or one-in-a-million. We certainly don’t have to sing the praises of the “little tea company that could” and then return to our own uninspired, half-fulfilled lives.

Perseverance isn’t a super power, it’s a human habit. Sure, it may be tough to keep going, especially after a long day, rejection after rejection, and stifling limitations. It may seem as if your reserves of perseverance and strength have finally run out.

But this is when you need to whip out your secret weapon, the thing that will restore your reserves and keep you chugging along. No one ever said you need to persevere alone—a little help and inspiration can be enough to get you back on your feet.

For Zhena, it was a teacup brimming with exotic, flavorful, revitalizing tea. This was her sanctuary, where she’d retreat after a rough day to remind herself of her mission and mull over her next move. Zhena’s teacup acts as a gentle push to reach her full potential.

I love a cup I can wrap both hands around as I raise it to my lips. A cup is a touchstone of tranquility, or warmth and nourishment. It is also a measure of capacity, for how much a cup can hold is critical for anchoring our experience. The thinness of a cup’s walls conveys the craftsmanship and mindfulness that went into its making. If you truly notice the cup you drink from, you create a meaningful ritual that infuses your tea drinking and your life.

Keep going. Find that cup of tea, a journal, an old family portrait, a hike in the woods. Take a moment to recognize the things that truly re-energize you and make a commitment to incorporate them into your daily life.

Healing the World Through Business

On September 8-12, Zhena will be hosting a virtual en*theos conference on responsible business. She is featuring 29 responsible business experts who will share their top tools, techniques and ideas on how to make a positive impact on the world no matter what industry you work in.

Get your free ticket, cozy up with a cup of tea and learn how to align your business with your goal to change the world for the better.


To enter to win a copy of Zhena Muzyka’s Life By The Cup, answer the following questions in the comments by Friday, September 12:

Comment to be entered to win: What is your comfort activity when your chips are down?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Love Yourself & Catch those Gremlins, for Nothing Changes Until You Do (+Giveaway!)

Written by Marisol Dahl


Today we are so excited to celebrate the official launch of Mike Robbins’s new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do: A Guide to Self-Compassion and Getting Out of Your Own Way.

A keynote speaker on teamwork, emotional intelligence and the importance and impact of authenticity, Mike Robbins is on a mission to help people better connect to each other and to themselves.

Mike's third book, Nothing Changes Until You Do is a collection of 40 stories and reflections from Robbins’s own life and from the lives of those who have most inspired him. Each essay has its own bit of wisdom to impart, everything from why it is important (and courageous!) to embrace powerlessness to the value of owning up to your accomplishments and letting your light shine.

I was fortunate enough to interview Mike and get a peek into his book-writing process, how to battle the inner gremlin (that nagging inner-critic), and his top tip for recent college grads.

Interview with Mike Robbins

As you mention in the introduction, this is the first book you've written in five years. Your other two books were written within three years, with two new babies, and lots of ups and downs. How has writing Nothing Changes Until You Do been different? What's been the best part?

Writing this book was very different. First of all, I’m a few years older now (and hopefully a little wiser). Second of all, we didn’t have a baby associated with this book directly – when I wrote my first one we had a new baby at home and when I wrote my second one, we had a 2-year old and a baby on the way. My girls are now 8 and 5, which is a very different phase of parenting. And, finally, I decided to write this book in a different way (short essay style), which made it even more fun and easy for me to write. I also used speech recognition software to write much of it, which worked really well for me.

Many of our readers are 20-somethings and recent college grads. We're entering the working world, forging new relationships, navigating unchartered territory. What is one thing we can do right now to better embrace our vulnerabilities?

Give yourself permission to feel scared and own it. One of the scariest times in life is when you graduate from college. Of course it can be fun and exciting, but even the most confident, successful, and focused person gets scared when entering a new phase of life. The rules of life in the “real world” are much different than the rules of life in school and it takes some time to figure it out.

A common mistake that most of us make in our early 20s is we spend and waste a lot of time and energy pretending we know what we’re doing, when oftentimes we don’t. This is true throughout life, but especially in our 20s. Embrace your age and exactly where you are. And, remember that it’s okay to feel scared and, at times, completely overwhelmed – everyone else does, they just pretend that they don’t.

What is the first thing you do when you feel your gremlin sneaking up on you?

First of all, it’s important to recognize the gremlin (that negative voice in our head). The most dangerous aspects of the gremlin are the ones we aren’t aware of (i.e. we think it’s the “truth.”)  Once we recognize that it is our gremlin, not us, who is talking or leading the way, we can gently take back our power by having compassion for ourselves and reminding ourselves that the critical voice in our head does not have the final say.

When my gremlin shows up in an intense way, it’s often important for me to reach out to people I know and trust and to let them know some of the negative thoughts and judgments I am experiencing about myself. Talking about it often helps loosen the grip and helps me take back my power from my gremlin.

In one of your later chapters you mentioned that "being bold, while scary and challenging at times, is essential to living an authentic and fulfilling life" and that it's important to "swing hard, just in case you hit it." Can you tell us about a time when you may not have swung hard enough? What would you have done differently?

I have many examples of “not swinging hard enough.” Most of the times I’ve failed – back when I was playing baseball all of those years and in my business now – it is a function of not swinging hard enough (as opposed to swinging too hard).

One recent example is related to a speech I gave at a big conference for one of my clients. It was a huge event and I had a relatively short time I was scheduled to speak on stage. Instead of doing what I normally do – trust my gut, speak from my heart, and allow myself to create in the moment, I got scared and didn’t want to mess up, so I over prepared, rehearsed my speech, and it ended up falling flat, one of the worst ones I’ve given in a long time. It felt like I missed the moment, got overwhelmed by the situation, and didn’t allow myself to trust and risk in the way I know how…in other words, I didn’t swing hard enough. It was painful, but a great learning experience.

I loved your chapter on gratitude, and I find this to be so true: "The way gratitude works is that the more we focus on feeling grateful, the more we have to feel grateful for." In this moment, right now, what are you grateful for?

Such a great question – thank you for asking it. I don’t think we can ever ask or answer this question enough. Right in this moment, I’m grateful for my wife Michelle and our two amazing girls Samantha and Rosie. I’m grateful to be doing work that I love and to have people (like you) asking for my perspective and advice.

I’m grateful that I had the courage and commitment to write another book, even though it can be scary to put myself out there. I’m grateful for the enormous amount of support I have in my life and with my business. I’m grateful for the ability to express myself authentically and to learn each and every day. And…so much more!


We’re excited to be giving away two copies of Nothing Changes Until You Doby Mike Robbins. To enter to win, answer the following question in the comments by Friday, May 16. We will pick a winner via and email to let you know!

Comment to be Entered to Win: What is one blessing-in-disguise that you are grateful for?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Time to Revolutionize Your Leadership Style (+ Giveaways!)

Written by Marisol Dahl

Time for Leadership
Time for Leadership

As Willy Wonka once said, “Time is a precious thing. Never waste it.” 

But this is so much easier said than done, right? In a world of endless distractions and never-ending to-do lists, how do we harness the time, energy and leadership skills to attain the results we really want?

Pierre Khawand’s new book Time for Leadership: The Accomplishing More in Less Time, Less Effort, and Less Stress Leadership Journey is all about looking at leadership in a totally revolutionized way. Khawand recognizes the recent paradigm shift in the concept of leadership and what that means for you and your career.

Leadership is no longer considered something you are simply born with--your leadership skills can grow and develop with experience and sincere effort. Leadership is also not just for those on top. It is needed at all levels, whether you’re the CEO, a front-line employee, or somewhere in between. Finally, this new age of leadership requires a healthy balance of leading and following, knowing when to step up to the plate or when to back down and let others take the wheel.

Khawand and his company People-OntheGo are devoted to helping people use time efficiently, take control of the technological world and tap into their leadership potential. Time for Leadership compiles all the new game-changing models from some of the top minds in leadership. Khawand’s approach is all about having leadership “broken down into digestible and practical behaviors” that we can implement immediately and effectively in our daily lives.

Some quotes that really got me revved up:

On focusing on strengths:

When we focus on people’s strengths, they gain confidence, they get engaged, and they produce great outcomes, and in doing so, they are more likely to overcome their weaknesses.

On deltas and weak links:

80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.

Most of what we accomplish comes from certain activities that are closely connected to our desired results. The link between these activities and these results is strong. We refer to these activities as Deltas. And many of the other activities that we perform don’t generate much result. The link between these activities and the desired results is weak. We refer to these activities as Weak Links.

Before engaging in any activity, gigantic or minuscule, ask the leadership question: Is this activity a Delta or a Weak Link? This is the leadership mindset.

On creativity, in Daniel Guillory’s chapter:

To be truly creative, be prepared to have a thick skin. The reason for this goes to Picasso’s famous quote, “Creativity is first of all an act of destruction.” A creative act changes the way we do or view something--and by definition, most human beings do not embrace change.

The ability to be truly creative in an area is directly proportional to the extent of your base of knowledge about that area. For example, the creative jump that my seven-year-old son can make in terms of his paintings would not compare to the kind of creative jump that someone like Claude Monet could make, who studied for years and years.


We are so excited to be giving away a copy of Time for Leadership by Pierre Khawand as well as a free seat in People-OntheGo’s upcoming program the Accomplishing More Leadership Program to five lucky Life After College readers!

To enter to win answer the following question in the comments by Friday, April 18th. We will pick winners via and email to let you know!

Comment to be Entered to Win:

How do you demonstrate leadership in your own everyday life?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Guest Post: How to Find your Perfect Work + The Work Revolution Book Giveaway

Before we jump in, thank you all for the AWESOME list of 100+ tech tools and counting!! You still have two days to enter to win the HP Envy 4 Laptop giveaway, so share your best tip or tool by Friday, and I'll choose a winner early next week. I'm also giving away THREE (count them, three!) of The Work Revolution, the must-read book featured in today's post, by my roommate and bestie Julie Clow.

The personal scoop on today's post

The Work Revolution BookJulie and I have been friends for almost six years now after first meeting by sharing a cube at Google during her first few months on the job, and both of us made the big leap out to New York at this exact time last year.

I had front-row seats for every step of Julie's book-publishing process (and her for mine), from writing her proposal to getting a book deal through the back-channels at Wiley (and only then landing an agent to close the deal), to the tireless and seemingly non-stop task of bringing the book to life through speaking and social media, aided at every step by the help of fabulous people like Sarah Bloomfield (on writing and research) and Shannyn Allen (on promotion).

Julie has always been an advocate (and often a lone ranger in the blog world) for the notion that you don't have to quit to love your job, and her book beautifully articulates how we can all create a thriving work environment, no matter your state of employment.

The Work Revolution came out in April, and I'm thrilled to hand Julie the floor today to share her brilliant ideas and the book's key concepts, all of which are highly applicable regardless of whether you're an employee, manager or your own boss.

But first . . . a few words from today's sponsor (okay, just me) in this 3-minute video:

[youtube id="GKoq-t0z9iI"]

How to Find Your Perfect Work -- by Julie Clow

I love my job and where I work. I am lucky -- most people don't.

Most people show up feeling like a cog in the machine, churning out work from 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night (or worse, far later), with hopes of one day receiving a promotion, a pay increase for acknowledgement of a job well done, or enough money saved to retire.

Sadly, many people live their lives with a sense that something (big) is missing without any idea about what that might be.

Some courageous individuals reject this existence by leaving their corporate jobs, and many do so successfully. But not everyone should feel like opting out of the corporate world is the only answer.

I wrote the book The Work Revolution: Freedom and Excellence for All to question the assumptions behind our management practices. It's about changing the world of work to free individuals to solve problems for the company. It's about ditching the rules that creative oppressive work environments and replacing the rules with guiding principles that give people more autonomy and joy in what they do.

Regardless of the choice you make about whether to brave the entrepreneurial world or to make the most of the corporate world, it is fully in your control to find your perfect work, perfectly suited to your passions and strengths.

The five principles below can guide anyone anywhere to search for work that feels more like play, whether within the cubicle walls or out in the wild.

1. Impact, not Activities

Don't think about what you want to be or what you want to do, think about the kind of impact you want to create and for whom!

2. The Right Things, not Everything

Once you choose a direction for your career, you will be overwhelmed with advice about what major to choose, what degrees to get, what internships you should seek, and what experience is "critical" for landing the perfect job.

We get a lot of pressure coming from many directions to do "everything" according to script.

The script said that I should go to the best college I could get in to, and that Google doesn't hire anyone from less-than-top-tier universities. Well, I went off script. I attended the University of Mobile (yes, that's in Alabama, renowned for its world-class education - ha!), but did so on a full scholarship (important to me as I had a two-year old daughter). Sure, it wasn't the most challenging school, but I made the most of it and earned a 4.0 and top honors in my class. And Google hired me.

3. Energy, not Schedules

Follow the energy of the work that excites you, and throw away any time table or schedule that suggests when you "should" hit various milestones in your career.

For example, a career myth I recently heard from recent graduates is to be in a role or company for two years, and then move on, presumably to get varied experience and to not get "stuck" in any role. From my perspective, you can hardly get acquainted with a new role in just one year, so that means you'd only be creating impact for one of those two years! I say ditch any role that's not working for you, even if it's after two weeks. Or conversely, stick to a role or company as long as you are growing, you can find challenges, and you love what you are doing, even if that's 20 years. Let your choices by guided by the energy you get from your work.

4. Strengths, not Job Slots

You might be hired into a narrow job role, but you should think about how you can use your strengths in that role to expand beyond it.

Jim Collins recently delivered the keynote at the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) International Conference, and he spoke about "personal hedgehogs" (any fans of Good to Great will recognize the concept). He translated the organizational-centric notion to something that applies to individuals; it is the intersection of:

    • the things you are passionate about
    • the things you are "genetically coded" to do (i.e., the things that come so easy to you, but seem difficult to everyone else)
    • the things that add value or are valued by society

The convergence of these three things point to your marketable strengths and should serve as your guiding light for how you frame your value to your organization or in your business.

5. Grassroots, not Top-Down

Don't wait for permission or invitation to do the things you are passionate about.

If you see an opportunity to improve your organization, don't just make the suggestion, implement the solution. When you find work that excites you, find ways to do more of it. If you have an idea for a new business or product, test it out quickly and see if it works.

If you learn to be a leader without explicit authority, people will inevitably recognize you as such, and greater opportunities will follow. But if you wait for someone on high to grant you the opportunity to do more, you just might be waiting forever.

These five principles will mean different things to different people, which is why they are simply principles. For each one, think about how it applies to your situation and how you might change one little thing to create more perfect work for yourself. And while the quest to define our personal mission and then deliver on it is a lifetime journey, the journey itself can (and should!) be joyful.

How to Enter to Win a Copy of The Work Revolution

We're giving away three copies of Julie's book today, and you can enter to win by answering the question prompt in the comments below. Leave your reply by Sunday, September 9 at 5pm ET, and we'll announce the winners on the blog next week!

Which of the 5 principles above would make the biggest impact on your overall satisfaction and/or effectiveness at work? What is one action you will commit to taking in the next week?

More About Julie Clow

Julie Clow, author of The Work RevolutionAll my life, I loved learning and school, so I followed an academic path and earned my Ph.D. in behavior analysis in 2000. I spent the first eight years of my career dutifully working in traditional corporate environments developing training programs and implementing organizational initiatives for various clients. Then, I joined Google in 2006 and everything changed. During my initial transition to Google, I felt the magic of freedom and autonomy at work, which inspired me to ask: if Google can create this environment, why can't everyone else? Thus, The Work Revolution was born.

I spent five years at Google focusing on team effectiveness, leadership, and organizational culture, primarily for engineers. I currently serve as the head of learning and development for an awesome, nontraditional mid-size investment management company in New York, NY, also chockful of software engineers and research scientists.You can frequently find me speaking at industry events and conferences. Connect with me on Twitter at @clowjul.

10 Tech Tools I Can't Live Without + HP Laptop Giveaway!

Update: be sure to check-out the follow-up post to this one: 90+ Tech Tools to Help You Manage Your Life. We've officially entered the lull of summer...or at least in the blogosphere. Check out Jonathan Fields' list of 10 Things to Do When Your Audience Goes on Vacation (even if you're not a blogger) for some fun ways to pass the time :)

I just wrapped up a 6-day road trip from St. Louis to Southern CA -- it's a beautiful way to see the country and I'll be sharing a few more yoga pictures on the blog soon! Next up is a family vacation to Mexico for a little unplugged fun-in-the-sun before returning to my love, the big ol' apple.

Today I'm excited because I'm sharing my must-have tech tools (How I Stay Organized is still one of my all-time most popular posts) AND I get to give away a laptop to one of you as a thank you for being such an incredible community!

I was hesitant when HP first approached me since I try not to do anything too advertise-y on this blog, but after a little hemming and hawing I realized I would be silly not to say yes. I am grateful for the opportunity to get one of you set-up with a new laptop, and rather than just having a random "I want one!" list of comments, I'd love to start a conversation around tech and productivity tools that will be beneficial for all of us. I'm sharing some of my favorites to kick things off, and watch the video below for more details on how to enter!

10 Tech Tools I Can't Live Without

  1. Google Calendar - an absolute must for staying on top of your schedule. A few tips: for important events set an email reminder, for recurring events (like scheduling yoga classes) use a different color, and for sharing an event with others, check "Guests can: modify events" on the right-hand side of the edit window for that event. You can also share your entire calendar with others by editing the calendar settings.
  2. - "scheduling made easy" - eliminates email back and forth by allowing others to see available windows that you set in advance (automatically syncs with Google Calendar to block off busy times). Additional tip: meetings tend to spill into all available hours the same way emails do -- use Tungle to select 1-2 blocks of times for calls and stick to them unless there's a special exception. You can also use Google Calendar's appointment scheduling feature for this purpose.
  3. - simple online "week at a glance" to-do list -- great for mapping out a busy week and checking off tasks by day. You can also move tasks around from day-to-day, which is helpful. I use for more project-based task tracking.
  4. - a long-time favorite for tracking personal finances (the Weekly Summary emails and spending trend pie-charts are my favorite features). Bonus: check out the Life After College Roadmap poster we put together earlier this year - you can also buy a copy for a recent grad in your life.
  5. Outright - tracks business expenses by importing from all of your accounts (including PayPal and Google Wallet) just like Mint . . . and it's free!
  6. Evernote - awesome for syncing notes, ideas and links across all devices (tablet, phone, computer, etc). I like this better than Google docs for instant editing for shorter ideas/notes, then Google Docs for full development.
  7. Google Docs (now referred to as Drive) - a must-use for collaboration and all document creation as far as I'm concerned! I use Google Docs for absolutely everything -- ideas, brainstorming, project planning, etc. Sign-up for the Inside Scoop newsletter to get access to my full library of 25+ templates to help organize your life.
  8. Gmail's Priority Inbox feature - use this in conjunction with Gmail's superstars feature, with different stars denoting different types of email and priority. For example: I use a yellow star for important emails that I want to get to that day or week, exclamation emails to mark highly important, time sensitive or overdue for a reply, then I use the blue stars for emails that involve scheduling.
  9. Boomerang for Gmail - can delay send on outgoing emails or set emails to leave your inbox and come back at a future date. This feature is great for following-up with people, or getting a long-term email to do out of your way.
  10. Rapportive for Gmail - social spying at it's finest! Shows someone's latest updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to the righthand side of a message they've sent. Also helps you make sure you're connected with the people you want to be, and shows a photo of the person you are corresponding with (helpful if you've never met them in person).

The Dirt: About the HP Envy 4

For those of you who want to learn more about the goods before you throw your hat into the ring, here are some feature descriptions from the promotional materials:

The HP Envy 4 Ultrabook is thin and light, with up to 8.2 hours of battery life and a soft-touch base that makes it easy to grab and go.

  • Beats Audio™:Designed to deliver the best sounding, richest audio available on a PC with extra amplification possible through a built-in subwoofer.
  • HP TrueVision HD Webcam: Always look your best, even in low light.
  • Speaking of low light – the ENVY’s backlit keyboard means you can keep working and playing in dimly lit rooms or red-eye flights.

Unleash your creativity on a 500 GB hard drive that can hold 116,000 photos, 105,000 tracks or 210 HD movies. Tons of video memory let you experience incredible gaming and multimedia without slowing down. 

The HP ENVY Ultrabook™ is loaded with the ports, including HDMI , USB, RJ-45, and a headphone jack, encased in a sleek, .78 inches thin and under 4 lb design.

How to Enter

Tell us about one of your favorite productivity tools, apps or browser extensions in the comments by Friday, September 7. I will select a winner via and announce on the blog the following week, with a round-up of all your amazing tips!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead, and a fantastic Labor Day holiday for those of you in the states!