5 Tips for Community Bankers Working From Home

5 Tips for Community Bankers Working From Home

This blog post was written on March 18th, 2020. As we all know, information changes by the hour so keep that in mind as you read this post!

We are in uncharted territory, friends. No one wrote a book on how to handle the situation we are currently facing. Personally, I’ve been pushed and stretched as a leader in ways I didn’t think I could. Regardless of our training or banking background, we are making decisions we never ever thought we would have to make with information that changes on an hourly basis. At Grand Savings Bank, we have taken this situation seriously and have made adjustments accordingly both for our team and our customers. You can check out www.grandsavingsbank.com for more info or email me directly as information changes constantly.

Working remotely during the #CancelEverything movement is a game changer in times like these, enabling some banking roles to continue their daily job duties as they quarantine. Clearly not all community banking roles allow for remote working and that’s OK. Community banks are doing their best to stay open for customers so it could look different from bank to bank. But some of you are finding yourselves working from home instead of reporting to the bank during this pandemic and my guess is that you might be a little lost or possibly in shock. Therefore, I have compiled the following list of tips and tricks from bankers all over the country that have extensive experience in working remotely:


Let’s be honest, for the first few days, you know and I know that you’re going to wear the comfiest clothes you own, opt out of “getting ready” as you typically would for a day at the office, and possibly not even shower. After a while, however, the appeal of not being office ready may not have the appeal it did on day 1. I’m all about optimizing my time and not spending an hour in front of my makeup mirror but there is something to be said for keeping your morning routine as close to normal as possible. Ann Buckmiller, Compliance Officer of Reliabank in Watertown, SD says, “Getting ready in the morning is HUGE for me. It really helps with productivity and sticking with my work routine.” Set your alarm, exercise, take a shower, and get to work. Tim Martinson, Marketing Manager at North American Banking Company in Roseville, MN, suggests keeping the same hours as you would at the bank. “There is a temptation to start work early, work late, etc. Staying on the schedule helps with work, life, balance which applies to those working at home.”


I’ve tried camping out on my couch with my laptop, planner, and phone and trust me, it doesn’t exactly set you up for a day of productivity. Instead, Sam Burrington, AVP Digital Project Manager at Morgan Stanley and former community banker suggests setting up a separate work space in your home and bringing all of your “work essentials” to that space like your laptop, charger, coffee, planner, etc. “If you don’t have a home office, set up a folding table. I sit at my dining room table when the kids are playing and when I’m not hosting calls. If I need to jump on a conference call, I go to my dedicated space.”


Personally, I have really bad FOMO when I work from home and worry that I have missed out on all the important conversations or happenings around the office. Additionally, being the over thinker I am, I assume that others don’t think I’m working hard because they can’t physically see me working. Burrington goes on to stress the importance of over-communicating with coworkers. “Pick up the phone instead of sending an email. Try to have quick ‘how are you doing’ conversations to emulate in person exchanges.”


Some of you may be looking forward to “quiet” time at home to focus on work with little interruption. For me, I found myself distracted by the need to tackle the growing pile of laundry and feeling guilty for not hanging with my kids. (They are super confused with me being home, yet still working.) Establishing boundaries with your partner and kids can set the tone that you have work to do and they can reach you via text or cell just like they would when you’re in the office. Otherwise you might find you will get interrupted frequently like you do at work! “Set an alarm to get up and stretch, grab more coffee, take a lunch break, and walk around just like you would at the office,” said Martinson. Autumn Albright, Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Civista Bank in Sandusky, Ohio, suggests coming up with planned activities or a schedule for your kids if they are at home with you. This helps with keeping them busy during the day while you’re working.


This tip may apply a little more toward the current circumstances than any other time one may work from home, but we all need to remember that none of us have all the answers on how to handle this pandemic perfectly. As I’m typing this I am looking around my house and it looks like a bomb went off. I’ve only been home two days and I’ve yelled at my kids, worked too much, stayed up too late, skipped lunch, and drank way too much wine. It’s a stressful, uncertain time. My family has been more than understanding and it’s helped to have banking peers to reach out to for guidance and advice. Remember that we are all in this together and this too, shall pass.

Many thanks to the following community bankers for their input for this article:

Tim Martinson | Twitter: @TimMartinson
Autumn Albright | Twitter: @AutumnAlbright1
Ann Buckmiller | Instagram: @eabuckmiller

Sam Burrington | Instagram: @s_burrington

A big thanks to Katelyn Meyers (Instagram: @meyerskatelyn_) for the post inspiration!

How To Dominate Your Strategic Planning Session

How To Dominate Your Strategic Planning Session

I’m a nerd. I LOVE strategic planning! There is something about the excitement of change, progress, and collaboration with my team that gets me jazzed! Throughout my banking career, I have been involved in various levels of Strategic Planning from market level to executive level and I always walk away energized and ready to conquer the world. (I’m assuming some of you are rolling your eyes at this point. If you are, hang with me.)

My first exposure to being a part of the bigger picture was several years ago while I was working for another bank. I was recognized as a “young person with promise” and was invited to attend the bank’s market level annual planning. I was THRILLED to be invited. I did all of the required pre-work and stayed fully engaged the entire day. I was in heaven. I also likely talked way too much and came off way overly zealous, but in my mind, I was going to be a change maker and to me that was important. A year or so later at the same bank, I was invited to the top level annual planning and I was over the moon. I spent the day out of state at a resort with a few hundred coworkers sharing our ideas from the front lines, coming up with solutions, and feeling like we were really part of pushing the bank toward the future.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity to be involved in many other strategic planning sessions; some effective, some not-so-effective. While every organization has their own ways of planning for the future that best fits their culture, I believe you can really bomb a strategic planning session if you don’t do a few of the following suggestions:

Open with an ice breaker | Sound corny? Yes, maybe, but choosing a fun ice breaker that builds trust among your team is a great way to get started on the right foot. Tailor it to your team and get people out of their comfort zone. Need ideas? Check here.

Do your homework | In preparation for the meeting, execute a team member survey that gets the pulse of your organization’s culture. You should always be listening to your front line and their input will prove to be valuable when doing SWOT analysis. Want a team that is loyal and bought in? Ask for their feedback and actually do something with it. (See my notes below about the Grand Savings Bank Grand Planning Session held in advance of our annual strategic planning). 

GSB team members doing the human knot ice breaker at a recent Strategic Planning Session.

Keep the group small | Effectively planning the future of your organization isn’t a time to worry about stepping on toes or including everyone to avoid hurt feelings. Keep the group small and intimate with team members that have the best interest of your organization at heart, are committed to making change happen, and can be effective in producing solutions and results. I’ve been part of planning sessions where multiple people, while important to the organization and respectable employees, had no business being there due to the fact that they offered very little input to the meeting and clouded the room by preventing serious conversations from happening. On the flip side, I have participated in sessions where the group was kept small and intentional. The meeting went extremely well and some tough, yet important conversations took place that otherwise would not have with a larger group.

Use a facilitator to stay on target | Squirrel! We all have those teammates that have so much energy and excitement that they tend to go down rabbit holes and bounce all over the place, making it hard to stay focused. While those teammates might essential to include in the group, it is extremely important to utilize an external facilitator to keep discussion on track. You might even consider a trigger word that politely reminds everyone that they are straying off topic. If you fail to implement this step, you run the risk of wasting precious time.

Actually do something with your results | Condense your discussion points into action items and act on them! Appoint them to committees, create focus groups, and properly communicate them to your team. Communication is a HUGE piece of employee engagement and morale. When they are properly informed about what’s coming down the pipe, your buy-in factor will increase and everyone wins. Doing a regular follow up on progress doesn’t hurt either. People get busy, and surprise, new strategic items will appear during the year!

GSB Grand Planning | In the summer of 2019, we implemented Grand Planning- that’s GSB Talk for a strategic planning session for non-executive employees that show the most promise as future leaders of the organization. We are a small bank, roughly $500 million in assets, so it was relatively easy to put together, but could be modified for larger organizations by keeping the principal that it’s important to get feedback and input from your up-and-comer’s. Our executive team nominated team members and the Grand Planning Committee selected attendees based on a set of values predetermined by the committee. The event was held offsite, away from the bank, and provided networking for employees that normally didn’t interact with each other, Our CEO was on hand to interact and listen to the suggestions in the relaxed environment to give the attendees face time with him as well.

The group started with brunch, a fun ice breaker, and were then placed into groups to tackle what processes, procedures, or things in general that were broken at the bank. We brought all groups together to go over their findings then took a break for lunch. After lunch we did an outside team building activity and then went back into the same groups to focus on how to repair the broken processes and procedures at the bank. This required the team to think like executives, keeping the entire bank’s best interest at heart; not just their specific department or branch.

As we concluded, the entire group was presented with a special swag bag and a handwritten note from the executive that had nominated them. By the end of of the day. bridges were formed between employees that normally sat on opposites of the aisle, (i.e. producer vs processor, Arkansas employee vs Oklahoma employee, etc.) and new connections were created or even repaired. They were all challenged to follow up with fellow attendees that they enjoyed connecting with via email or with their own handwritten note to continue the newfound relationships. We rounded out the afternoon with a happy hour. (Wine not?)

We then combined the information gathered from the day and proposed at Strategic Planning in the fall. While some great suggestions and takeaways came from the day, the networking, connecting, and morale boost that occurred as a result of the event were priceless.

Have more questions about our Grand Planning? Email me here!

Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now

Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now

My friend and fellow girl banker, Shelly Loftin, SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, and Lending at the American Bankers Association is popping up once again as a guest blogger here on the Girl Banker blog. This time, Shelly is sharing her own saving story as the SAVE10 campaign is nearing launch on October 10th. Regardless of your own savings story, take a moment to read what Shelly has to say and educate yourself about the SAVE10 initiative. It could change your life! 

Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now
Girl Bankers, women in business, women everywhere, take note!  The time to save is now.  Right now.  I understand you don’t think you need to, or you don’t feel like you make enough yet, or you have plenty of time.  All of those things may be true, but do yourself a solid favor and start right now, with Save10. What is Save10 you might ask? Save10 is a campaign to empower Arkansas women to save for life and retirement. It is a specific call to action for women to commit to saving at least 10% for retirement.  The campaign officially launches on October 10th, 2019.

Having a solid savings strategy could turn out to be helpful when you least expect it, which is why I am sharing the cliff notes version of my savings story here.   Both of my parents worked hard growing up. My mom was an entrepreneur and my dad was a preacher and teacher.  We were your stereotypical middle class family of four and my parents worked day and night to provide for our family.  They taught us from a young age to save 10%, give 10%, and have faith.  I listened (at least to the “Save 10%” part), and when I became eligible for my first 401(k) as a working teenage teller, I signed up to contribute and never looked back.  It was a minor, seemingly inconsequential moment in my young life that I am now keenly aware of and grateful for.  As an adult, I have come to learn that my parents’ approach to finances was not necessarily common and I am very grateful they shared it with me early on so that I started my career with funding retirement and savings as standard procedure.

This is the point in the story where you expect me to tell you that I am so grateful for that advice because I am now loaded, retired to a charming beach community, sipping umbrella drinks, meditating daily, and bedazzling accessories for fun at age 36, right?  Not exactly. Fast forward 15 years to a girl banker with a career, a husband, two kids, a mortgage, and two pugs.  One random day, my seemingly “charmed” life, where every step was calculated for maximum productivity and potential happiness, turned into a really bad Lifetime movie. When I say bad, I mean the producers at Lifetime likely wouldn’t have believed it. It was unbelievable, painful, awkward, embarrassing, humiliating, shameful, etc.  Any adjective you want to throw at it would stick. The bright spots: my kids, my family, my career, and my savings. Is that shallow?  Quite possibly, but when facing a future that looked completely different than what I had originally planned, the fact that my retirement savings I’d contributed to for my entire working life remained intact gave me both solace and courage.

The support of my family along with the choice to save 10% provided me with the courage to make hard decisions, to handle the consequences of the choices I faced, and the confidence that I was strong enough to survive. I could be a working mom, fully support my family, save money and learn to manage everything on my own.  It’s a work in progress and there are certainly opportunities for improvement, but I remain passionate about saving for retirement and life’s little or big emergencies to this day. Everyone has a story and several chapters that are yet to be written.  Make saving for retirement part of your story as soon as you can.

I share this simplified version of a life story to illustrate the concept that life throws you curve balls, regardless of how well-planned your life might be.  And when it does, you need a financial safety net, and the only person who can provide you with backup plan you can be 100% comfortable with is you.  Accept that now and start saving 10% or whatever percentage you can save for retirement and be proud of yourself for preparing for the future – whatever that future may look like.  You can visit womensfoundationarkansas.org/save10/ for more information and to join the ranks of the financially empowered women currently taking the Save10 challenge.  Be the voice of taking charge and control of your future. Save. Then join the chorus of other women savers here.  You can also join a Facebook group where women share their financial advice, hopes, fears, and successes.

Did you know:

Shelly Loftin
SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, Lending

About Shelly In Her Own Words | I live in a world of branding, banking, and boys. I am a banker who was promoted to a customer then turned ABA team member who believes banking and education should be fun, simple and helpful. I am a mom to two superheroes, ages 7 and 4.  My career started in the nerve center of the bank, the proof department, when I was 15.  I learned to run a sorter, key like a champ and became fascinated with how banking worked. After a few years of keying, balancing and counting zeroes, I held multiple retail roles including teller, customer service representative and financial service representative before I transitioning to the marketing side of banking. For the past 14 years, I have worked on branding, marketing and retail in several positions at various community banks.  Prior to going to the American Bankers Association, I was Chief Administrative Officer at Bear State Bank. Connecting brand, culture and customer experiences across channels is what I love. I am a cultivator of member happiness, passionate about improving the experience banking business, a brand ambassador, training enthusiast, conference concierge, design fanatic, team builder and infographic nerd. Covey facilitator, creative collaborator, culture advocate, professional learner and happiness sharer. I’m forever a Bear, as there are always trails to blaze and pawprints to explore. Oh, and a millennial. Kind of. Solving problems collaboratively is my preferred way to work and I am a strong supporter of communication.

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Building Your Personal Brand

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Building Your Personal Brand

Where I come from, the banking world is a dog-eat-dog place where there are banks on every corner and not enough good bankers to run them all. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “We are on the lookout for a new loan assistant if you know anyone,” or “I wish we could find a junior lender that is up and coming in their career but I just don’t think they exist!”.

For reals, to other industries, bankers might seem like a dime a dozen but in this day and time, banks are on the hunt for talented, motivated professionals with good networks, and the drive to succeed. I’ve always heard bankers say, “You can teach anyone banking, but you can’t teach them to have a personality.” That being said, the opportunity door is wide open if you’re interested in a career in banking! (Ladies, high school girls, college women are you listening?)

This is where personal branding can be a game changer for you. Want to stand out from the crowd? Build a personal brand. Want to own public perception of you? Build a personal brand. Want to show future employers what you have to offer? Build a personal brand.

Let’s get started.

Benefits of a Personal Brand | I just recently hosted my first webinar for BankBeat called “The Benefits of A Personal Brand.” The webinar filled up a few days in advance which told me bankers are figuring out that in the changing banking landscape, their social media presence and branding is more and more important. Here’s why:

  • People bank with PEOPLE. That’s right. Consumers build trust for their bank based on the people who work there. So what better way to build that rapport and trust than to develop a brand as a banker who cares for their customers?
  • Visibility in the Market Place. I’m a big fan of making things happen. No sense in waiting around for shit to happen. Make it happen! Building your personal brand gives you visibility in the market place and allows you to stand out in the dense crowd of bankers. Shake that concern of drawing attention to yourself and be visible! It will pay dividends. Trust me.
  • Drive Public Opinion. Why let others determine who you are when you can set the tone yourself? Creating and building your own brand gives you all the power to drive public opinion, whether you intend for it to or not.
  • Builds A Network. Before I launched my blog, I really worked hard on my Twitter presence. I found relevant banking content, posted it regularly, and in turn, started connecting to bankers all over the country. How does that help you as a small community banker? Well, let’s just say having a banking network that doesn’t compete with you on a regular basis is uber helpful. My connections have enabled me to bounce ideas in a safe zone, learn from what is working for them, what is not, and hey, I just love connecting!

Where do I start? |
You might be thinking to yourself, you know, Natalie, all of this sounds great and all, but how in the world do I even begin the process of building my own brand? Easy peasy.

  • Understand your value. You are uniquely made and if you’re reading this article, you likely care about moving ahead in your career. Come to grips with what you bring to the table and bank on it! (See what I did there?)
  • Determine your niche. My niche was a passion for advocating for women in banking and building up young women as future bankers. Your niche might be mortgage lending, or ag banking, or helping small businesses. You may be a whiz at accounting or IT and want to build your brand as one of the best in the biz. Figure out what your “thing” is and build on it.
  • Develop social media skills. This may be where I lose some of you and if so, too bad so sad. This is where things get good. Social media single handedly propelled my personal brand. However, I got trained on how to use it and use it right. (Shout out to Allyson Twiggs Dyer!) Repeat after me, “There are right and very wrong ways to use social media.” Let’s say it again, “There are right and very wrong ways to use social media.” Got it? Good. Content is key, understanding algorithms, learning how to gain followers, and not self destructing by posting something stupid are MAJOR elements in building your brand on social media. You don’t have to be amazing at all of the platforms, but spruce up your profile, pick the platform you like best and the one that will likely have the best following based on your niche, and get some training. It will pay off!
  • Be consistent. I have talked to bankers that want to build a brand on social media and they start off strong and eventually fall off the wagon. If you don’t REALLY want to do this, don’t force it. It just won’t work for you and that’s OK, but, if you are passionate about building a brand, you have to be consistent and post and engage with your followers daily. You must stay involved with your community and continue to tell the story of what you do best. It’s totally fine to not be “on” 100% of the time, just like anything, your brand needs a little TLC often to stay alive.
  • Know your audience. My audience includes women in banking, bankers, bank vendors, etc. Determine your audience, based on your niche, and go after them accordingly. If you are targeting people who need a mortgage loan, engage with realtors, post content that includes info for first time home buyers, tips for applying for a mortgage, etc. Go after the right people.
  • Be authentic. If you are faking it, it will be blatantly obvious and no one will take you seriously. Be real, be you. Show the good, the bad, and the ugly. People love transparency.
  • Be patient. Building your brand takes time and patience. It won’t happen overnight. It took me the better part of two years to build my Twitter presence and the rest is still a work in progress. But stay after it! It will happen!

How will my bank benefit? | I’ve had naysayers mention to me that it all looks like self promotion with no benefit to my bank. Am I looking out for myself and creating future opportunity? 100% yes. Is my bank benefiting also? 100% yes.

  • Employees with strong personal brands bring recognition back to the bank they represent. If you’re the #1 ag lender in your community, your bank is obviously going to reap the benefits. Duh.
  • Your strong personal brand will help set your bank apart from the competition.
  • Your bank receives a high return with little investment. Empowering you to build your brand on social media, allowing you to engage in your community, and being involved in initiatives that draw attention back to the bank don’t really cost that much but likely bring a return back to the bank in the form of increased exposure, new business, and notoriety. Talk about a ROI!
  • People bank with people! Do the math.

You got this! Go build your brand!

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Annual Reviews

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Annual Reviews

I believe there are two types of employees:
Type A: Takes their annual review as an opportunity to reflect on their job performance that year, discuss a solid career path, get good feedback from their immediate supervisor, and make a game plan for their future with company.
Type B: Waits until the last minute to complete their annual review paperwork, sits impatiently through the review waiting to hear the words, “this year, your raise is…”.

I also believe there are two types of managers where annual reviews are concerned:
Type A: Takes their time writing up the review, knowing that as a valued team member, this time is important and a great opportunity to address issues, give praise, etc.
Type B: Fills out said review in less than 3 minutes, giving no additional thought or effort into the whole process, dismissing it as an HR or regulatory requirement.

When it comes to the type of employee, I’m a definite Type A. (I look forward to reviews! Heck, I even get excited about them!) As for managers, I have experienced both… almost extreme opposites.

A number of years ago I found myself very complacent with my career in banking. My annual review was drawing near and I was determined to get answers about my future with the company and I was well prepared to ask hard questions and confess my concerns. I spent an extra long time typing up my portion of the annual review in an effort to give my then boss an opportunity to be as prepared as I was. We scheduled my review early one morning. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I will be late to my own funeral. This particular day, I arrived early, confident that the review was going to be a turning point in my career. My boss showed up late, was obviously frazzled by something that had happened to him that morning (or perhaps he forgot completely about my review), and had failed to read my well prepared portion of the review.

My heart sunk.

I knew the second he walked in the door that I wouldn’t be leaving the meeting feeling satisfied with my career’s direction. Through the remainder of a very awkward, forced review, I attempted to stay focused, expressed my concerns, and asked for feedback. Without giving details, let’s just say that the conversation was very one sided and not so much focused on me as an employee, but on my boss’s career and his daughter’s. I know. Strange.

I easily could have chalked it up to my former boss having a bad morning, but when it came down to it, I was at a cross roads with my career and he wasn’t prepared. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there much longer but certainly learned a valuable lesson as both a direct report and as a manager: take annual reviews seriously!

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your annual review:
PREP | Reviews aren’t usually a surprise, they tend to come around once a year at the same time! If you have goals and aspirations for your career at your company (and I assume you do if you are still reading this post), then be prepared to share them with your supervisor. If your employer provides a questionnaire to complete in advance, take your time with the questions and be ready to discuss. This time is literally set aside to talk about YOU! Make the most of it and be prepared.

KEEP A RUNNING “DONE” LIST | Everyone has a “to-do” list, do you have a “done” list? If you don’t already, get an account with Evernote and download their app and add it to your favorites on your desktop. In 2019, every time you complete a “to-do”, add it to your “done” list on Evernote and marvel over how productive you are at the end of the year. This list will come in handy for your annual review as well!

LISTEN | Reviews should be two sided. Listen intently to the feedback your supervisor is giving you. If it doesn’t align with your expectations for the review, ask questions and get clarification to avoid future issues. Bring your planner or a notepad to take notes so that you can review later.

TAKE CRITICISM AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW | If your review doesn’t have any shape or form of constructive criticism, then your manager isn’t doing you or the company any favors. A glowing review only blows rainbows and sunshine up your hiney and doesn’t give you any opportunities to grow as an employee. This happens often from managers who are afraid of hurting feelings or want to avoid confrontation. Take the constructive criticism professionally and ask questions about how you can improve. In other words, don’t be that employee that gets easily offended or upset if you don’t exceed expectations on each evaluation question. If you’re not always learning and striving to improve, don’t be surprised when you don’t move up.

EXPECT YOUR MANAGER’S FULL ATTENTION | Evaluations should be completed one on one with minimal interruption. They aren’t something to laugh off or take lightly. Take them seriously and expect your manager to take them seriously. This is the one time a year (or quarter, depending on your position and company) where you are formally discussing your job performance. If you aren’t happy with how your manager facilitated the review and don’t feel that he or she took it seriously, discuss with your HR Director.

Happy reviewing!

Natalie, the Girl Banker
the Girl Banker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

the Girl Banker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

We’ve all made them. We’ve all broken them within 2 weeks (or less) of the new year. New Year’s resolutions are often made to be broken, some sooner rather than later. However, there is something to be said for the refreshing feeling of a new year and new start, especially after the rat race that we make out of the holiday season. Here are some New Year’s resolutions every Girl Banker or woman in business should consider implementing effective January 1.

Self Care | Consider this resolution as me preaching to my own choir because I suck at self care. While you could lump in all of the typical “lose weight” or “exercise more” (or in my case, “exercise at all”) into self care, this resolution should be at the top of your priority list in 2019 because let’s be honest, we all suck at it. If you don’t take care of yourself, how could you be expected to take care of your family or succeed at work? I’m the world’s worst at thinking that self care is equal to being selfish and our culture reinforces that mindset. Plus, I just don’t make it a priority or pass it off as “I don’t have time for that” and therefore, I suffer.

This past year, I took on this blog, more responsibility at work, sold my home and began a home remodel, and then started doing speaking engagements that required travel. I stopped doing any form of exercise, ate plenty of junk food, rarely got enough sleep, and was never hydrated like a should be. As a result, I started having anxiety attacks when I would travel, resulting in even less sleep, more stress, and a less productive mother, wife, and banker. Self care is unique to everyone, but for me in 2019, it’s going to include drinking more water, starting yoga, working from home or the library once a week, and recognizing in advance when I need to take a mental health day and go get a massage. If momma aint’ happy, ain’t nobody happy, am I right?

Purge | I’m a massive fan of cleaning out the clutter and there is no better time to do it than the beginning of the year when you are in the mood clean out all the things! Personally, I feel “lighter”, more organized, and have a better sense that my shit is in line when I purge out things in my life that is taking up too much space. Here are a few ways to purge:

  •  E-PurgeUnsubscribe to all the crap emails, clean out your voicemails, texts, organize your photos by backing them up to an online storage source like Shutterfly or Google Photos, and get rid of the apps you never use that are taking up too much precious storage on your phone.
  • Stuff Purge: Pinterest has a lot of great checklists to help you start the purge with your real things and if you are really into it, you might check out the Kon Mari Method. It’s extreme, but helps you stay focused and before you know it, your clothes, household items, kitchen stuff, and paper will be neatly organized and greatly reduced. (Can I get an amen for figuring out where to put all those school papers the kids bring home?!)
  • People Purge: Yes, you read that right, but I’m not referring to the kind of people purging that hideous movie suggests, but instead, get rid of the toxic people taking up precious space in your life. Stop associating with people that don’t truly add value to your life. Trust me, if you made a list of the people that really matter most, your list will be short. Your circle will be small, but the quality of that circle will be much better than it was when it was big. My mom has always told me that you can count your true friends on one hand. She is right. Drop out of those annoying group texts, UNFOLLOW all the ridiculousness in your social media news feeds including profiles that make you feel bad about yourself like beauty bloggers and celebrities, and only make time for YOUR people. You know who they are.

Track Your Successes | Nothing overwhelms me more than a to-do list and I have a good one going that overlaps from week to week in my Passion Planner and on my Outlook Task List. I find myself looking at my list or adding to it each week and suddenly noticing my heart rate increasing, my mood worsening, and the fear of never getting it all done creeping up on me. This year, I am going to keep a “Done” List where I keep track of all the completed projects, successes, and tasks that I have marked off my to-do list. By doing this, I can tell that overwhelming feeling I get from looking at my to-do list to kiss my ass, plus I can take this list to my boss at my annual review. Win, win!

Here’s wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year. May you have a year full of success, valuable friendships, and fulfilling work. What are your resolutions for 2019?