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young professional productivity advice

Name: Victoria
Age: 24
City: Austin, Texas
Sofia, Bulgaria
Profession: Research Analyst/Jr. Planner

Are you currently doing things that you think will be a part of your life/career long term?
Is TBD an acceptable answer? For me, the answer is somewhere between yes and no. Outside of work I spend my time pursuing my other interests, like learning to code, foreign languages, art, design, and writing. I started a website as a side project a while back that I am coding entirely myself (it’s still in the works so there’s nothing yet to share). I want to use it as a creative outlet, both in and of itself as well as to house all my future side projects. With any luck, maybe one day I’ll come up with a side project that I can turn into something more. I need to feel like my work is meaningful to me as well as challenging enough to keep me interested. So far, even though I’m having a pretty good time and learning a lot, I just can’t say my day jobs have been much more than a means to an end. They say millennials will have as many as seven jobs by the time they’re 26, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one exploring!

What motivates you (to go to work, to do what you’re passionate about, etc.)?
In one word: freedom. There are too many things about the workforce that go against my philosophy on life. Two of the biggest things, for example, are being able to set your own schedule and choosing your own work. Getting to a point where this is my reality is what motivates me along the way. Beyond that, it’s my family. Being able to go to Bulgaria regularly is the best motivator to earn money (even financial security is second to that). The way I see it, you may only get this one life, so why not make it exactly how you want it?

How do you balance your work life and your social life?
My work life is generally contained within business hours and it’s very rare that I have taken work home (and even when I do, most of the time the joke is on me if I seriously think I’ll even open my bag once I’m home!). The problem is being so tired sometimes. I underestimated how tired working all day can make you. That being said, I never turn down quality time with friends and if a band I love comes into town, I make it a point to go no matter the weeknight it lands on (hello disco naps).

When you have a lot on your plate how do you handle it?
When I have deadlines to meet at work, I go into what I call “beast mode.” For me this means both headphones are in, my chat windows are closed out, and the deliverable is front and center on my laptop screen with any supporting docs/files on the second monitor. Most of my tasks recur weekly, so I don’t have to think about what I need to do on those. But, if it’s an ad hoc client request with a short turn-around (especially any data-related ones), I spend a couple minutes mentally outlining my plan of action so that I never have to stop and think once I’ve started. At that point it just becomes a bunch of action steps. If I have any questions, I save them for the end and do everything I know I can do first. For handling it emotionally/psychologically, I never spend a minute longer at work than I have to and, on the especially full days, I try to really slow my day down as soon as I’ve left. Some days that means I climb right into bed for about an hour doing absolutely nothing, other days just getting home puts me at ease.

Have you had to cut down on any activities or a certain lifestyle that you haven’t had time for since college?
Unfortunately, yes. I can’t stay up as late as I’d like (I’m very much a night-owl), I don’t give my Netflix as much love as it deserves (don’t get me started on how many shows I’m behind on), I definitely go out less than I used to, and – perhaps saddest of all – I don’t read nearly as much these days. Where does the time go?!

How do you keep your apartment clean during the week?
I do laundry every other weekend, but I have to fold it immediately or else it will seriously never get done. I generally do the dishes (by hand) every other day, but if I’m tired, this is the first thing pushed off. If two days go by, there’s usually enough to warrant loading the dishwasher. I try to give the house a deep clean every other week on the weekend, but if I know I won’t have time, I break it up into separate tasks throughout the week. I’m not really a messy person to begin with and somewhat of a minimalist on top of that, so it’s not hard to keep the place at least picked-up. Having dark wood floors also helps because it shows everything so you have to keep up with it.

Best way to relax after a long day of work?
Happy Hours, plans with friends, a clean house, dinner out, some episodes of a good show, a great book, a nap – any and all of the above!

Favorite post-work hangout and/or drink?
Hanabi and Salty Sow have great happy hours that you can find me at pretty regularly. Otherwise I’d say I don’t really have favorites. My friends are great about exploring Austin’s bar and restaurant scene (here’s looking at you, Miró), so I have a pretty decent list of options at this point and I like to mix it up. I do tend to gravitate to the more intimate settings, though.

What is your go-to, homemade meal?
Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa (grâce à la [thanks to the] Cookin’ Canuck). It had me at first sight. I saw a photo of the dish on the Pinterest board of a blogger I like, fell for it, tracked down its source, and have been making it regularly ever since. I modify the recipe a little by leaving out the olives and doing it vegetarian more often than not. You would be shocked by how much one butternut squash can yield. I like to make this over the weekend and then eat it for leftovers throughout the week. Vegetable stir-frys with couscous are a close second.

Do you have a quick and easy work-appropriate outfit formula?
My workplace is casual to begin with, but that aside, the second most influential factor in my fashion choices is the fact that I drive a moped to work. When I still want to look a bit more put together, I’ll put on darker pants with a more fitted cut (my current favorites are my jet black Current + Elliot skinny jeans – I practically live in these) with a nice top. I also always throw on a light jacket for the road. For shoes, I usually stick with flats since I’m tall, but I’ll pull out a pair of wedges or low-heeled sandals when I want to feel a little extra femme. Earrings are my favorite piece of jewelry, so I’ve always got a pair on. Beyond that, it just depends on how I feel that day.

What tools or apps can you not live without?
Rdio for music, Twitter for keeping up to date, TeuxDeux for to-do lists, Mint for money management, Duolingo for learning languages (I’m addicted), anything Google (Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Google Maps, you name it – and I’ve even got all these installed on my iPhone), and Draw Something for fun when I need it. Everything else is just gravy.

What music pumps you up to GSD?
If it’s work stuff, my two go-to’s are Bahamas and Bonobo. I basically have their latest albums on repeat during the days where my to-do list is serious and I’ve got zero time to waste. I find them endlessly soothing, just the right amount of that nostalgic feel-good mood, but plenty of melody to keep me going.  If we’re talking housework: reggaeton all the way. Or anything not in English.

Best advice you’ve received?
Don’t take life so seriously! If you can embrace this, it really helps you not lose perspective. Also, you always have a choice. Every day is a fresh choice.

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