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#TheImperfectBoss: 7 Ways I've Been Perfectly Imperfect

The creative journey is full of moments.

Of little, seemingly insignificant wins (like when one of my dormant pins on Pinterest randomly went "viral"). I was so giddy that I called my fiancé into the room to show him the graphs and the analytics.

And it's full of lows. Of the occasional tears, of insane, moody overwhelm, of wondering whether it will all be worth it.

I don't wake up every morning, swipe on red MAC lipstick and a crisp blazer, pen some prose in a gratitude journal, and spend hours and hours cultivating my next blog post and smile to myself as I hit inbox zero. Quite the opposite.

Between my day job, wedding planning, paying bills, friend dates, networking, taking care of my apartment and my dogs, and squeezing in time for maybe one 45 minute TV show each week, life feels pretty darn hectic.

Enter the hashtag #TheImperfectBoss. I'm head over heels loving this refreshingly honest three day movement that Ashley Beaudin created (which launched yesterday, by the way). It's humanizing, relatable, raw, and real.

So what exactly is it?

According to Ashley, the purpose is to "break open the myth of perfection and send a message to a generation of women that being in business doesn't demand that you are flawless. It simply demands that you own who you are."

The confessions have been fiercely spilling out all over Instagram and Twitter:

"My book on Amazon got so many bad reviews I stopped reading them." 

"I've been in PJs for too many days in a row." 

"Sometimes I miss blogging for fun."

Here are mine. No shame, just realness:

1) I hid behind a pen name for years.

When I first started blogging in 2009, I was known to the world as Kinsey Michaels. Kinsey was almost like my alter ego. She was cooler than me. More elevated, more fun, more fashionable, more confident. I lived vicariously through her in my posts. After nearly three years, I felt like an imposter and cringed at hiding behind a thin veil of a name that wasn't my own.

2) Sometimes I get so burned out.

I don't force myself to write. I strike when the iron is hot - when my words are bubbling to the surface so fast that it's hard for me to keep up with them. The truth is, most days I get home, collapse on the couch (or in front of my computer), and don't want to do much of anything that exercises my creative muscles.

3) I constantly over-consume, instead of over-create.

Content consumption is easily one of my biggest distractions. Between podcasts, bookmarking articles, self-education, courses, and following a constant stream of threads in over 10 Facebook groups, a lot of my free time goes into learning and reading, rather than doing. It's a delicate balance I'm continuing to work on. The needle will never move forward if I only observe and take information in.

4) My laundry is out of control, and has been for months.

If you saw my overflowing laundry baskets, you probably wouldn't be friends with me anymore (or be reading this blog). For whatever reason, I can never seem to stay on top of our laundry pile! You could liken it to Mt. Everest. It excited me to see so many other creatives also mentioning their lack of consistency with this seemingly simple, arduous chore. We're all human!

5) I accepted low paying jobs from Craigslist to pay the bills.

Working for myself for three years was a tremendous learning experience. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not having a gorgeous, sparkly website selling me, my skills, and my services. Instead, I shopped my resume around to companies on Craigslist, desperately accepting whatever I could get, and often accepting far less than what I was worth, in the process.

6) I'm often plagued with overwhelm.

Overwhelm is my worst enemy. I'm the queen of to-do lists, Asana unicorns, and organization in general, but when faced with a super strenuous list of tasks, I immediately freeze up. What the heck do I do first? I only have an hour to work on something - what should I focus on? Is it even worth it?

7) I was a guest on a podcast, and haven't even listened to the episode.

When Lydia Lee of Screw The Cubicle offered to have me on her podcast over a year ago, I jumped at the chance. I had a snazzy new microphone, and a story I was excited to share with the world. I'm so bashful about hearing my own voice, that I still haven't listened to the entire interview since it's gone live!

Confessing these seven things makes me feel so naked and exposed and vulnerable. Yet, we all feel these things. They're not always peeking out from under the perfectly curated Instagram photo, but they're there. We have good days, exciting days, hard days, and discouraging days.

And I wouldn't trade this squiggly roller coaster ride for anything else. I am living my dream!

Let's Chat: Can you relate to any of these confessions? How have you been imperfect in your business?

Monthly Bookmarks: February 2016

It's no secret I love collecting and consuming content. I listen to podcasts while I'm doing dishes, I tune in to Periscope broadcasts while I'm getting ready in the morning, and the occasional late night will find me working through an e-course or catching the replay of a webinar.

And in between the day-to-day grind, I'm constantly bookmarking articles to read later.

Here are some of the epic reads, products, and videos I've discovered lately:

The End Of The Dark Ages Of Podcasting - Article

If you're at all interested in podcasting (or count yourself an avid listener), this link is a must-click. The author deems that "the industry's growth is coming largely from a small base of hardcore users, not from a surge of new listeners." It's difficult to share podcasts, find them, and reach 'passive' virality.

DIY Ring Light For $25 - YouTube Video

Ring lights provide a pretty glow that soften shadows and flatter skin tones, but they can be expensive. Katie Crowder decided to make her own using a 14" quilting hoop and an LED light strip kit. I'm impressed at how quickly she assembles it!

Ghost Rose Candle - Product

English rose, champagne, and peony sounds like the dreamiest candle scent. Catbird designs, pours, and packages these soy candles out of their New York based shop. WANT.

What To Do In San Diego For $10 Or Less - Article

I have my favorite taco bar, go-to neighborhoods, and all of my usual San Diego stand-bys, (especially after four years of living here), but this article inspired a few new ideas to try when money is tight. See if you can find a post like this for your city!

The Future Of Blogging & Online Content with Darren Rowse - Podcast

Blogging has changed so much since I first started in 2009. It's unequivocally more saturated, income potential is insane, and yet, some believe it's becoming less and less important to focus on. I follow Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur on Instagram, and she highlighted her interview with Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger fame. 

I Spent $30,000 Testing Different Blog Designs - Here's What I FoundArticle

This article was posted in one of the Facebook Groups I'm a part of, and for good reason! Justin Brooke learned the most effective ways to optimize your homepage, including an interesting observation about left-hand sidebars.

Overnight Chai Steel Cut Oats - Recipe

Have you ever tried overnight oats? They're a "thing", apparently, and I want to see what the fuss is about.

How - And Why - To Do A Life Audit - Article

This piece from Collective Hub puts purpose behind your bucket list. The concept is simple: grab an inviting stack of post-it notes and write down your life's wishes and priorities. Categorize the chaos into sections and assign a timeline to each. I haven't tried this exercise yet, but I can't wait to! There are things I always seem to put off (like sizing my engagement ring and getting my California Driver's License). There are also the "someday, maybe" things I dream of doing, but haven't put into action. 

Real Talk Reflections With Nicole Antoinette & Julia Hanlon - Podcast

I've been following Nicole for well over five years now. She's a goal-getter, runner, witty word weaver, and host of her own interview style podcast, Real Talk Radio. In this new monthly collaboration on Julia Hanlon's show Running On Om, the girls talk goals, courage and self talk, along with current successes and challenges.

Brooks PureConnect Lightweight Running Shoe - Product

After completely destroying my last pair of sneakers in the Foam Glow 5K this past October, I desperately needed a new pair. I ended up with these for only $41, just in time for a Super Bowl Sunday hike with friends. Thank you DSW!

LeadPages Webinar Marketing Funnel 101 - e-Course

A killer FREE! course from the much loved landing page experts, LeadPages. I bookmarked this and haven't had a chance to dive in, but I can already tell this will be a beastly resource with 10 video lessons, 16 PDFs, and 10 audio downloads! If you're curious about webinars and learning how to attract and engage customers, I encourage you to click through and take a look!

What have you been reading or discovering lately?

9 Goals For 2016

I might be a little goal-happy. So much so, that I even created my own custom, quarterly planner and goal grid to map out my 2016.

Looking back, 2015 was a surprising, transitional year. 

I celebrated my four year San Diego anniversary, got engaged on the beach after a sweaty indoor cycling class, launched City Leaper (and this blog!), and exchanged my budding freelancing career for a fast-paced, highly creative gig at a marketing agency.

Here are some of the key focus areas and goals I'll be delving into over the next 12 months:

Goal #1: Work Out 5x Per Week

Deliberately setting goals that coerce you into a new habit or lifestyle with a set frequency always work really, really well for me. 

Last year, I joined ClassPass and it's been life-changing. In the midst of developing a love affair with spinning, pilates, yoga, and barre, I started waking up earlier to catch those 6:45 and 7:00 am classes, connected with some truly amazing instructors, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

By committing to a 5x per week plan, I'll be pushing myself to stay active regularly.

Here's a sample schedule for my week:

Wednesday: Kickboxing
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Barre
Saturday: Spinning
Sunday: Bootcamp
Monday: Hot Power Yoga
Tuesday: Spinning
Wednesday: Pilates
Thursday: Rest

I can also mix this up even more with a jog around the neighborhood or a weekend hike.

Goal #2: Learn Adobe InDesign

Self-development is crazy important, and something I'm excited to master is creating my own beautiful worksheets, templates, and e-books using Adobe InDesign.

On Black Friday, I scooped up the monthly, cloud-based subscription plan for $15.99 (rather than the usual $19.99). 

From what I've heard, there's a decent learning curve involved, but the web is abound with detailed tutorials and free training videos.

Goal #3: Be The Planner Again

Aspects of my personality slant heavily introverted. When I'm in creation mode, I love and crave the solitude. Perhaps to a fault. I can spend hours on my computer and not even realize that five hours have gone by. Similarly, if I've been on an energy-expending vacation, it takes time for me to recover and recharge.

On the other hand, socializing can be my jam. I'm energized by vibrant conversations and rarely bat an eyelash at meeting dozens of new people at once.

Ever since my move to San Diego, my natural tendencies to plan and cultivate community among friends and colleagues faltered big time.

I joined Meetup a year after I arrived in California and quickly grew accustomed to cheerfully accepting all of the pre-planned outings that appealed to me. I allowed myself to take a backseat and soak in new social opportunities as they came.

Back in Boston, things were different. 

I pioneered a local blogging community in 2010 and relished every second of that role. From making introductions, to ensuring everyone in the community felt appreciated and welcomed, to filling gift bags and sourcing swanky event spaces to host our events.

Within my friend group, I was the "planner," putting together wild weekends away in the mountains, theme parties, and the like.

Planning is my metaphorical spirit animal, if you will.

Last night, I took a big step forward in re-filling those shoes by inviting a handful of local bloggers and social media marketers out to brunch later this month.

Goal #4: Read More

Alas, I'm embarrassed to say the number of times I've chosen my phone over a book.

My shelf is piled high with books I've accumulated throughout 2015 and haven't had the chance to read yet.

Last year, I read three books. THREE! They were good, but gosh, I think I can do a lot better this year. (If you're curious, last year's reads were Eat, Pray, Love, Essentialism, and The War of Art).

This is my current reading list:

Big Magic
A playbook for creatives. I'm obsessed with Elizabeth Gilbert now, especially after watching this interview she did about creativity. There were so many insane takeaways, it's the kind of clip I need to watch and refer back to again and again.

Content, Inc.
2016 is going to be my year of content. This book teaches you how to build a massive audience and create a radically successful business.

Daring Greatly
Even the title of this book grabs me. My colleague and I were chatting about the idea of having a 'freaky goal.' You know, a goal that completely freaks you out and seems sort of unattainable, but at the same time, you know it's totally possible. What's your freaky goal?

A dear friend packaged this up for me as a Christmas gift, and I'm looking forward to diving in. #GirlBoss has become so much more than a book - it's a movement.

Stories about adventure captivate and inspire me, and after seeing the movie last year, I knew I wanted to read the novel that started it all.

Your Money Or Your Life
Money is such a mindset thing, and the more I've left the 'scarcity' mindset in the dust, the more abundant everything has felt. This is my current read.

Goal #5: Launch Video and Audio Content

I remember how nervous and vulnerable I felt during my first live Periscope. Since then, I've flirted a ton with SnapChat. (If you're interested in following, my username is alisonkinseym).

Funnily enough, for the longest time I was one of those people (and maybe you are part of this bandwagon), who felt like SnapChat was a completely pointless platform.

I've finally figured out a way to leverage it in a way that feels good and true to my personality - through sharing short, vlog-style clips, lifestyle tidbits, and funny antics at home and work.

It's also gotten me to a place where I'm feeling more and more comfortable being on video.

Audio and video as mediums are insanely powerful. It's no secret that YouTube is the 2nd most trafficked search engine. The list goes on.

It's fun to diversify and share content in different ways, so I'm looking forward to exploring this in new ways a little later in the year.

Goal #6: Guard My Time Fiercely

The book Essentialism speaks truth bombs about the practice of doing the things that matter, and saying 'no' to everything else. There are a lot of wise lessons in that book!

Let's just say for a portion of 2015, I said yes to too many opportunities, and in return I suffered major burn-out and overwhelm. Our time is valuable, and we should spend it on the things that bring us the most joy, as cheesy as it sounds.

In 2015, I learned that beauty splurges like facials are worth the time (and financial) investment!

In 2016, I want to spend more time on:

Wedding Planning (!)
New Things (like indoor rock climbing and local hikes I haven't tried)

Goal #7: Practice Yoga Once A Week

You could argue me on this one and say that this is a part of that first goal where I talked about fitness, but hear me out.

If you've never practiced yoga before, it's difficult to describe the feeling of empowerment and zen you feel throughout a class. It's pretty much become my form of spirituality. A time for me to get quiet and shut off my always chattering mind.

As such, I practice yoga more for the "mind" benefits than the physical benefits.

My favorite forms of yoga are the ever-classic vinyasa (in a warm room - 85 degrees is perfect!), and every now and then, a slow-paced candlelight restorative class.

Goal #8: Rejuvenate City Leaper

When I launched City Leaper in January of 2015, my goal was simple: to create an incredibly inspirational and resourceful moving website.

City Leaper is what you would call my side hustle. My passion project.

Last year's launch was a period of tremendous learning:

I realized that "good enough" is better than perfect. That you don't need to blog five days a week to create a killer website. That focusing on one project at a time moves the needle forward way more than doing 10 minutes of this, and 20 minutes of that.

I'm not ashamed to say I made mistakes and I got in over my head. I launched too late, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been with my editorial calendar and fell behind on content, the list goes on.

This year, I'm going all in, but with a refined road map, savvy systems, and grace. Nothing happens overnight, and patience is a virtue I'm still learning.

If you have a crazy awesome moving story or happen to be madly in love with your current city and would like to contribute a guest post, I'd love to hear from you.

Goal #9: My Secret "Freaky Goal"

My freaky goal is exactly how it sounds - freaky! It's something I've never attained before, but it's something many others have done already.

Like any goal, it's going to require consistency, focus, dedication, time, and sprints of crazy hustle.

If I achieve it in 2016, I'll be sure to spill the big win in a later blog post.

So tell me, what are some of the goals you're working on in 2016? I can't wait to hear them.

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5 Ways To Uplevel Your Home Office (+ My Favorite Office Supplies)

Environment is everything, especially when you live in a 600 square foot apartment!

Is your space fueling you? Does it spark motivation? Do you just want to leap out of bed and sit at your desk and create stuff, minutes after waking up?

After listening to a Being Boss podcast episode featuring fitness thought leader Chalene Johnson, I was prompted to try this eye-opening exercise, in which you score several areas of your life from 1-10 in terms of contentment. Physical health, spirituality, growth, and love, to name a few. 

As we inch closer and closer to 2016, this is a phenomenal exercise to run through, by the way.

Anyway, after running down the list and being a tough-as-nails critic (as in, nothing got a 10 or even a 9), there it was. Environment got a solid 5. How depressing.

Of course, I knew exactly why it deserved a 5. But seeing it there on paper was a 'tell it like it is' reminder.

How would you rate your environment from 1-10?

I could shamefully point to the pile of clothes that had been sitting in a heap for months, untouched. Or the broken Hewlett-Packard printer taking up square footage in a corner. The expired clipped coupons I was keeping in a file folder for no reason at all. The dust that was quickly accumulating within a tangle of cords and USB cables.

My home office could be easily likened to... well, let's just say from afar, it looked charming, but up close, you could see it needed a little love.

If your workspace is currently even just a little bit cluttered, you better believe it's affecting your inspiration, productivity, and drive.

These are five of my favorite go-to tips to boost that environment rating and find more happiness in your work day.
Assess your equipment and even the little nonsensical things, like your desk accessories. Is there anything that you've had forever that could use a little upgrade? 

My Coach mouse pad was over seven years old. There was nothing wrong with it other than some wear and tear, but after that many years of usage, you can imagine it had certainly seen better days! A quick hunt on Etsy quickly led me to this adorable shop. Her mouse pads are thick, great quality, and feature the most delightful patterns.

As humans, I think we all have a tendency to hold onto things. It takes me probably three rounds of spring cleaning to finally part with that one sweater I always say I'm 'going to wear.' 

Or I tell myself, 'oh, one day I'll get around to fixing that.'

My broken printer was an easy 'trash it' decision (and I can't even tell you how relieved I felt after throwing it away), however, it begs the question, why did I hold onto it for so long? 

Can you relate?

It's time to snap out of that mindset and have a field day with your trash bag! Get rid of notes you don't need, pens that are running dry, and swag from conferences that you know you're never going to use.

Everything on your desk should be working and usable.
Your workspace should be a happy place; a zone that continually motivates you to work, plan, create, and dream. [Tweet This!]

My walls and desk are surrounded by constant reminders:

The 'Golden State of Mind' canvas art hanging above my monitor, the various framed photos of family and friends, and even a little note card I bought at Trader Joe's that says, "My Favorite Thing Is To Go Where I've Never Been."

What messages will fuel your motivation when you find yourself stuck in a rut?

One of my favorite desk accouterments is a white brocade file holder from The Container Store. 

While I have a larger plastic file bin for papers I don't frequently access, I keep all of my 'of the minute' files right where I can see them.

Some of the folders I keep in my desktop file include: Gift Certificates, Travel, Inspiration, and Blog.

In the midst of my cleaning frenzy, it was immediately obvious how long it had been since I had last gone through said files.

I still had folders front and center in my file with paperwork from jobs I hadn't worked in over two years (!)

Anything that's of frequent and immediate importance? Keep it in sight. And make it a point to review and go through your files quarterly.
Clear out your inbox, unsubscribe from newsletters you never read, organize your desktop icons, keep back-ups of all of your important files, and make sure your computer is healthy and up-to-date.

This step may continually feel like an on-going, major work-in-process, but once it's done, it will feel unbelievably amazing.

Make it a point to check in on all of these areas quarterly.

Immediately, I felt lighter, happier, and more inspired to get things done.

Here are some of the tools and equipment I love that keep my home office neat, organized, and inspiring!

AOC 27" LED Monitor (my newest addition and I'm in LOVE!)
Samsung 23" LCD Monitor (similar)

I can't even gush enough about how much of a difference it made spending two hours refining my desk and work area. Between scrubbing, dusting, downsizing, and up-leveling, I felt the fruits of my labor nearly immediately. And I even find myself spending more time at my desk as a result!

Let's Chat: What is the current state of your home office? Do you have any favorite office supplies? (Or maybe something that's on your wishlist?)

Bucket List: My First Facial at Mint Skin

Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and make an investment in yourself.

There are so many things I've never done before: flying first class, bungee jumping, and attending a masquerade ball, to name a few. Up until recently, I could also add 'having a facial' to that list!

Some things we don't do because we have no desire to do them. (I'll take a rain check on bungee jumping, thanks!)

Other things we do, but we don't do them often enough.

I admit I rarely, if ever pamper myself. And I should do it way more. (We all should!)

Believe me, there's nothing better than a scalp message and sipping on a glass of wine while getting my nails buffed and polished.

I relish in it. It feels like an extension of "me" time.

I can let any stress, worries, and thoughts drift away and allow my mind to wander only to whatever happens to be within the depths of People Magazine or US Weekly. And I usually only feel the slightest tinge of guilt as I'm signing the receipt after all is said and done.

Blowouts, a new shade of lipstick, a fresh manicure, sunkissed highlights...

For whatever reason, these confidence-boosting acts of self-care are things I never quite prioritized. They aren't a line item in my budget, nor are they something I pre-schedule every so many months (or weeks).

Haircuts are a 3x a year thing (on average). A pedicure is a total splurge that I indulge in maybe semi-annually. Not surprisingly, facials were never a priority either. They always seemed like a fluffy, impractical luxury - something I'd splurge on when I had heaps of extra income in the bank.

Over the years, I had resounded myself to a DIY approach for everything. What was the point of having someone else paint my nails for me in 'Sunday Funday' if I could do it myself? It might not look as great, but it could save me a few dollars, right?

Why not layer on my charcoal activated face mask at home in lieu of the more expensive spa alternative?

But one night while I was browsing Groupon, I found a delightfully priced deal that I just couldn't say no to. $25 for TWO mini facials at Mint Skin. Sold. Right there and then.

The crazy researcher in me trolled Google the night before my appointment for all things facials. What to expect, would it hurt? would my face be red afterwards?

When I walked into the cozy treatment room, my mind was immediately put at ease. All of my favorite indie tunes were quietly blaring, and Diana assured me that she wouldn't do any extractions, as this was a mini-facial.

Word to the wise: if you desire a relaxing experience without being poked and prodded, axe the extractions.

For the next 30 minutes I shut my eyes and laid there in total bliss. Hot steam misted onto my cheeks as layer after layer of face masks, moisturizer, microfoliant, and other products were massaged onto my face and neck.

The finale was a thick replenishing masque that stayed on for 10 minutes.

I immediately got up to touch my cheeks afterwards and I nearly cried in shock - they were soft as butter! Never in a million years had my face ever felt that soft to the touch.

For regular maintenance, Diana recommended that I pick up Dermalogica's 'Meet Dermalogica' kit for $30. All of these products cooperated so well on my naturally dry, slightly sensitive skin. No irritation whatsoever. And no icky artificial fragrances, colors, or mineral oils either.

Walking home with the softest skin in the world, it really got me thinking about the act of investing in ourselves. Investing in our businesses. Investing in our passions and hobbies. If the ultimate 'end' effect from it is positive, the financial component is so worth it.

I'm not going to gallivant to the salon every week for a European facial, but the experience sure caused me to reconsider my formerly few and far between beauty routines.
Let's Chat: How often do you invest in self-care, and how important is it to you? 
Have you ever indulged in a facial before?

How To Build An Offline Girl Boss Tribe

If you're anything like me, blogging takes up a tremendous chunk of your time and your life. In all honesty, it can be a pretty lonely and introverted lifestyle if you don't pop outside of your computer bubble once in awhile.

Sunday night was a prime example. I spent four hours in a row writing this post and creating the accompanying graphics since I was under my own self-imposed deadline. Somehow the night and the hours ticked by and before I knew it, it was 10:30 pm, I had hit the 'schedule' button, and I was more ready than ever for a hot shower and the opportunity to crawl under the covers!

The truth is, none of that play-by-play bothers me, because when I'm in my groove and in the zone, I love absolutely every second of it. It's the kind of work that doesn't feel like work. I'm also equally unphased at the fact that I ate dinner at my desk that night. Hey, it happens!

Outside of Twitter chat buddies, Facebook groups, and the gratification of hearts, likes, and the occasional comment, most of my real-life inner circle doesn't have a blog.

My fiance doesn't get the online world and is more of an observer rather than a contributor. My parents are on social media, but are super private about what they share. I have friends who read blogs on the regular and are some of my biggest cheerleaders. Thankfully, they all are great listeners and are happy to lend an ear when I feel like sharing a win or opening up about the latest project I'm working on. But the conversation can only go so far.

So how do you find your people? The ones who do what you do, that can add fuel and fire to your life, who can hold you accountable to your goals and banter back and forth with you on pageviews, podcasts, and the next post you're thinking about writing?

If you have a hobby of any kind, it's incredibly rewarding to share in that passion with others.

In building my own offline tribe, I found support, collaboration, new friendships, and a connected community. This is not to say that online networking doesn't serve its purpose, because it totally does. But it's fun to mix things up!

These are some of the quickest and most effective ways to cultivate your own offline tribe:

You don't want to miss a beat, right?

In following the conversations of other locals, you can easily identify upcoming events, new blog posts, and discussions you can jump into. Twitter is pointless as a platform if you don't use it to engage. I liken it to a cocktail party. Don't talk to yourself!

Creating a list requires a little bit of detective work and effort on your part, but it's a key step to divvy out your stream from all the other noise.

Start out by adding some of your favorite local bloggers and creatives to the list, and then find more to add by searching their friends, or using a tool like Follower Wonk to search bios and profiles that include your city or metropolitan area.

Here's my San Diego Twitter list, with over 300 accounts I added to it.

It's amazing how many events fly under the radar because they aren't promoted well or they're not reaching any channels you follow.

When I say research, I really mean research! Seek out networking events, workshops related to your niche, marketing, blogging, and social media gatherings. Check all of these sites and more:

- EventBrite
- Brown Paper Tickets
- Yelp
- Facebook (click the Events tab and scroll down to view Events Popular In Your Network, and Events Related To Your Events History)
- Meetup
- Twitter (use Keywords to search 'Chicago Event' or 'RSVP Chicago', for example).
- Local Community Websites
- Local Blogging Communities

Building a tribe can feel a little bit like online dating. When I'm at a networking event, 10 times out of 10 I'd rather have three long conversations rather than 20 quick hi/bye interactions. I like to feel like I'm really getting to know the person.

Does your city already have a blogging community? There's no quicker way to connect with other bloggers, writers, and creatives than to go to a blogging meetup.

Create your own if there isn't one! Or develop a community centered around your niche. For example, Chicago has a Food Bloggers group, and San Diego has a group for Style Bloggers.

Often times, blogger gatherings are designed for casual conversation or they involve an interactive activity, like the night I drank wine and painted a canvas with 30 other San Diego bloggers.

Bring business cards and see who you hit it off with! You can order cards on the cheap from Moo and TinyPrints (two companies I recommend!)

After the event, it's important to unleash a follow up strategy. Whether it's sending a nice note to the organizers, or following some of the people you met on social media. You could also take a peek at their latest blog posts, or write a recap of the event you just attended!

You never know who you'll cross paths with, and I'm so happy I met Kylie Burnside Anfin. We were working long hours at a financial services conference, and for most of the few days, I didn't even know who she was.

One day, we ended up sitting at the same table together at lunch, and she mentioned in conversation that she was a fitness blogger. Instantly, I perked up and asked her more questions about what she was working on.

Like a total creeper, I found her website later that night, and once the event wrapped, I sent her an email. That email led to more emails, which led to us connecting at nearby coffee shops every month where we gabbed about the ups and downs of running our own businesses. Since we met, she re-branded her website and even launched a podcast!

Masterminds are one of the quickest ways to cultivate strong relationships, hold yourself accountable to your goals, and dig deep into business and blog 'real talk.'

What's a mastermind, you ask? It's basically a set group of people (usually 4-6 on average) who come together and have regularly scheduled meetings (either in person, over the phone, or through Skype/Google Hangout).

The meetings take the form of sharing wins and achievements, providing advice and support, and setting killer goals for the following week.

It's a safe space to get no-holds-barred feedback on your newest logo. It's where you can jump for joy over the new client you booked, or have a complete meltdown of overwhelm.

I'm obsessed with masterminds because they really are like having your own mini-tribe of awesome bosses in your corner. It can easily be the most valuable thing you'll ever do for your blog and/or business.

Test the waters by reaching out to a couple of trusted connections, and see if they're interested in committing to one.

Let's Chat: How do you cultivate connections offline and in your local community?

My 12 Most Popular Instagram Photos

458 photos later, I guess you could say I like Instagram.

It's home to perfectly curated feeds, hashtags galore, and a rabbit hole of dreamy images that inspire me to do more, travel more, and live more. Take one look at mine and you'll be enveloped in light and airy images of landscapes, cotton candy sunsets, drinks, my dogs, and local adventures.

In a world where we're constantly scrolling and tapping, which photos make the cut and earn that like or comment? What are the select few that you pause for a moment longer on?

I decided to analyze my account using Iconosquare (try it out, they have a free trial!)

In addition to discovering who unfollowed you recently and what your engagement ratios are, you can also sort your images to get a closer look at your most popular 'grams.

So here are mine. My 12 most popular Instagram photos (as of November 2015). Scroll to the bottom to see what my #1 most popular photo was, along with a few final thoughts on this super visual platform.

#12: The Awesome Wall 

Likes: 49

Location: Little Italy | San Diego, California

IRL Backstory: My fiance and I were on our way to a weekend happy hour when I spotted this awesome, over-the-top colorful and gritty wall. Urban street art makes for a captivating background, and I think that's what helped secure its spot on this top 12 list.

Hashtag: #urbansandiego

#11: My Mom's Wedding 

Likes: 51

Location: Pine Mountain | New Hampshire

IRL Backstory: My Mom got re-married last summer and we were fortunate to have the most perfect view. They wanted the day to be casual and special, so I wore an American Apparel dress and a flower in my hair. We drank fancy champagne out of plastic flutes and soaked in this beautiful view that was all ours, as we were the only ones at the summit.

Hashtag: #summeradventures

#10: The Parking Lot Sunset 

Likes: 55

Location: Ocean Beach | San Diego, California

IRL Backstory: A good sunset photo never fails. I had just finished an ashtanga yoga class when I noticed the sun was starting to go down. Rather than continuing my walk to the car, I went the extra couple of blocks to snap this moment in time.

Hashtag: #currentview

#9: Four Year Anniversary 

Likes: 57

Location: Cabrillo National Monument | San Diego, California

IRL Backstory: This trail is perhaps one of the most underrated in all of San Diego. It was a hot day, but tolerable enough to trek the 2 miles and take in the city views.

Hashtag: #goldenstateofmind

#8: Torrey Pines 

Likes: 57

Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve | La Jolla, California

IRL Backstory: Shortly after taking this photo, my friend and I hiked down to the beach, where we instantly came face to face with high tide. Stupidly, we decided to forge ahead, darting across the waves, running giddily across the incoming tides. At one point, a wave came in and almost knocked me over, coming all the way up to my shoulders. We immediately realized this was a terrible idea, turned back around to re-trace our steps, and walked the rest of the hike, sopping wet from head to toe. Fortunately, our phones survived!

Hashtag: #13000steps

#7: The Coffee Shop 

Likes: 60

Location: Better Buzz Coffee | Encinitas, California

IRL Backstory: Everything about this late Monday evening made me feel so boss, sitting perched along an open-air tabletop at the newest, hottest coffee shop in town. I spent the next hour and a half co-working, sipped on sparkling lemonade, and people-watching. 

Hashtag: #makeithappen

#6: Fort Point 

Likes: 60

Location: Fort Point | San Francisco, California

IRL Backstory: Exploring new places fuels my sense of adventure. Although I've been to San Francisco more times than I can count, this was my first time visiting historical Fort Point. These walls once served to protect the Bay Area from war ships. Now it stands as a free museum, and the tippity top has such a perfect view of the famed Golden Gate. 

Hashtag: #jetsetter

#5: La Jolla Cove 

Likes: 60

Location: La Jolla Cove | La Jolla, California

IRL Backstory: My fiance and I sat along the cliffs, soaking in the view on this March day before we went to an indoor cycling class. Sometimes just sitting still and "being" is so worth the extra few minutes. La Jolla, and this view, are so iconic. I love the rich contrast of jagged coastline and the shadows cast against the rocks.

Hashtag: #feelslikesummer

#4: Naples Island 

Likes: 64

Location: Naples Island | Long Beach, California

IRL Backstory: Two of my girlfriends and I spent the afternoon riding bikes all over Long Beach, and I couldn't be happier that we decided to make the trek over to Naples Island. It was easy to fall in love with this quaint (and quite beautiful) area, dotted with multi-million dollar homes.

Hashtag: #housegoals

#3: The Selfie 

Likes: 71

Location: My Home | San Diego, California

IRL Backstory: There's never that much to say about a selfie, is there?

Hashtag: #selfiestatus

#2: The Watercolor Sunset 

Likes: 73

Location: Mission Beach | San Diego, California

IRL Backstory: Bar none, this is one of the most beautiful, spine-tingling sunsets I have ever witnessed in my life. It was a warm September night, and in between seeing multiple pods of dolphins in the distance, my friends and I stood in awe as we watched the sun take it's sweet time to go down, displaying some of the prettiest pastel colors across the water.

Hashtag: #cantbelieveilivehere

#1: Engagement Announcement 

Likes: 88

Location: Herringbone | La Jolla, California

IRL Backstory: After years of dating, my boyfriend (now husband!) proposed on the beach just minutes before a slew of stormy weather hit the coastline. Later that night, bottle of champagne in hand, we celebrated, we toasted, we ate copious amounts of good food. It was the best day of my life, to date! This post drew the most likes of ANY photo, and for good reason!

Hashtag: #oncloud9
So there you have it! Don't forget to check our your own stats on Iconosquare.

If there's any final thoughts I want to share, it's this:

Is your feed built up of accounts you genuinely love and source inspiration from?

Of course I follow my family and my close friends. I also follow other bloggers, brands I like, San Diego locals, the token celebrity or two (I follow Kristin Cavallari, don't judge!), and lifestyle sites, including The Everygirl and Levo League.

Every quarter or so, go through your list and remove accounts that aren't as active, or don't pique your interest as much anymore.

Each and every day, I find something to be inspired by in my feed, whether it's a smoothie recipe, a gorgeous photo from @emitoms of the Pacific Northwest, or an inspiring quote from @zengirlmandy.

Follow what moves you!

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