Checking Out: The Amalfi Coast

Happy Friday, friends! We have reached both the end of the week and the last destination of my three week European journey, the Amalfi Coast, an incredible region that I could go on and on about forever.

As with Croatia, there aren’t many ways to go wrong here, both with food and hospitality.

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The Amalfi Coast is a region in Italy that is made up of multiple towns. You can visit several of them during your visit by hopping on a ferry, which I highly recommend, or in some cases by bus. In my opinion, the ferry is the way to go as it will give you incredible views of the gorgeous, clear blue Mediterranean water, other towns, and small islands that you would otherwise never see.

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A word of advice regarding transportation: you will likely be terrified for your life as soon as you board a bus on the Amalfi Coast. The entire region is built on cliffs and the roads are narrow, so bus drivers flash their lights and beep their horn when coming around a blind turn to notify oncoming cars and mopeds. Fear not, however, because they’re used to driving here and are completely unsurprised and unaffected by what will seem to you as a near collision.

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Instead, do some people watching, which is fascinating here.  All of the towns are filled with visitors, but Positano, where we stayed, still manages to keep its local feel.  You will find delicious food, locals, and glimpses of day to day life almost everywhere you go.

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Something else you’ll notice is all the stairs. The region is full of them and it hurts to go down just as much as it hurts to go up. I do recommend trying out a climb or descent one day if it’s not too hot, because it will add to the experience of seeing how locals live, as well as give you a 360° view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, gorgeous cliffs, and the small little houses along the edges that we’ve all ooh-ed and ahh-ed over when looking at photos of the Amalfi Coast.

Food

The food on the Amalfi Coast was some of the best I’ve ever had, paired with incredibly friendly service. The truth is that any restaurant you pick will be beautiful, so when doing your research, take note of whether you’ll need to make a reservation to snag a table. We had to skip out on a couple of restaurants that we really wanted to visit because we hadn’t made a reservation several days in advance.

If you’re staying on top of the hill (something many people choose not to do because of the bus ride or walk necessary to get back to your b&b), I cannot sing enough praises for Ristorante Il Ritrovo. It was recommended to us by our b&b as an “inexpensive, tasty, simple” choice on the evening we arrived, and turned out to be one of the best dining experiences of our entire vacation.

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Lodging

This region has TONS of b&b’s, so you’ll have a huge selection from which to choose. Keep in mind that the lower on the mountain you go, the more expensive it’ll be, and the higher up you go, the cheaper it’ll be. Both have pros and cons. The bus ride up wasn’t always what I wanted to do late in the evening after dinner, but the view from the top was incredible. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get to the beach, you’ll get there faster if you’re towards the bottom.

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Experience

And speaking of beaches, the ones on the Amalfi Coast should not be missed. Many of the towns have a beach at the center of town. These will be more crowded, so if you’re looking for something quieter and farther away from the center, you can walk an extra 20 minutes in Positano to Fornillo beach. There you’ll find cheaper chairs and umbrellas and fewer people. That said, you also won’t have the same large selection of restaurants and the beach is a pebble beach, so don’t be like me and bring a pair of water shoes! Also, there will be several people offering to rent out chairs and umbrellas to you, so don’t choose the first offer you get until you’ve seen them all. They’re all in the same general price range, but some will offer more for your money than others. Most of the rentals also come with a wifi password, and some will also come with a boat ride back to the center of town, a drink, and a place to have lunch, which can be delivered to your chair if you choose.

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Finally, if you have the time, you can take a day trip to another town. We visited the actual town of Amalfi and the gorgeous town of Ravello. Amalfi is a good place to find inexpensive souvenirs and grab a bite, but can otherwise be skipped if you’re irritated by big crowds. Ravello has beautiful views, a very cute town center, and a limoncello factory, so I do recommend taking a ferry via Amalfi and hopping on a bus to get there. Buses will be packed and you may have to let one pass before you get on, so plan accordingly!

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As always, this is just a small snippet of the Amalfi Coast, so please feel free to comment or email with any questions! Happy travels!

Currently Loving…

It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of the things I’m currently loving, so the start of a new week felt like the right time! Every few months, I become completely obsessed with something. There’s never a gray area – I never merely ‘like’ something… I devour it whole and then I move on.

  1. In the spirit of fall, my favorite season, I decided to purchase this amazing Cream-On-Top Maple yogurt from Ithaca Milk at my local supermarket. I usually go for plain Greek yogurt and dress it up on my own, but this is a real treat and I will inhale it until I have a new seasonal favorite. The taste reminds me of salted caramel or dulce de leche, and could easily double as a light dessert.
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  2. While away on my three week trip, I realized that my hair was feeling waxy and greasy towards my scalp. Pretty sexy. This happened shortly after I also noticed that my scalp was super dry. No dandruff, just an incredibly itchy, dry scalp. After a couple of weeks of researching dry scalp shampoos and not really knowing which were effective and which were just advertising, I randomly encountered this new tea tree extract scalp treatment shampoo from Tresemmé. It worked like a charm! I’m still dealing with occasional dryness, but it has improved immensely, and there’s no more gross waxiness. It doesn’t hurt that it smells amazing, too!

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  3. This one is nothing new, but I’ve reminded myself of just how much I love warm lemon water in the early mornings. It takes care of hydration, which I can be pretty bad at, gets the digestive system going, and helps me ease into my day. It just feels good.
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  4. Gone Girl. Can’t put it down. It’s just so incredibly good and well-written. I can’t wait to see the movie either, but won’t allow myself to until I finish the book. It’s just as well anyway, because it’s been sold out since opening day!gonegirl
  5. Early mornings. I used my mild post-trip jet lag to make 6 am (and sometimes earlier) wake up calls my new norm. I get so much done before the work day even starts! Like watching Gilmore girls re-runs…
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  6. Gilmore girls re-runs. Enough said. Also, is it me or is it always autumn on Gilmore girls?
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Have a wonderful week, everyone!

And please, do share your favorite things for when I tire of these, because I’ll kill ‘em like I do a good song. ;)

Checking Out: Croatia

The longest part of my three week European getaway included Croatia, and thank goodness for that! Turns out Croatia is amazing, and I’m completely in love.

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We visited three different locations: Split, the island of Korčula, and Dubrovnik. All three were full of history, beautiful sights, extremely nice people, and amazing food.

It’s hard to cover all of the things we loved in Croatia because honestly, we loved everything. Maybe we got lucky, but it seems that for the most part, there’s no way to go wrong. While we definitely did our usual research and advised with several locals, we found that almost every experience was at least good if not excellent.

The beaches are beautiful and the trick is to find one that’s less popular. Many of the beaches have at least one cafe next to them, and the more popular ones will have an entire boardwalk of places to grab a bite. Pack your water shoes and put up with the pebble beaches for more space to spread out, swim, and enjoy some gorgeous downtime.

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When it comes to food, we had some of our favorite dinners in Split and Korčula, where fish is a major player and the offerings are always whatever was caught that day, so you’re never getting anything that isn’t fresh. The beers are big, cold, and delicious, but the wine is hit or miss, depending on your taste. Also, keep in mind that the smallest wine pour is really small, so you’re not getting ripped off – this is just the way it is in Croatia.

Though there’s so much amazing food to be had in Split, I will suggest a restaurant that was so outstanding that I think everyone needs to know about it. It’s called Konoba Marjan and I can almost guarantee an amazing experience . Definitely make reservations because the chances of getting a table otherwise are slim to none. After dinner, or really at any time because it’s so delicious, don’t miss the ice-cream at Luka. The flavors are often unusual(ly delicious) and change daily.

A favorite downtime of Croatians is midday coffee, nursed anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours. I highly recommend partaking in this activity as it really does have a calming effect, and the coffee is phenomenal.

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The most fascinating thing about Split and Dubrovnik is that both cities are contained within ruins, with Split’s old town being almost entirely in Diocletian’s Palace. On our first day there, we found ourselves in the middle of a Game of Thrones shoot. Seriously.

Everything in both cities, and on the island of Korčula, is accessible by foot, so there’s really no need for cabs or public transportation unless you’re staying outside of the center of town, which might be the case in Dubrovnik. In that case, public buses are very easy to use and almost everyone speaks English, so you’ll rarely have to worry about not knowing where you’re going.

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Last but not least, the lodging. In Split, it’s mostly apartment style, so you’re staying on a regular, local block, and your neighbors are regular, local people. It actually adds some authenticity to the experience so I really enjoyed it, and we were able to snag an apartment with a washer and dryer, which was needed after almost two weeks of travel. The apartments are advertised everywhere, along with the number of stars they have, and people will harass you to rent one from them the second you get to town. I recommend planning ahead, but I guess it’s nice to know that no matter what, you won’t be stranded. In Korčula and Dubrovnik, you’ll find a mix of options, including b&b’s and small hotels.

And that’s about it! Obviously I didn’t go into excruciating detail with Croatia because there’s just so much to do, but I’m happy to answer any specific questions! Get there before it’s overflowing with tourists, because I suspect that soon enough, it will be.

 

Weekend Snapshots

Hello, friends, and happy Monday! Before I delve into another travel post, I wanted to share a couple of weekend snapshots.

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My favorite season is finally in full bloom and I spent this weekend going all out with everything fall: apple picking, sitting by the fire pit, mum shopping, pie-making, fall beer drinking, chilly walks and foliage drives with friends, and just sitting around, listening to the rain and watching Gilmore Girls.

It was a perfectly rejuvenating weekend. Hope yours was, too. Have an amazing week!

Checking Out: Rome

Hello, friends! After a brief travel recap break to share some tasty fall soup with you, I’m back with some tidbits about Rome. We squeezed Rome in for a very quick two days in the course of our three week European journey, and here’s what I have to say about it:

Rome is people. Rome is food. Rome is history. Rome is buzzing. Rome is unique.

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These are some impressions based on my quick jaunt through this city, and as I can’t quite call myself a Rome expert after only a couple of days there, I’m going to share just a couple of quick tips.

Lodging:

Here’s the thing I’ve learned based on my own trip and the impressions of many other visitors: it’s not about the hospitality here, unless of course you’re willing to pay the [very] big bucks. Typically, people stay in hostels, budget hotels, or B&B’s. After advising with some friends and doing a bit of research, we settled on the latter. While our room was clean, the staff was pleasant, and we really had no issues whatsoever, certain things did feel a bit unconventional, at least as far as b&b’s are concerned. Ours was housed in a residential building and felt more like a communal apartment, separated by a kitchen, where we were served coffee, croissants, and yogurt in the morning. It was a bit outside the city center, but a quick cab ride or walk away. The bottom line is this: hotels in Rome are relatively expensive, so don’t be surprised if the amenities or service aren’t what you’d expect for the same price elsewhere. Rest assured though, most places will be clean and good enough, and since you’re mostly there to sleep, that’s all that really matters.

Food:

Prior to my trip, I envisioned three hour long dinners, late evenings, chats with restaurant owners, and post-dinner walks with gelato in hand. This does happen sometimes, but don’t assume that any restaurant will be great, especially if food is important to you. Many restaurants are used to the huge influx of tourists and don’t put much pressure on themselves to give you all that great of an experience. You might find the service to be a bit brusque, as well. Try not to worry about this too much, because there is still plenty of amazing food to be had in Rome. My suggestion is to definitely do some research and make reservations. The dinner craze starts around 6 pm and goes until after 9 pm, so you’ll likely have to wait around if you don’t have a reservation. On our first evening, we were lucky to stumble upon a cute little restaurant called Mimi e Coco. I recommend it if you’re looking for a happy, cozy, Roman dining experience!

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Experience:

Many people look down on this, but I’m a fan of the hop on/hop off buses in cities where there’s a lot to see and usually not enough time to see it. You can either get off when you want to, or do it like we did and stay on for the whole ride. It’s a good way to get some fresh air, really see the city and it’s landmarks, and decide where you’d like to come back the following day. Other must-see’s (in my opinion) include:

  • Piazza Navona and the surrounding areas – streets like Via Del Governo Vecchio are full of cozily lit restaurants, gelato shops, and boutiques.
  • The Colosseum - Obviously a tourist attraction, but it is an extremely interesting part of Roman history and was my favorite part of Rome.
  • The Vatican – The lines for the actual basilica and museum can be excruciating. Either way, at least check out the courtyard. *If you do go to St. Peter’s Basilica, make sure your knees are covered. They’re extremely strict about this and will not let you in with shorts on.*

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For only a day and a half in Rome, I do feel like we covered a ton. Hopefully our next trip will give us a little more time to relax and explore – and of course I’ll be sure to share anything I discover. My main piece of advice is to do some research before you head out for the day. Otherwise, you will almost definitely end up eating mediocre food and gelato, standing in long lines, and spending time getting to sights that are under construction. Buon Viaggio!

Easy, Delicious Chicken Ball Soup

I love soup. I love soup in the fall, I love it in the winter…heck, I love it all the time. It’s comforting, flavorful, and versatile, and the best part is that there are always leftovers! So today, I want to share this simple but amazingly good chicken ball soup recipe, which will be dinner or lunch for at least several days.

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Another thing I love about this soup is that it’s completely free of bad-for-you ingredients. Just veggies, chicken, a little bit of salt and pepper, and 30 minutes is all you need to impress whoever you’re feeding.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 carton plus 1 can of chicken broth (or make your own)
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 4 scallion stalks
  •  Handful of dill sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pepper of your choice (I like a little bit of color so I go for red, yellow, or orange)
  • Half of a yellow onion
  • Any other vegetable of your choice (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop up all veggies
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pan, and saute vegetables (including dill) under medium heat
  3. When onions become translucent and peppers soften, pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low
  4. In a medium bowl, crack an egg into the ground chicken and using a fork and work it into the mixture, adding a few dashes of salt and pepper
  5. Mold the chicken mixture into balls, adding them in as you work
  6. Increase heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes
  7. The heat of the broth will cook the outside of the chicken almost immediately, but break one open with a fork to ensure that they have cooked through
  8. Add a few dashes of salt and pepper to taste
  9. Before serving, give the soup several minutes to allow the flavors to fully meld together. It tastes even better on the second day!

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Quick, easy, and delicious! What more could you ask for? I hope this soup becomes just as much of a staple for you as it is for me. Happy autumn!

Checking Out: Paris

Ah, Paris, the city of love. So much good food, wine, people-watching, and sight-seeing to be done here.

To be honest, I wasn’t super impressed with the tourist attractions of Paris at first. The Champs Elysee is just a street with lots of stores and crowds, the Arc de Triomphe is a large arc with ridiculously high ticket prices to get to the top, and the Eiffel Tower…well, it’s just the Eiffel Tower.

Soon enough, though, I realized why Paris is as magical as everyone always claims.

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 presetOnce you get away from the things you’re supposed to like and just walk, you’ll find that Paris has plenty of hidden gems that are sure to make just as much of an impression as the spots you are expected to see.

If, like me, you only have a few days in Paris, I recommend prioritizing. Focus on checking out the neighborhoods first and come back for the museums, shops, etc. if you have time, or save them for a second trip. There are a couple of “touristy” things that I wouldn’t miss, such as the top of the Eiffel Tower at night, which I found to be a truly wonderful experience, but overall, I got my feel for Paris through its streets rather than its landmarks.

On our first evening, after checking out what I now call the “touristy side”, we headed to dinner at Comptoir de la Gastronomie through the Palais-Royal neighborhood, which is beautiful at sunset. You’ll encounter beautiful buildings, beautiful people, and streets buzzing with the sound of drinks and dinner.

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Comptoir de la Gastronomie is a must. Foie gras, their specialty, didn’t sound all that appealing to me at first, but when we tried the foie gras truffle ravioli, (at the suggestion of Tripadvisor) it all made sense. We also shared a charcuterie plate and ordered an incredible bottle of white wine at the suggestion of our waitress.

The next day was spent exploring the Latin Quarter, Notre Dame and the surrounding areas, St. Germain-des-Pres, and anything and everything in between.

I recommend planning your day so as to end up in the Latin Quarter around lunchtime, where there are endless options for restaurants, creperies, and ice-cream shops. Save some space though, so you can squeeze in a visit to Laduree! The macarons, coffee, and gelato are incredible and should not be missed.

Next, choose an evening to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The cost is about 9 euros and the lines are long, but if you go after sunset, you can save time and still enjoy the great view. There are several great restaurants within 15 minutes of the tower, so I suggest making a reservation (trust me on this one) and having dinner beforehand.

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Our third day was spent exploring the Montmartre neighborhood and the Luxembourg Gardens. Montmartre is a beautiful mix of residential and commercial streets, with tons of little shops and restaurants, as well as Sacre Coeur, a gorgeous church from the top of which the entirety of Paris can be viewed, for a small price and a walk up 300 steps*. You’ll be a bit out of breath but the 360 degree view will be very much worth it. The first photo at the top of this post is that view.

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*If you tend to feel claustrophobic, skip this part. The stairs are very narrow and winding. Alternatively, you can still catch a great view from the front of the church.

If you have time, you can walk over to the infamous Moulin Rouge, which is interesting for a quick look but not as impressive in person, and then take the short metro ride to the Luxembourg Gardens. They are, of course, beautiful and expansive, but if you’re short on time, you can skip this part and save it for next time.

That should give you enough to do for 3 days in Paris! Of course, as it always seems, I felt like if I had only had one more day, I could have squeezed in so much more. Next time!

Happy travels!

Checking Out: London

Hey, friends! I’m back from my three week European getaway and ready to share some things about my first stop, London, with you!

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This was my second trip to London and I have yet to branch out to the countryside and explore some of the outer neighborhoods, so this is a quick n’ dirty guide to the city of London. If you only have a few days, here are my top 10 must-do’s of this city:

  1. Westminster, The Big Ben, Parliament Buildings: Touristy, yes, but very much worth it. My personal favorite time to see these is at sunset and into the evening. Make your way across the Westminster bridge in the early evening for a view across the Thames River. This will also bring you close to the London Eye. A tip: go elsewhere for dinner. This area is packed with people and mediocre dining options, and we made the mistake of staying here due to laziness. Head to the West End (theater district) for a variety of dinner options.
  2. Notting Hill/Kensington: For a brief respite from the crowds, check out this area for a look into the posher side of life, as well as streets with boutiques,  restaurants and pubs. We stumbled upon Churchill Arms, a pub with a Thai menu. Great staff, lots of locals, many beer and cider options, and pretty tasty food. For a quick snack, get the prawn crackers. But you’re in England, so stay a while!
  3. Rent a bike: The cycle share was my favorite discovery in London. This is a great way to see the parks (St. James Park, Hyde Park) and take a walking break. The cost is £2 for a 24 hour period, and you need to return the bike to a docking station every 30 minutes. The stations are everywhere, so don’t worry about not being able to find one. If you see the little red light, meaning that the bike is out of order, be patient and wait it out. People return bikes all the time so you won’t be left without one!
  4. Ice Cream: It is just SO good.
  5. The Pub: Obviously, it doesn’t get more British than this. Do some research and ask the locals for suggestions, as you might be disappointed if you go into just any pub.
  1. London Bridge: This neighborhood is just a hop from Tower Hill, where we stayed. Prepare to make your way through the tourists, check out the Tower Bridge, and then walk across it to this adorable little area of restaurants, shops, pubs, and craft beer and wine shops.
  2. Borough Market: After a stroll through London Bridge, make your way along the bank to Borough Market, where you’ll you’ll likely encounter more mobs, but also a huge selection of cheeses, meats, juices, international foods, breads, and you guessed it: beer. Try some samples and get your lunch here.
  3. Sit on the top front of a double decker bus: If you can get a seat, it’ll be worth it. This is my favorite way to get around London. Watching the bus weave seamlessly through narrow streets as the city passes me by is fascinating.
  4. Walk: When you can walk, do it. This is a good way to see the spots you don’t want to miss (museums, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, The Big Ben, the parks, etc.) and the little streets in between. It’ll help balance out the experience and make it feel more genuine when you don’t have much time to branch out.
  5. Interact with the locals: Don’t be shy and chat up the bartender. I’ve found Londoners to be very nice and cheerful, and they’re your best resource for finding great food, bars, activities, etc.

Cheers!

See You In 2 Weeks!

Hello from London, friends! I’m popping in quickly to let you know that despite my plans to share every leg of this European journey with you, my laptop conveniently broke on the first day and won’t turn on. Therefore, I’ll see you in two weeks!

Until then, I’ll still be on social media, so you can follow my adventures on Instagram and Twitter!

Have a lovely few weeks, and I’ll be back soon with a little announcement, as well as recaps and suggestions for every place I visit. :D Cheers!

eiffeltower

How To Stay Motivated

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Ever have a day when you wake up motivated, planning to do work, clean the house, run errands, work out, watch a movie and reward yourself with a bubble bath at the end of it all, only to spend the entire day in your pajamas and reward yourself with what feels like an undeserved bubble bath anyway? I definitely do.

The days of starting fresh with the beginning of a new school year may be over, but the end of summer still makes me consider what I’ll be changing in my routine in order to stay on top of everything come fall. While my goals and the way I do things change, there are a couple of consistent habits that help me stay motivated:

1. Make the bed first thing in the morning.

2. Exercise. This is the number one biggest motivator for me. If you’re having a rest day, do a few stretches.

3. Make a to-do list. Bonus motivation points if you put things on it that you already did just to check them off. :) Or is that just me?

4. Eat balanced meals, and don’t skip breakfast or lunch.

5. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and drink it while you work. It’s a small thing that brings a little bit of enjoyment to deadlines, challenging tasks, and busy work that needs to get done.

6. Take a walk and get some sunshine. This will clear your brain and stretch your legs. I’ve also found that seeing other people enjoying the outdoors puts me in a cheerful mood.

7. If you can’t focus, work in time increments and reward yourself with a small break for every half hour of work.

8. Read about other successful people. This will help you visualize yourself in a similar place, which will get your creative juices flowing.

9. Sleep well. This one is self-explanatory, and can’t be beat. It’s super important and will make all the difference.

10. Make sure you have downtime and fill it with things you love. You deserve it. At the end of the day, you’ll find that your motivation and productivity has left you in a good mood, and you’ll want to repeat it again, until it becomes a routine.

In the interest of full disclosure, though I do know that these things work for me 100% of the time, I’m still working on making them routine. I still have my lazy days, but all it takes is a workout or a walk to shake that off and turn things around.

Happy Thursday! Tell me how you stay motivated in the comments!