The Best Professional Shopping Resource

{a new box service for professional females}

Ladies, our calls for a high-quality, efficient box-shopping system tailored to the professional female have finally been answered.  It’s true, and it’s called MM.LaFleur.  Their team’s tagline says it all, really:  “We’re perfectionists who sometimes spill on our clothes.  Can you relate?”  Yes, yes we can.

What is it and how does it work, exactly?  Well, like other box companies, you start by completing a survey that describes your profession and office setting as well as your color, cut, and style preferences (this takes about 5-10 minutes).  Next, you received a personalized box of neatly arranged items – some dresses, separates, jewelry, and other accessories.  You can try on each of the hand-selected items in the comfort and convenience of your home and make decisions regarding what to keep and what to return.  Once you make your selections, simply box everything you do not want to keep in the packaging it arrived in, affix the enclosed FedEx label, and drop the box off for pick-up.  You will only be charged for the pieces you keep.

For more information, check out their FAQ’s page.  And, while we love MM for their “Bento Box” service, if you live in NYC, you can shop the MM.LaFleur store in person!

MM LaFleur Bento

Now, their price point is certainly higher than Stitch Fix and some of the other box/shop/order services out there with prices ranging from $150 – $360 per dress, accessories from $45 – $125 and jewelry $135 – $280.  That being said, the quality and tailoring are top-notch and well worth the price point.  And, for those of us who work in more conservative atmospheres, each of the pieces available at MM are perfectly appropriate for the office place.  Below are a few of our favorite pieces currently available at MM:

MM LaFleur Collection

Kate recently ordered her first box and was so taken with the styling and quality, she contacted the Founder and CEO of MM, Sarah LaFleur, to get more information on her inspiration for developing the company.  Sarah filled us in on her vision and MM’s ideal client (hint: it’s the same audience HOM targets – no wonder we’re in love!).  Read more below…

Q:  Why did you create MM?
A:  I worked in finance for years and was always so underwhelmed by my wardrobe options. I never felt like “me” when I was trying to look professional, and I knew there had to be a better way.  I started MM to give women not just better work clothes, but a whole new system and philosophy for how to shop and dress for work. At MM, our collection is a complete uniform for the busy, modern woman.

Q:  Who is the ideal MM client?
A:  We actually like to joke that she’s a human rights lawyer! It might not be quite that specific, but our ideal client is a stylish professional who is purposeful, practical, and charming. Style is important to her, but it’s not the most important thing. She wants to look impeccable, but she’s busy—she doesn’t want to spend too much time deliberating in front of the closet each morning.

Q:  Why do you think the MM Bento system is valuable? How is it changing the game for busy women?
A:  The launch of our “MM Bento” model was such a game-changer for us. I think women love the system for two reasons. First, it removes “decision paralysis” when it comes to shopping. We send the customer 4-8 pieces that are hand-picked just for her, and all she has to do is choose her favorites. Second, it’s such a time-saver! I totally relate to women who don’t want to spend their precious free time at a mall. The Bento system allows our customers to “shop” at home in a pressure-free environment. It’s a very woman-centric approach to shopping—we encourage our customers to put on some music or pour a glass of wine before trying on their MM. We’re showing women that it can be easy and fun to build a killer work wardrobe.

Thanks, MM, for the lovely service and amazing product line.  We hope our readers enjoy it as much as we do!

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Fashion & Food From HOM!

{healthy eating principles from your fashion and food loving friends at HOM}

For the next few months, we are experimenting with expanding HOM from fashion only, to fashion and lifestyle (food, decor, gifts, etc.) for women lawyers and other professionals.  And, if we’re being honest, we can’t wait to start talking about food!

Since it’s still early in the new year, we thought we’d kick off our food posts with a post about healthful eating that will carry you from the first months of 2015 through the rest of the year.  While we are not nutritionists by any means, Kate and I both love food.  We love good food and we love food that makes us feel good, too.

In this post, we’re sharing 10 simple food rules we try to live by most of the time, for maximum health and happiness in our personal and professional lives.  We also love living by these food rules during the week so that we can indulge and truly enjoy our weekends.

10 Food Rules to Live by via House of Marbury

(1) Caffeine should be enjoyed in moderation.  We definitely understand the appeal of a good caffeinated drink.  And we love coffee as much as the next busy and overworked professional.  But, caffeine is a stimulant and, on a basic level, day in and day out consumption of a stimulant does not seem like a good idea.  If you must have caffeine, consider green tea as an alternative to coffee.  Studies suggest that green tea has anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties and a cup of green tea contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.  If it is the ritual of tea or coffee that you enjoy in the morning, herbal teas such as mint or chamomile are satisfying, warm-beverage caffeine alternatives.

(2) Incorporate healthful fats into your diet daily.  Examples of foods that contain healthful fats include olive oil, avocado, walnuts, and (wild caught) salmon.

(3) Incorporate some whole grains and whole wheat in your diet.  More specifically, when possible, choose whole grains and whole wheat over white and bleached options.  In moderation, whole grains and whole wheat promote a number of not-insignificant health benefits, including digestive benefits, insulin regulation (you will feel full longer), and reduction in factors associated with heart disease.

(4) Be mindful of protein.  Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-lover, you should be mindful of your protein intake.  It is important to consume a moderate amount of protein regularly – ideally, via lean meats, nuts, rice and beans (together), tofu or dairy.

(5) Eat vegetables.  Lots of them.  Daily.

(6) Eat dairy in moderation.  If you are not lactose intolerant, a moderate daily intake of dairy (try Greek yogurt, good quality french cheeses, organic whole milk) is a healthy addition to any diet.

(7) No soda (diet or otherwise – in fact, diet is arguably worse!).

(8) No high fructose corn syrup.  Please.  Over here at HOM, we have a super aversion to high fructose corn syrup.  Read the labels on everything.  Avoid products that contain any high fructose corn syrup, which is just sugar, plain and simple.  In this vein, agave syrup should be avoided, as well.  It is essentially the same product.  Sweeten with honey, if at all.

(9) No processed snacks.  Snack creatively instead.  Make popcorn on the stove (use coconut oil for a rich, indulgent flavor) or eat apples slices with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.

(10) Drink alcohol in moderation.  While there are some arguably redeeming qualities when alcohol is consumed in moderation, there is no benefit to heavy or binge drinking.  As an additional incentive, while this post is not about weight (but rather, about health) too much alcohol will likely add unwanted pounds.

Healthful Daily Menu Inspired By The 10 Food Rules

7:30 a.m. – Mint tea with almond milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

8:30 a.m. – Poached egg (it is best to cook eggs in water, rather than exposed in air; our favorite egg recipes are in The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker) on whole grain toast.  A cup of Greek yogurt with a handful of sliced strawberries, two tablespoons of fresh chopped basil or mint, one teaspoon of orange zest and a touch of honey.

12:00 p.m. – Spinach salad with roasted asparagus, roasted bell peppers, corn, avocado, tomatoes, a cup of cous cous or farro, and a handful of chopped walnuts.  For dressing, try a simple olive oil and vinegar mixture.  (Tip: roast lots of vegetables and cook cous cous or farro on the weekend.  Assemble the salad (dressing aside) in the mornings throughout the week before work.)

3:00 p.m. – Apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.  Two to three one-inch cubes of cheese.

6:00 p.m – Broccoli soup.  (Prepare the soup simply.  Chop two broccoli crowns, including stems, into small pieces.  Boil until tender.  Carefully blend broccoli, two cups of cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon of Brie cheese (no rind), and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.)

Grilled wild caught salmon.  (Marinate the salmon for 15 minutes before grilling with a touch of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.)  Red beets (steamed, then cooled) with orange supremes and a tablespoon of goat cheese.

9:00 p.m. – Chamomile tea.  A square of pure dark chocolate.  Lovely day.

What healthful foods are on your daily menu?  Please share in the comments below!

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The {Sweater} Dress

{our favorite sweater dresses}

There isn’t a more simple, yet warm, outfit in the wintertime than a sweater dress.

You can layer it over a white-button down or add a blazer for work.  Or, wear it casually with a pair of of your favorite winter booties and a plaid scarf.  We do caution you to watch the length of sweater dresses, though, as they tend to run short.  However, if you find one that you absolutely love but it’s a tad bit short, try layering it over a pair of slim slacks or cigarette pants!  Otherwise, we would pair the sweater dress with opaque or patterned tights in either black or brown (depending on the color of the dress), and pick a statement necklace or a pretty scarf for a simple, yet stylish look!

Here are some of the dresses on our wish list this winter:

our favorite sweater dresses via House of Marbury

  1. Milford Sweater Dress, The Row, $469
  2. Crewneck Ribbed Sweater Dress, Max Studio, $148 (similar styles available in cobalt blue and red by Vince Camuto)
  3. Checkered Sweater Dress, Ralph Lauren, $93
  4. Stripe Fit & Flare Sweater Dress, Tahari, $70.80 (similar style available in grey by Calvin Klein)
  5. Leather Detail Turtleneck Sweater Dress, Kate Spade New York, $171.20
  6. Sweater Dress, Oscar De La Renta, $122.50

Do you wear sweater dresses? Which one is your favorite?

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How High Is Too High?

{how to tell if your heels are work-appropriate}

Finding footwear that is appropriate for work can be a difficult thing.  Unlike our male counterparts, the options available to women are wide-ranging yet inadequate, which leaves us wondering is this pair too high?  Too sexy?  Too casual? Too unprofessional?

In general, anything over 3” is considered a “high heel,” and anything over 4” should only be worn for special events where not a lot of walking is required. Anything at 4” and below is considered appropriate for the office place.

In our opinion, though, the analysis doesn’t end there. There are several important subjective considerations you should make when looking for a pair of shoes for work.

First and foremost, can you walk in them?

For some of us, walking around in a 4” heel is totally doable, while others become wobbly at 2”. Whatever you comfort level is, stick to it.  No pair of shoes will look good and you will not feel professional if you cannot walk around your office or the courtroom with ease.

Secondly, are the shoes otherwise comfortable?

Nothing is worse than buying a new pair of shoes and realizing that after a few hours of wear, your feet are suffering.  To avoid this, when you buy a new pair of shoes, wear them around your house on carpeted surfaces to see if they will be accommodating for longer than an initial try-on.  Be careful to not scuff the soles or sides, and if they don’t pass the test, you can return them.

Finally, is the style befitting for your office environment?

Again, this completely depends on where you work and what you do for a living.  The more casual or expressive your office tends to be, the more options you have in terms of footwear.  For those who work in a conservative office or field, simplicity is best.  This means, avoid overly bold colors, patterns, and textures in your office footwear (i.e. studs, beads, etc.).  Instead, opt for a straightforward leather or patent heel between 2-4” in black, brown, or nude.

Here are our favorite pumps for the office (note:  we’re featuring the black versions of these pumps, but all of them come in other colors):

House of Marbury - best heels for work

1.  Carra Pump, Ivanka Trump, 4”, available in a variety of colors (and a similar style with a rounded toe), $134.95.

2.  Elsie Pump, J.Crew, 3” heel, available in a bunch of colors and patterns including black suede and black calf hair (featured), $245.

3.  Diana Pump, SJP, 3.5” heel (the strap ads wonderful stability), available in black, gray, and nude, $365.

4.  Liz Zipper Heel, Ann Taylor, 3.5” heel, available in black or camel, $128.

5.  Adriana Pump, Nine West, 2.5” heel, available in black, nude, or taupe, $78.95.

6.  Sledge Pump, L.K. Bennett, 4” heel with .5” platform, available in black or nude, $345. (Or, for a 3” option without the platform, try the Florete Pump by L.K. Bennett.)

What are your favorite shoes for work?  Share with us in the comments below!

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Confident Couture

{the 5 pieces confident women have in their closets}

Confidence comes from within, no doubt.  And, as with anything worth having, developing into a confident person takes effort and dedication.  With this said, looking and feeling great on the outside can only support – and even fast track – the confidence we are striving for on the inside.

Here are our top 5 favorite items to help boost and support our inner confidence:

1. An oversized black knit

This may be counterintuitive at first glance.  Where some women might use an oversized black item to hide away a bit, we see it as liberating.  A gorgeous black knit that you can cozy up in allows you to be free – to be your best self.  Black is always flattering, yet it makes a bold backdrop so you can shine.

This gorgeous cashmere oversized dolman top from Neiman Marcus (on sale now!) is the perfect piece to slip into for ultimate confidence and comfort in the office and beyond.

blacksweater

2. A bold statement piece

On the other end of the spectrum, every closet needs one great statement piece that leaves no doubt about the bold and confident woman you are.  Whether it is an accessory or a bold-colored suit, choose something that turns heads.  (Does the idea of this take you out of your comfort zone?  Go for it anyway.  One way to foster your inner confidence is to push yourself a little and see what comes of it.)

In an office setting, you’ll want to strike a balance between bold and business appropriate.  We love the wow factor of this red French Connection fit and flare dress.  It’s cute and sassy and totally bold, but will also work in most any office setting.  We also love this Michael Kors animal print dress for this purpose.  It’s a great day to night piece, too.

reddress

3. A power suit

Nothing does more for confidence than a perfectly tailored, sleek fitting power suit.  Whether your office calls for business attire or not, this is one piece you must have in your wardrobe.  Anytime you’re in doubt about what type of appearance to make – personal or professional – you can’t go wrong with your best power suit, your hair up in a high bun, and a nude lip gloss for a fabulous, confident look.

This Calvin Klien skirt suit in navy blue is timeless (and on sale!), as is our favorite go-to navy pant suit from Banana Republic.

WJ00158_DARK-GREY

4. A fabulous, funky pant

We are big fans of a great pant – one that makes you feel both feminine and powerful at once.  While we often think of dresses as the best way to exude confidence, more and more, pants are it.  Try a fun, asymmetrical pinstripe like these Yigal Azrouel pants.  So chic, office cool, and unmistakably confident.

pinstripepant

5. Your signature look

Finally, every confident woman has a signature look – that go-to that you know will make you feel and look great no matter what else is going on.  This is uniquely yours and should be distinct from everyone else.  For inspiration, channel iconic women like Mary-Kate and Ashley, Tilda Swinton, or Kate Middleton.  Whether you’re into their styles or not, they are unmistakable – and unmistakably confident – in who they are.

marykateandashley

[Photo credit here.]

What pieces do you wear to reflect your inner confidence?  Share your tips with our community in the comments below!

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The Best Winter Boots For Any Budget

{our favorite snow shoes for the professional female}

We talked about ways to keep warm this winter in Wednesday’s post, and today we’re focusing exclusively on boots.

Boots are a must for any commuting female, but for those who make their wintry trek into a professional office place, the boots have to be both functional and work-appropriate.  (For some tips on how to make the transition from boots to professional footwear once you’ve arrived at the office, read last year’s post on the topic.)  Each of the boots featured below are waterproof, durable, and outfitted with a rubber sole to provide necessary traction.  Here are our favorite pairs to get you through this year’s Polar Vortex:

House of Marbury Winter Boots

1. Rain Fenton, Loeffler Randall, $195

2.  Joan of Arctic Wedge Boot, Sorel, $239.95

3. All-Weather Riding Boot, Burberry, $325

4. Perforated Boots, ZARA, $39.99

5. Linsey Quilted Rubber Boot, Banana Republic, $128

6. Saltwater Duck Boot, Sperry Top-Sider, $99.95

7. Chelsea Rain Boot, J.Crew, $68.00

What boots are you sporting this season?

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Administratively Yours

{a step-by-step guide to working with a difficult administrative assistant}

An HOM reader recently asked for some advice concerning a difficult office dynamic – how to handle an administrative assistant who is simply not doing his or her job.  As this is a topic Desiree wrote extensively about in her book Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice, we decided to tackle it.

Use these five steps to ensure a smooth and productive working relationship with administrative assistants (and any other staff you work with).

1. Take Notes

Whenever you encounter a repeated, difficult dynamic with an administrative assistant or other colleague, it is a good idea to take some notes of the behaviors and actions you find difficult.  These notes are for your eyes only, but they will help you determine the extent of the problem, whether there are any patterns to the problem, and how you can best position yourself to address the problem.

2. Get Clarity

Using your notes, get clear on what exactly the issue is with your administrative assistant or other colleague.  Be fair – evaluate whether there are things you can do on your end to ameliorate the problem, as well as what things are important to you and what things can be let go for the sake of a peaceful and easy working relationship.

3. Devise a Plan

Once you have clarity, select up to – but no more than – five items to address with your administrative assistant, as well as a clear plan for how to move forward in light of these items.  Write down exactly what your administrative assistant is not doing correctly and what he or she will need to do to improve.  Include any helpful instructions or tips.

For example, if your assistant consistently misses important deadlines, your plan should include, in no uncertain terms, a discussion about how this is problematic for your career because lawyers (and other professionals) are dictated by deadlines.  Then offer a suggestion as to how to improve this conduct.  For example, you may want to suggest that he or she create a joint calendar invitation for any and all deadlines so you can be sure the item has been entered in the calendar, along with an automated reminder of the upcoming deadline three days in advance.

Whatever the issue, devise a plan that is specific in terms of that issue and how to fix it.  Do not assume your assistant will have the tools to remedy the problem (if they did, they likely wouldn’t be having the issue in the first place!).

4. Ask for a Meeting

Once you have devised a straightforward and reasonable plan for moving forward, ask your administrative assistant for a meeting.  Be mindful of his or her time and make clear that the meeting will be to discuss your career path and his or her important role in it.  At the outset, it is a good idea to state that you are depending on your assistant and that it is your goal to work together well and in your mutual best interest.

5. Speak Openly and Honestly    

When you meet, you will want to speak openly and honestly about the issues as you have identified them.  If you do not communicate clearly and in a straightforward manner, it is unlikely that the problem will be resolved.  With this said, speak in a kind tone and listen to any input or response your assistant may have.  Explain to your assistant how important his or her job is to your career and to your clients.  Explain that it is imperative that you work well together.  Tell him or her that you have come up with a plan for how to do so, including five items that you would like to see executed in a very particular way.

Whenever you are approaching someone about ways to improve their professional performance, be sure to start and end with the positives.  Describe what they do well and what is working.  Take an encouraging tone.  Indicate that you have observed that they are a quick study or eager to learn and that you appreciate this and that it is in this spirit that you are presenting additional suggested areas of improvement.  Be clear that your goal is to work together more efficiently/seamlessly/in a more streamlined and consistent manner.

Bonus: Learn!

While approaching an administrative assistant or other staff about his or her shortcomings is always tough, treat it as a learning experience.  This is undoubtedly an opportunity for you to learn people management skills, communication skills, and to take your career to the next level.  These are critical skills – and this is a critical opportunity – for attorneys and other professionals alike.

What are your thoughts about dealing with a difficult administrative assistant?  Please share in the comments below!

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Winter Prep

{accessories to keep you warm this winter}

Since wearing your warmest hoodie and sweatpants is not an option for staying warm on your work commute (or at the office, for that matter), we’ve found the best winter accessories that are both chic and weather appropriate.

Ear muffs.  If you’re not a fan of hats (for those of you who are, check out this post for a collection of our favorites), invest in a pair of stylish ear muffs or a knitted head wrap like this.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 9.21.36 PM

Fleece tights or leggings.  Why have we waited this long to try these?  Literally, it’s like wearing fleece pajama pants, but they look like any other pair of opaque black tights.

2972067-p-MULTIVIEW

Wool socks.  We can’t stress enough the importance of wool socks in the winter time.  Wear them under your boots for the commute, or even under a pair of professional boots if you can conceal them!  Plus, we like to keep an extra pair on hand at the office to slip on for long work sessions and late nights.

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Leather gloves.  One of the best winter wardrobe investments is a pair of leather gloves with some kind of warm lining like this quilted leather pair with fleece lining by Michael Kors.  True, you can get a pair of those smart-phone friendly gloves, but really, the texting can wait – keep those fingers warm instead!

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A cashmere or wool turtleneck.  This blue DVF turtleneck is the grown up version of a baby blanket (and in the prettiest color ever!).  Chic and simple, it envelops you with warmth, yet is still totally appropriate to style for work.  For bulky versions like this, just pair with a simple black pencil skirt and black pumps.  If you have one made of thinner material, pair it with one of your business suits for (warm and cozy) office professional perfection.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 9.31.07 PM

How are you staying warm this season?

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Holiday State of Mind

{fashion and lifestyle ideas to sustain your holiday state of mind year ’round}

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[image source]

We’ve spent the week talking about the new year, and ways to make 2015 your best one – fashion and style-wise, and otherwise.  And we love doing so.  Here at HOM, we’re elated and happy in the holiday season.

However, as we head into the weekend, and slowly settle into the year ahead, we want to share with you some ways to carry the good cheer of the holidays well into 2015.

As we see it, in December, there is a buzz in the air – in the office, at home.  For many companies, it is the end of the fiscal year.  The holidays – or just some unbridled time away from the office – are around the corner.  There is a sense of winding down, of peace.

And in January, we come back to the office with a renewed energy. With hope. Our personal and professional resolutions are in tow, and the weight of last year is a distant memory.  This early lightness is surely an insight – this year is going to be a great one.

If you are like most of us, however, by February, it is back to business as usual. The resolutions find their place at the bottom of the to-do list (Spinning at 6 a.m. – no thank you).  The cyclical nature of working in an office – traditional or otherwise – starts to weigh on us again.  Bosses, colleagues, adversaries, and clients are back to being unreasonable (or annoying – whatever).  If you are in a cold place, the early winter snow has turned to slush and being outside is unpleasant.  So we count down to Friday as if this is some benchmark of something, make the most of the weekend, and do it all over again.  And again.  Oh man.

Let’s stop right here and sort this out.  What is it about December?  What about January?  Aren’t these just artificial points in time?  Sure, in those months we are given a break from our everyday lives – but can’t we mimic the thought patterns and perspectives of those months, even if just in some small way, and carry those good feelings with us throughout the year?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Take Note Of “Endings” Throughout The Year

Part of what is meaningful about December is that it marks a clear, unequivocal end.  It is the end of the year, and often the end of some of the big projects, deals, or cases we have been working on for months.  We can set our professional clocks to zero and start over again.  This, in itself, is energizing.

Throughout the year, however, we have the tendency to gloss over similar “endings.”  Instead of allowing ourselves the satisfaction that comes with finishing something, we move forward constantly in a linear fashion.  We’re onto the next project without hesitation.

This year, consider doing this differently.  Take note of your endings.  Do something affirmative when you finish a significant task in order to mark that you have done so.  Get a manicure.  Take a long lunch or a walk outside.  Organize your office and file away any documents related to the finished project.  The ritual you choose doesn’t matter as much as the awareness.  Allow yourself a moment to recognize that you have completed a cycle, and move on to the next project with the strength and satisfaction that accompanies this.

  • Calendar Events To Look Forward To

When you pick up a new calendar, there are certain events pre-printed inside.  Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, among others.  This month, choose three to five events to add to your calendar, in addition to these big events.  The events do not have to be big (or costly) ones, though they should be markedly different from your everyday plans.  Ideally, your events will involve some preparation and some investment of time so you build up to the event and enjoy it even more when it comes.  (This will also prevent you from wishing your time away until the event, as we all tend to do.)  Plan an adventure weekend trip, host a themed dinner party, invite friends to visit you and plan a tour of your city (see our New Year’s inspiration guide for more ideas).  Fill your calendar with a few out-of-the-ordinary things to look forward to throughout the year and emulate some of the excitement you feel when the holidays and year’s end are approaching.

  • Make Time For The Things That Are Important

At bottom, the end of the year, the holiday season, is meaningful because we are given permission to relish in the things that are important to us.  It is professionally acceptable to do so.  We take time away from work, visit with friends and family, and indulge in good food, shopping, and other things we love.  While we can’t realistically do this in excess year ’round, we also can’t afford to do the opposite – let our work consume us, or neglect the people and things that make our lives full.  Throughout the year, make time for the things that are important to you.  Make a wine date with close friends.  Cook a celebratory meal to share with family on a random Friday night.  Do something charitable.  Whatever you choose, you may find that this alone restores you to that December and January state of mind (yep – all year ’round).

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