Want to advance your career? Try changing the way you speak

When you speak, do you use fillers? Do you often say: uh, um, you know, like, er, or well? Or do you have a sing song voice and every sentence you finish sounds like a  question? People commonly use fillers because they do not know what they are going to say or they are nervous or sometimes it is a habit.

On Monday, I gave a lecture on Haiti and food insecurity to a graduate sustainable communities class. The lecture was well received, the students asked great questions, and overall I didn’t feel as nervous as I sometimes get before public speaking. After the class, I asked one of the students, who happens to be a friend his opinion. He told me  I didn’t look nervous, I had a strong command of the topic, but I used the phrase ‘I think’ too much and instead, I should firmly say what I mean. That was excellent feedback and I realized ‘I think’ is my filler.

Perhaps it is better to have ‘I think’ as my filler than ‘um,’ but I still find it problematic especially since I plan on having a career in academia. In order to graduate from my doctoral program I need to pass a written and oral exam and defend my dissertation research. Using the word ‘I think’ could potentially stop me from passing the oral components of my program. I am supposed to have a strong command of my topic and be well versed in the literature. At this stage in my career, ‘I think’ needs to leave my vocabulary and I need to have confidence in my opinions.

Does the way you talk influence your career advancement? In some cases it could. If a persons speech is irritating, but they are extremely knowledgeable, it could just slow down advancement or have people prejudge. But why chance it? Fix the speech issues and watch the doors open. 

I encourage you all to seek feedback from trusted friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers. Find out what needs work and work on it. You never know if it is ‘um, like, or you know’ that is holding you back from a promotion, job, or internship.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: David Patrick

Food on a budget tip 8: Make a grocery list

Hands down making a grocery list is one of easiest tools I have used to stick to my food budget. Not too long ago, I went to the grocery store without my grocery list. I erroneously thought I could  walk in, buy one thing, and walk out. I went into the store thinking I was going to spend five dollars, I ended up spending thirty! Maybe I need better control, but I think it was because I didn’t have my list to reel me back in from all the great deals.

Once a week, I sit down and I think of what I want to eat for that week. I plan down to every spice, meal, snack, and drink what I am going to eat and how much I will need. From there, I make my grocery list. Depending on what the occasion, I make different lists. For holidays or hosting events, I break my list down into dishes and then, I list the ingredients under each dish column. From there I check off what I already have and what I need.

My most common method is making columns based on categories: vegetables, fruits, protein, beauty, spices, beverages, and miscellaneous. From there, I list what I need. When I use this method it is easier for me to navigate the aisles and just grab what I need. If I do not stick to my list, I tend to go over budget and because I can only spend about 27 dollars a week on groceries, I have to be very strict with my spending.

Following a grocery list is one of the best ways I save my money. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get purchased.

Do you make a grocery list? Do you find it helpful? Share your tips in the comment section.

If you are just joining in, click here to read all the previous Food on a Budget Tips


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre


I’ll be happy when…

I’ll be happy when… Sometimes I find myself saying those words and not appreciating the now. 

  • I will be happy when I have more money
  • I will be happy when I lose weight
  • I will be happy when I finish school
  • I was happy when I lived in Atlanta
  • I was happy when I had a full-time job
  • I was happy when I traveled 

I forget to remember the importance of living in the present. If I focus on the past and my desired future, I will miss out on the things that make me happy right now in the present. 

To keep me grounded and  appreciative, I try to often write in my positive aspects journal. I’ve mentioned it in previous blog posts, it is a notebook where I write positive things only. I start the first line of the page with “Positive aspects of [insert date],” I then proceed to write all the positive things that happened in that day or I start the list line of the page with “Positive aspects of [insert person, place, thing] and then I proceed to write about the positive things about that person, place or thing. 

Often, when I feel down, I will go my positive aspects book and read old entries. It is a great reminder of all my blessings. Or sometimes I listen to uplifting music, like the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. 

Do you ever feel yourself drifting from the present and into the past and future? What do you do about it?


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Madly in Love with Life


5 years of blogging and I only have 5 regrets

Five years of blogging! Where has the time gone? After five years of trial and error, I have only five blogging regrets. As mentioned in my previous post, I will share experiences I have had as a blogger and the lessons I learned. I forgot that it was my five year anniversary, so I do not have a give away planned like previous years, so you will have to just settle for my words of wisdom. Below are five regrets I have after five years of blogging.

Not writing under my name

When I first started blogging, I was shy. I didn’t want anyone to know it was me writing. I toyed with the idea of writing under Lisa-Marie Pierre, but I was worried that when I applied for jobs and potential employers saw my blog posts, they wouldn’t hire me. So I formulated an anonymous persona and only told a few close friends and family my blog url.

I wish five years ago I had the courage to write under my name and not worry about what people thought of my views. It wasn’t until two years ago, I started signing off my blog posts with my name. It also wasn’t until last year I purchased the domain lisamariepierre.com and it took six months before I posted my first blog post on here. I think if I had started blogging under my name, I wouldn’t have gone through so many different blogs before I landed here and probably wouldn’t have lost readers along the way.  And I actually have found employers are responsive to me blogging, so I guess I had nothing to fear back then. But you live and you learn.

Not collecting emails 

I did a lot of research on blogging and creating websites and something that I picked up on was the need to collect emails. Email marketing is still a strong advertisement tool that businesses can utilize. I understood that, but didn’t have a newsletter to send every week or month, so I never collected emails and the few emails I did collect, I didn’t do much with them. Right now my email list is slowly growing, but maybe if I had collected emails from day one, I would have a somewhat large list.

Following all the blogging ‘rules’

Because I did so much research on blogging and creating websites, I felt like I had to follow all the ‘rules’ all the time. I was trying so hard to be the best blogger ever, I didn’t realize there really are no rules to blogging. For me, it just is all about being yourself. Of course there are things to be mindful of – a clear and navigable website, good content, etc. But doing every little thing in the books leaves no room for personalizing.

Blogging on topics that did not interest me

I started blogging almost as way to keep an online journal. My original theme of my blog was documenting my journey through the unknown. I didn’t know what life had in store for me and I wanted to share those thoughts. I used blogging as a way to express my feelings and also keep in touch with friends and family. After discovering blogging could be a business and platform, I started to blog about things that interested me, but I was doing it more like a job. I was no longer writing from the heart, I was writing what I thought people wanted to hear. I was blogging almost four times a week and a couple times I did daily and I got fatigued. Now, I try to blog about four to eight times a month. I blog when I have something to share and I have returned to blogging for me. If people come here, interact, and really benefit from my writing, great. But, I no longer make it my sole mission to write for others. I write for me and an added bonus is that others benefit.

Not using multiple mediums

I’m sure by now you have noticed I write a lot. I’ve been trying to cut down my word count, but I can’t help myself. I wish I was more active in making YouTube videos, podcasts, creating great graphics, and creating more eBooks. I am working on that aspect of my blogging because I know people learn in different ways. And while I am blogging for myself, I do think my skills need to evolve. I feel shy creating videos or podcasts and using other mediums. But the same way I learned to write under my name, I can learn to use other mediums and push myself out of my comfort zone.

Those are a few things I have learned while blogging and if more things come to mind, I will share!

Are you a blogger? Can you share some experiences?


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Duncan C.