My #1 Success Secret

One of the top questions I get emailed (alongside these) is how to be successful. To be honest, I don’t think success is ever something ever reached, only chased– at least for me. There are little check-in points for me where I can say, “Okay, good. Still on the right track,” or, “Ah, got to readjust a little bit.” 
And as I’ve been getting older, I’ve kind of been trying to figure out what is the differentiation between a success moment and a not-so-successful moment. Really, I’ve been trying to figure out what that thing is that makes it work. It wasn’t actually until this weekend that it started to make sense.
I was explaining to a friend that I really do give myself weekends off, but I kick back into working at 5pm on Sunday. That ensures that I a) enjoy the weekend and b) have a better Monday. My friends know that when we make plans, I’m in as long as I can be back at my desk by 5. It’s a little rigid, but I do it every week. Then I was talking to Garrett how I sometimes feel scatterbrained and all over the place, but he reminded me that I always get everything done.
I think… my success secret is very simply… doing what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it. 
It doesn’t mean that sometimes things aren’t last minute or hectic or stressful, but they get done. Come hell or high water, a way to finish will be found. Even though it’s a simple concept, there are key components to a proper follow through!
My tricks:
1) Redefine success // I typically start with the biggest vision and then go from there. It rarely ends up being exactly how I think it should be in an ideal world, but done is better than perfect. When good enough is good enough, it’s good enough. I definitely can get stuck trying to get things just right, but when push comes to shove, I have to get it done. I don’t want my perfectionism getting in the way of me getting things done.
2) Prioritize // If I commit to something, I don’t want to disappoint myself or the other person by saying yes and then later backing out. This means that I have to be way better about saying no outright. Saying no isn’t a bad thing– I have to remind myself this ALL the time. Saying no now is definitely a lot better than saying yes and not being able to fulfill. However, I find this to be the most challenging thing. I never want to let people down! Reminding myself that I’m preventing myself from letting them down by saying no upfront is helpful. 
3) Be On Time // My trick for getting to places on time is to the take the “arrival time” and immediately subtract 10 minutes (#thebuffer). I continue subtracting different times it takes to do things. 5 minutes for locating an office in an unfamiliar building. 25 minutes for a subway ride. 5 minute walk to the subway…. etc. Sometimes I even throw in another buffer time if I’m really nervous, or if the weather is bad, etc. Also,  I find that this takes as much self-control as it takes planning. You can do all the time planning in the world, but if you click the snooze button or find yourself in a Pinterest black hole of distraction…. you’ll be late!!! And, sadly, sometimes it takes compromising to make it somewhere on time. Things can (and likely will) cause issues. You might have to skip the curling iron or skip the trip to Starbucks to get there on time.
This is more than showing up somewhere on time, it also applies to submitting a project or assignment on time. 
4) Determine Hard Deadlines/Next Steps // While some things have deadlines built in (exams, projects, events), somethings are a little bit more open-ended. I find that it’s a lot harder to follow through with something if I say, “I’ll get back to you!” It’s so much better for me to say, “I’ll send you that email by Wednesday night.” A) The next step is an email and B) There’s a specific timeline now. The person knows when to expect a response and you know when (and what) you have to deliver.
4) Stay Organized // If I don’t record the deadline, I will forget. Almost always, I will forget. I set reminders in my calendar and write down action steps for getting everything done. If it can be done in five minutes, I’ll try to do it immediately. But if it takes longer, I’ll map out what needs to happen, when for a completed, on time project. This also really helps me set better deadlines. If I see that I have a few things “due,” I’ll know I can’t commit to other projects around the same time and try to negotiate a different time. Besides the reminders and the dates in a master calendar, I also keep a running list of things to complete on a notepad so I can cross it off and have a visual understanding of accomplishment!
What’s your success secret? I love hearing about what gets other people through the finish line!

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Fairy Princess Jord

Carly, your blog is such a breath of fresh air every single day. I look at your blog sometimes and get caught up thinking "her life is so perfect and fabulous…that is where I want my life to be" but then you post things like this and you are so relatable. I feel like I will never "reach" success, as you mentioned, but rather check tasks off of a list, reaching amazing milestones and goals. I know this comment is a little scatter brained but basically I'm just saying thank you!


Hi Carly! I love reading your blog. I find what you have to say to be interesting.This post resonated with me because I'm in college and still trying to figure out what I want success to look/feel like…and how to get there! Do you ever get overwhelmed, or find it hard to enjoy your current situation, because you feel like you have to constantly work to achieve success? At what point can you pause and appreciate where you are?


Ummmm Absolutely!!! I struggle with this all the time. I have to make an effort to celebrate successes instead of just moving on to the next thing right away. I also try to run through things I'm thankful for in my head before I go to sleep… that helps relieve anxiety and I go to sleep really happy and grateful for where I am!


You're so inspiring!! I'm constantly ridden with anxiety; if I'm not feeling stressed out, I stress out about not feeling stressed out, because I've just become so used to being on edge. I'll try out celebrating my successes instead of thinking about what I need to worry about next 🙂 I can't express how amazing, helpful, encouraging, and influential you and your blog have been to me over the past few months since I found it!

Nelly Yuki

I love your blog! I only read three blogs and those are only preppy blogs.
Your blog, and are my favourites!

Thank you for an inspiring blog <3

lauren alysse

loved this post! your tips are great!! i'm definitely going to start the running "big to do list" in a notebook for bigger tasks, and then crossing them out!


Looove your blog!

Please share some tricks to manage anxiety. 🙂 Anxiety makes me feel like the most unsuccessfull person on earth. 🙁


You are so right. Follow through is essential to success and is one of my most valued qualities in relationships, too. Thanks for the reminder–this was timely for helping me say no to something that is too much for me right now.

The City's Prep

Prioritizing is big for me too. I think my most important key to success is organization, I even wrote about it a couple days ago! How funny how you wrote this today!


It's amazing how much I can relate to this. I have been so good about prioritizing myself with everything going in the past months. Writing everything down is so great! I find myself having a ton of lists everywhere with everything I need to do, but at least it gets down on paper and not on my head for me to forget. These are such great tips Carly(great timing too.. homework/mental break to read this)!

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Brittany Lauren

Writing everything down and making action steps has been a lifesaver for me! Plus having an awesome planner like Emily Ley's Simplified Planner that arrives in March will be a blessing!

Terri Johnson

Such great points about becoming and staying successful. I have found saying no and staying true is really important to being true to your focus, goals and brand. You always say things so eloquently and with the authentic Carly touch.


I work 7 days a week. I don't have enough of a social life to not work on the weekends – I'd be insanely bored if I didn't work. That being said, I recently cut a huge amount of stress out of my life and I'm already feeling more successful. One big thing that keeps me motivated is to only take on projects I love. I am learning to say no and to slow down when things get overwhelming.


I SO needed this post this morning! Thank you! I am going to implement #4 immediately and also try my best to stay away from the Pinterest Black Hole of Distraction! Such a challenge, especially when most of my work day is on social media! Love your blog! Thomi
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Megan June

I so needed this post! My HUGE college final is due next Friday and I've had pretty set huge daily goals for myself to get there, just like I for everything else. I am starting to get pretty overwhelmed, so I am reading this post on my little break and it's just what I needed!



I really appreciate all these tips! I use my planner for everything and I've found that helps me be successful. Also, lists. I have so many lists, but they help me stay organized and get the job done!