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Marketing to Women

Women hold an immense amount of buying power, driving an estimated 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions. Yet research shows that 91% of women believe advertisers don’t understand them.

Market to women

At refine+focus, we’ve worked with both large and small brands to help them succeed at marketing to women. The catch? It’s not just about marketing to women—it’s about marketing to a specific customer segment that you’re trying to target. Our experience has taught us that it all boils down to listening and learning.

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tips to get started

Be authentic. According to Forbes, “Brands that integrate real women’s stories into their messaging in an authentic way have the best chance of making an impact.” Create messaging that resonates by using the voices of everyday women to tell real stories. Letting them speak in their own style and voice will help you avoid delivery that feels too commercial. 

Avoid generalizations. “Shrink it and pink it” won’t cut it anymore. Harvard Business Review found that there are six key female consumer segments, most of them based more on behavior than age. Many women are not mothers, don’t have husbands, work full time—in other words, exist outside of stereotypes, and marketers would do well to target them specifically. 

via Harvard Business Review

Segment further based on demographic and psychographic background. Market considering intersectionality—categories like home life, schooling, roles at work, and caregiving are all facets of a woman’s life, not to mention race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Show the complexity and the wide range of situations that women face so that they feel represented at all levels. Check out this great article from UN Women to learn more about marketing positive gender portrayals during COVID-19.

Build women into the product. Women still have trouble finding jeans that fit, yet they represent over $20 trillion in consumer spending and make 70-80% of the purchasing decisions in the household, according to statistics by Harvard Business Review. The design of a product built for women should reflect that, and go even further by considering a particular segment or persona.

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Use online platforms (particularly influencers). Influencers have an established bond with their followers, and women influencers know how to use that bond to reach women in a genuine way. Find an influencer that aligns with your target segment and allow her to use her unique communication style to market the product in a way that resonates. Another platform to consider is Pinterest, which according to Martech Advisors reaches “83% of women aged 25–54 in the U.S.” On top of that, 71% of users identify as female, making this platform women-dominated and a rising star in advertising.

Empower women holistically, not selectively. Everlane is known for being inclusive in its underwear and lingerie lines, but faces criticism for using typically skinny models for its other products. These kinds of discrepancies don’t go unnoticed—they shape the way that women understand and interact with a brand. Inclusivity and empowerment are more than just marketing for profit: they have social and material effects. Women want to know that a brand is genuine in its approach to empowerment, and they’ll look for it in every facet of that brand. 

Via Empowered Women Series

try it yourself

Ultimately, marketing to women, like marketing to any segment, requires listening and learning. Follow these tips to make sure you don’t fall back on dated and misguided techniques, but approach women as they really are—unique individuals with their own pains, gains, and needs. Having trouble? Check out our Empowered Women Series for inspiration, or shoot us an email at—we’d love to help.

want to learn more?

We all know that marketing to women isn’t about “pink it and shrink it.” Yet many of us, especially marketers, are scrambling to understand the best ways to gain insight and develop compelling approaches to reaching women—approaches that are authentic and effective. Check out our latest Live Session to hear Zach and Purnima share their POV and answer your questions on this important topic. From 16+ years of experience, they’ll share what works for them.

Innovation You Can Eat

At refine+focus, we believe in the power of storytelling. Sometimes, all it takes to tell an impactful story is the right analogy.  

It’s a simple tool that can instantly create clarity by bringing together unexpected ideas and spotlighting the connections between them. One of our favorite analogies combines two of our passions: cooking and innovation.


Our Story

We at refine+focus are not just experienced innovators—we’re also proud foodies. We love traveling the world to eat, discovering the best restaurants and learning about the unique cultural traditions that inform different cuisines. Most of all, we love bringing what we’ve learned to our own kitchen. 

Via Unsplash

One of the most important elements we bring to the kitchen is our innovation mindset. Our very own Purnima is an accomplished amateur chef, and she uses her innovation skills to craft dishes that often fuse elements from different cuisines. It’s at the point of fusion, where different traditions, practices, and ideas intersect, that unexpected value can be found. That’s as true of business as it is of cooking. 

@oneglobalchef on Instagram

Innovation You Can EAt

All the things you do in innovation can apply to your approach to cooking great meals, and vice versa. Here are just a few ways how:

Planning with flexibility. Like cooking, innovation requires planning. But in both cases, it’s important to embrace the potential to be wrong—you’ll need to make room for change in your plan in order to respond dynamically to the inevitable stumbling blocks along the way.

Test and learn. Both cooking and business innovation are a test-driven blend of art and science. Whether you’re developing a new dish or a new product, you’ll need to go through many iterations and learn from your mistakes along the way to be able to improve your skills and get the results you want.

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Combining elements. In the same way that standout chefs create new dishes by experimenting with flavors and techniques, business innovators develop novel business models and value propositions by blending original ideas and practices with existing ones. In both cases, it’s the spirit of fusion and experimentation that leads to unique and unexpected results. 

Catering to audiences. Customer satisfaction is one of the most important aspects of both innovation and cooking. You’ll need to profile your audience in order to create dishes and products that resonate with each customer’s unique palate and sensibilities. Their feedback is just as significant to improving your results and creating a memorable experience.

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try it yourself

By using cooking as a mental framework to think about innovation, it’s possible to open up a whole world of new ideas and connections. It also makes innovation, a term that many find daunting, more accessible and digestible. We hope this analogy encourages you to gain inspiration from unexpected places and enriches both your cooking and your business practices.

hungry for more?

We find innovation in unexpected ways. Last week, we explored one of those ways: innovation in the kitchen. Check out our latest Lunchtime Live session to hear Zach and Purnima discuss favorite dishes, finding new ideas and delight and surprising your audience. Then, discover how this applies to our business & yours.

From Plan to Action

You’ve done the research, planned the plan, and developed a strategy. You’re ready to move into the action phase—and here’s how you ensure your success.

From Plan to Action

Pay attention to the handoff. The people involved in the planning phase aren’t always the ones involved in the execution phase. That could result in misalignment and varying objectives. Prioritize communication between different folks in the project so that all parties have a realistic understanding of the budget, timeline, and ability of the people on the ground. Remember that the baton is best passed when both people are running.

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Embrace the unknown. Assume that the world is going to change as you carry out your strategy. De-risk your plan by building uncertainty into it and being thoughtful about what’s coming ahead. When you lean into change, you turn it into a positive force and make room for learning along the way.

Keep the big picture in mind. When moving from strategy to action, you might be tempted to just focus on the bottom line. But the strategic context of the plan is just as important as the tactical action steps it outlines. Imagine a good plan as a connected system: it doesn’t just tell you what to do, but provides a map for the project’s greater vision. You formed your plan within a greater context, with a specific goal in mind—now let that guide your execution. 

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Benchmark your progress. Stay focused on what matters by benchmarking your progress against your strategy. Use it as a point of reference for any new insights you gain from the field, so when you find yourself faced with “What-if’s,” you stay grounded and maintain your clarity of vision. 

Celebrate milestones. It could be a PowerPoint submitted at a particular stage, or a key decision made at the right time. Establishing milestones, whether big or small, will bring people together and create clarity to keep your project on track.  Aim to develop milestones that have momentum behind them by paying attention to their framing—it should be more about bringing things to life rather than checking the boxes.

Via Unsplash

try it yourself

The road from plan to action doesn’t have to be a rocky one. As you turn your strategy into execution, try these tips to refine and focus your process. Having trouble? Let’s figure it out together—shoot us an email at

want to learn more?

Churchill said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” You deserve a beautiful strategy, that works! Check out our latest Lunchtime Live session to hear from Zach and Purnima on best practices in turning thoughtful strategy into effective execution.

Ask Better Questions

There are generic and overused questions, and there are questions that resonate, excite, and cut through. Asking the right questions can stop people in their tracks and even lead to a transaction or a new business opportunity.

We at refine+focus have seen firsthand the power of a good question to transform and enrich communication. Whether it’s in a business or personal setting, here’s how you can enhance your questions to get the results you want.


Ask better questions

Aim to evoke emotions, recall memories, and pique interest. Set up imagery and context that asks respondents to use their imaginations—more space for creativity and consideration leads to more meaningful and unexpected insights. 

Imagine you’re a DJ trying to improve your set. Which of the following sparks more curiosity: “What makes a great DJ?” or “When is the last time a DJ played a song you loved?”

Via Unsplash

Determine your intention. It’s not always the case that the question with the highest response rate is the most valuable—it could be that the one with the least responses has the highest conversion rates. That’s why you need to know your intention before you set out. 

Ask yourself, who is my audience? What’s the real reason that I’m asking my question?

Tailor your technique. Asking a question is the just first step in a series of engagements. Having a conversation with someone is much more about them than what you’re trying to achieve through them. The more background you have on a person, the better you can refine and focus the questions you’re asking. 

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Our step by step method

1. Start with the result. If you have a very small window with someone, you need to know what your end goal is. Once you’ve determined that, move on to step two.

2. Consider what you need from the person. Ask yourself, what are the various reasons why this person might be inclined to help me achieve my desired result? It might be shared histories, similar backgrounds, or a favor owed to you. Keep this in mind for step three.

3. Formulate your questions. Cater to your audience. What gets them excited? What questions can you ask in this window of time that will get them most inclined to take the end action you want them to take? 

4. Design a sequence. Start with something direct, immediate, and easy to answer. Build off of that as you get more clues about the person and as you build a rapport with them. The order in which you ask your questions is just as important as the questions themselves.

5. Make your ask. Asking targeted and evocative questions will create the ideal conditions for your desired results. Remember that the best answers come from a place of engagement.

Via Unsplash

try it yourself

Questions are the mechanism you can use to get you to a better place. Start collecting questions—the ones that make you think, that ask you to use your imagination, that get you eager to keep the conversation going. 

Create a list of the questions you think will excite your audience. What do the people you reach actually want to answer? What kinds of questions will motivate them to respond? Don’t stop at 5 questions—go for 50. 

These tips may be familiar to you, but we’re inviting you to actually try them out. Let us know how they go for you—shoot us an email at We’d love to hear from you.

 MORE ON asking better questions

Are your questions helping you gain clarity? In our latest Lunchtime Live session, Zach and Purnima go over practical situations from a new perspective and introduce helpful approaches to asking better questions. Learn how better questions lead to better answers, better outcomes, new insights, deeper learning, and more meaningful connections in our latest video.

Why A Few Succeed At Innovation When Many Fail

Every so often we have been asked questions like how to survive crises or how to adapt when circumstances change so quickly.

The answer is simple. You learn to innovate, continuously and consistently. You may be great at tech innovation, but if you don’t consistently learn to match your tech innovations to changing market needs, you cannot succeed continuously, especially not during crises.

To survive changing and adverse circumstances you need a well developed muscle of business innovation.


become a serial innovator

Like cooking, business innovation is a test-driven blend of art and science. It takes trial and error, testing multiple times at a small scale, learning from failure then doing it on a large scale. It’s easy to learn but difficult to master, and it’s even more difficult to make money from it. 

Many people think they can innovate, but few are real chefs. Those are the serial innovators. Over the past sixteen years we at refine+focus have learned what distinguishes their success from the failure of others.

We’ve come up with a checklist of the five key ingredients you need in your innovation kitchen, so you know exactly what it takes to become a serial innovator.

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five key innovation ingredients

A culture of forgiveness, not fear. Innovation involves failure. It’s a key part of the test-and-learn model. When people embrace the potential for failure, they feel unafraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Your team needs to feel empowered to make decisions, take actions, and come up with new ideas—which is why an environment of mutual trust and respect is so important.

No silos, whether industrial or internal. Hierarchy should only exist on paper or in principle not in ego and attitude, especially not in ideation. Successful teams are cross-functional, they support each other, they learn from each other. They never say “it’s not my job.” Same attitude has an even bigger impact in companies that work without industrial silos. They adopt models from other industries. If others in your industry aren’t learning from other industries, this is the biggest advantage you can have over your competition.

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An environment of curiosity and learning. Building an innovation muscle takes consistent exposure to new and different ways of thinking. Create space for continuous learning in your organization by striving for efficient people and time management, so employees have the time and energy to dedicate to learning. In short, everyone doesn’t have to be present in all meetings, and every tiny decision shouldn’t need big meetings.

Teams where everyone is an outsider in some way. Diverse teams are the most innovative. You cannot solve a problem the same way and expect new results. The best teams bring a multiplicity of perspectives together to unlock creativity and generate new ideas. There’s a range in race, age, gender, skills, background, and industry experiences. Don’t rely on surface-level definitions of diversity to guide your efforts; strive for authenticity and a genuine appreciation for differences.

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Consistent Investment. It’s not enough to invest in innovation in the short-term. Aim for smaller, long-term, consistent investments over huge one-time investments. Just because one project failed one time, doesn’t mean you should cut its funding. Consider review-learn-improve instead. Innovation requires investment even through crises, when it seems unnecessary or when the project didn’t succeed. The serial innovator works through failure, is comfortable with ambiguity, and stays adaptable under all circumstances.



Do you have all the ingredients you need to become a successful serial innovator? Missing an ingredient? We are happy to talk to you and help you find that ingredient. Send us an email at—we’d love to chat.

 MORE ON serial innovation

Check out our latest Lunchtime Live session to hear from Zach and Purnima on how to build a strong innovation muscle.

Reclaim Authentic Networking

We’ve all had bad networking experiences, but how many of us can say we’ve had great ones? The kinds with meaningful exchange and lasting connection? It all boils down to your mindset: when you lead with authenticity and an entrepreneurial attitude, every networking experience has the potential to be amazing.


Reframe your mindset

A study discussed by Harvard Business School found that professional networking makes people feel dirty. But taking a promotion approach to networking—thinking about growth, advancement, and what you have to offer—mitigates those feelings by enhancing authenticity.

When you network authentically, you’re not just doing it for your own advantage, but to help other people as well. You represent yourself clearly, and consider what it is that you can bring to the table. You don’t change or dilute yourself because you’re in front of a different audience; instead, you find the parts of yourself that relate to the parts of someone else and use those as a form of connection. 

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Ask yourself: what are the qualities you care about? What makes your own interests, opinions, and experiences worth sharing? When you recognize your own value, it becomes much easier to see the value in others. 

Remember to frame your approach holistically: how are you important and engaging beyond a professional level? Apply that to your prospects to go beyond a one-dimensional view of them and engage with them more fully. If you’re not interested in what someone is talking about, you can certainly be interested in why it’s interesting to them. 

In other words, replace a transactional mindset with an entrepreneurial mindset. Understand that value can come from unexpected places, and relationships are critically important to success. Know that the more you give to an ecosystem, the more you get. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to benefit from the view that relationships are a key means of growth for all parties involved. 



Know the “why.” Are you looking to learn skills? Get a new perspective? Find exciting opportunities? Having clarity behind your intentions helps you engage in authentic networking. 

Be the spotlight. Think about attention as a spotlight: when you give it to people, they shine. Be generous with your attention, and ask people questions that set them up for success to express their passions. Come into the discussion prepared to honor people with your listening. 

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Build your brand. A personal brand isn’t just the words you use to describe yourself; it’s the actions you do to signal your interests and skills, and how you package that with words and positioning. Ask yourself what the space is that you want to occupy in someone’s mind: do you want to be their go-to for movie recommendations? The person with the most innovative ideas? Take the actions to get there. 

Remain active and consistent. Always be on the lookout for ways to add value to your relationships. One of the easiest ways is to socialize your reading: every time you read an article, send it to someone you think would benefit from it. Share your resources, learning, and ideas to enrich someone’s day and demonstrate your commitment with a small gesture. 



Try finding an online event to attend or signing up for Lunch Club, an online service that curates one-on-one professional introductions.

Via Lunchclub

You don’t have to pitch yourself to start a professional relationship—being observant, paying attention, and honoring all of the other person’s diverse interests communicates interest and engagement. Use the question, “What am I curious about?” to guide you to people who are able to share or address your curiosity. 



Check out our latest Lunchtime Live session to hear from Zach and Purnima on how to enrich your networking experience. Learn their best practices and tools for engaging in authentic interactions and fostering meaningful connections. 

Plan for Your Strategic Plan

You show up. Lighting strikes. Suddenly, in one week of brilliance, you and your team complete an amazing strategic plan without any issues. You’re the hero!

We all know this seldom happens. Real life happens. Information is incomplete. People don’t pay attention in meetings. Major conflicts surface. What you thought you were solving for has changed—and you didn’t get the memo.

You can avoid this. You can de-risk your planning process by “planning the plan.”


Planning the Plan

Start a month or so before strategic planning begins. Involve the right stakeholders and ask what they need from the strategic plan. Envision what stands in their way. What are the essential conversations you must have to make everyone’s time worthwhile? How much information and insight can you gather before you begin?

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The more preplanning you do, the more you ensure your success. That’s why we’ve created a checklist. When you’ve accomplished each item, not only will you de-risk the meeting, but you’ll also create clarity for everyone in attendance. They’ll know what the process expects from them, and you’ll know what they expect of you.

Want proof? Ask two people involved in your strategic planning process about what results the plan should produce for them. Compare.

Via Unsplash


More likely than not, they’re lacking alignment. That’s when you’ll want this checklist—and that’s why we’re offering a 1-hour live “planning the plan” workshop, at no cost while we refine our offering. Bring up to three of your colleagues, and we’ll provide innovation tools and thought exercises to enhance your planning process. We only have three spots available, so if you’re interested, let us know at

As you’re thinking about strategy, enjoy this great presentation on the Future-Back approach, which is the same kind of thinking we’re employing in our workshop.


Consider the groundwork

Set yourself up for success: plan for the plan. Reach out to us at to apply for one of our limited no-cost sessions and see the power of what we’re doing.

“This workshop has been very helpful for my team to consider the groundwork we need to complete prior to launching the planning process. Ultimately, I learned that we can make the process and the product much more engaging and enduring if we take the time to set the foundation properly. Excellent!”

More on Planning the Plan

Check out our Lunchtime Live session on how to use innovation tools to build your strategic plan. Zach and Purnima have helped their clients from Fortune 100 to Startups plan the plan.

Build Communities That Flourish

These days, the need for meaningful connection is more present and visible than ever before. Brands, marketers, and customers alike are thinking about how they can create and support communities that matter.

Bring people together

A good community is not just a gathering place for shared interests—it’s an incubator for creativity and a catalyst for new ideas. It’s where you go to get support and feel like your authentic self.

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At refine+focus, community is one of our core beliefs. From Curiouser & Curiouser to our Empowered Women Series, we’re experienced in creating spaces that foster meaning and encourage connection. Whether it’s online or off, we know how to harness the power of community to uplift and empower people.

We believe the best communities are the ones that flourish—the ones that help people find common ground and reach their potential. The ones where people show up with a desire to contribute and grow, because they know that as a part of something bigger, their actions will make an impact. In these spaces, people feel empowered, motivated, and fulfilled.

Tips to get started

Pick the right platform. Make sure your members feel engaged and comfortable by choosing a platform that’s familiar or simple to use. Last year, Patagonia launched its Action Works online platform to bring its community together behind climate change.

Assemble your “party committee.” Find the people who are committed and enthusiastic about the community to help you lead it. More than one host ensures that people are sharing content and generating conversation.

Via Patagonia Action Works 

 Build rituals and traditions. In The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, Priya Parker discusses the importance of rituals to meaningful gatherings. Whether it’s posting a puppy picture per day or hosting a weekly Zoom happy hour, creating consistency in your community will foster a unique culture and a depth of shared experience. 

Show love. Expressing appreciation for your members will uplift and encourage them. Incorporate verbal affirmations into your community, and reward outstanding members with special gestures of appreciation. Check out Forbes’ list of 7 Ways To Love Your Online Community.

Via Goodreads

 Keep it fresh. Like a plant, your community needs to be refreshed; too much of the same and it can quickly go stale. Introduce new topics, tools, and events to keep things lively and engaging.  

Ask for feedback. Single out people from time to time for feedback; ask open-ended questions every three to four weeks to assess and account for your blind spots. Continue to look for ways to improve the online experience for your members.

Don’t be afraid to start small.

It starts with a desire to bring people together and give them a good experience. When you build a community, you invest into something that pays dividends—soon enough, you’ll find it becomes something that supports and empowers you.


Want to build communities that flourish?

Check out our latest LinkedIn Live, “Build Online Communities”: A Live Event Recorded.

Tell Better Stories

Not the same stories with more tools, or the same stories on different marketing channels. Better. Stories.

Tell Better Stories

Start with your LinkedIn summary section. Imagine you were asked the perfect question that set you up to tell a powerful story. Try it and answer it. For example, “tell me a story that shows me how much you love what you do.”

If you’re a brand, start with gathering the many stories about you. Discuss what you like about them. Explore them by acting (seriously, act it out) or drawing the story out. Only then see how they come to life with media.

You’ve created a strategy for your brand messaging, but have you created a strategy house for your brand storytelling? Create compelling situations and narratives in which they come to life.

Our brains are preprogrammed to respond to stories. It’s been this way since before the creation of the pen.

You don’t have to create a new story to be effective, simply repurpose one of the existing 7 plot lines: 1. Overcoming the monster 2. Rags to riches 3. The quest 4. Voyage and return 5. Comedy 6. Tragedy 7. Rebirth


(Source: Christopher Booker, Seven Basic Plots)

One day our team was working on a content calendar for one of our clients. We decided to take one important benefit about the brand, ‘it helps people feel better,’ and we turned that benefit into stories by casting it into the different aforementioned plots: escaping the monster became a journey to run from illness, and rags to riches turned into a story of good luck and good fortune finding the product. This simple exercise transformed brainstorming and list making into imagining and meaning making. The results were far richer.

Before You Go,

The desire to tell better stories is where it all begins. Like the topic, read on Why Your Brain Loves Good Story Telling?


Want to learn more about effective storytelling? Check out our LinkedIn Live  “Tell Stories Better” : A Live Event Recorded.

Unlock Your Creativity Gridlock

Maybe she’s born with it… or maybe she’s worked to cultivate it in her life and career. 

The word is creativity—not an inherent trait, but a skill that anyone can build. It’s the lifespring of innovation, and the difference between lackluster and brilliant work. It’s so significant that LinkedIn named it the most important skill in the world

Foster creativity in your work and life

Creativity is as important to business as it is to traditional art. It’s vital to generating novel ideas that push boundaries and drive innovation, and it makes for dynamic and predictive problem-solving. The keys to creativity are diversity and curiosity

Via Unsplash

Diversifying who or what you interact with—from food to culture to people—stimulates creativity by opening you up to new ideas and experiences. In fact, research shows that deeply felt multicultural experiences lead to creativity by broadening your scope of thinking. 

The best way to diversify your mental ecosystem is through curiosity. Remaining curious about the world and implementing continuous learning into your life allows you to lean in to new ideas and embrace uncertainty with a positive attitude. 

Tips to get started

We know that creativity can be hard to come by, especially in the midst of uncertainty. We’ve come up with helpful tips for finding inspiration in the everyday, so you can harness creativity from even the simplest of things.

Listen to something new. RCRDList will send you an email with a new album you should listen to everyday, handpicked by humans, not algorithms. 

Get a different perspective. With WindowSwap, you can enjoy the view from someone else’s window from anywhere around the world. Traveling the world from home just got easier.

Via WindowSwap

Watch a good movie. agoodmovietowatch gives you recommendations for movies that are highly-rated and often little-known. Their wide range of filters, including by streaming platform, makes it that much easier to find what you’re looking for (bye-bye browsing fatigue).

Refresh your space. Breathe life into your home by adding live plants; declutter and get rid of what doesn’t work; rearrange a familiar area to give yourself a fresh perspective.

Explore a different topic. Sign up for a newsletter of a topic outside your immediate interests. Try Robinhood Snacks for finance, Pitchfork for music, The Pop Culture Happy Hour for culture, Business of Fashion for fashion, or NextDraft for news with a twist.

Via Robinhood Snacks

Get creative and go!

Don’t wait on the lightning bolt to strike—try these tips to cultivate diversity and curiosity into your daily life and watch your creative juices flow. 


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