A process for improving my productivity system.Read More
When I was a kid, I read voraciously. I would read EVERYTHING. I especially loved my serial reads - Baby Sitters Club, Boxcar Kids Nancy Drew have since been followed by Twilight & Harry Potter. I also had a soft spot in my heart for newspapers big and small.
I learned early on in life that reading was both the connection to the world at large and an escape from it.
When I got older, most of my reading was for school (as most of us experience), and I actually panicked when I graduated from college.
What would I read now? Would my brain turn to mush now that I didn't have a wealth of books readily available (and sometimes forced) upon me?
My brief freakout led to a promise I made to myself never to be short of things to read. In this year of simplifying, it's something I've made a priority to do more of. Reading - actual reading, of books and long articles and such - often loses out to the ease of social media in the battle for my attention. For the most part, the endless stream on social media is more mental junk food than reading anything thought-provoking. It's not all bad, but it's definitely a double-edged sword. I get all of my news and information from social media nowadays. Thanks to Pocket, I can read all the things I want to, when I want to!
Pocket is a mobile, web and desktop-friendly app that's changed my life. Much like Unroll.me has done for my email, Pocket lets me save the stuff I want to read in one pretty place I can come to when I have time. Tags and favorites make the organization freak in me happy. It integrates well with my other favorite apps, like Twitter, Buffer and IFTTT - so I can save articles, read them, then share them back out with ease.
I just figured out how to get the number of articles I have saved to show up on my iOS devices, and it was over 3200! I have a lot of work to do - and now that I have a number to work with, I can set daily goals for number of articles to read. Sometimes I save things and later I'm like, "WTF is this?" - so there's been a lot of weeding out too.
For the times when I don't feel like diving into the books I'm reading, or when I want to read online but not social media, Pocket's my game changer for having valuable reads at my disposal.
In this year of simplifying, I'm focusing in on cutting down on my inputs so I can increase my output. One of those inputs, however, is a necessary evil and though sometimes I wish I could cut email out completely, I can't.
Just like note-taking and to-do lists, I've never been able to stick to an email processing system that works for me. I check it when I don't have the time to properly answer (hey smartphone addiction), and then I let them pile up, making a digital mountain out of a molehill.
In the Spark Notebook is space for a 30-day challenge. Why not make my first monthly challenge to tackle this email issue once and for all?
I set a simple goal: to process all the email that comes in that day.
I wanted to make this happen so that no matter how busy I am on any given day, I have a minimum number of emails to process. And not just look at, either - 'process' meaning reply, delete, delegate or do everything. I also gave myself the stretch goal of going through the rest of the email sitting in my various inboxes. Oh, and this goes for Twitter and Facebook messages too.
How am I doing so far? I've been able to make it happen most days, but not every day. Still, when I do accomplish my daily goal, I'll often chip away at the rest of my email too. I feel so much better about it overall as those unread and un-replied emails go down in number. I've gone through most of it and feel like my response and follow-up time has improved. It's not a polished system yet, but the daily goal is a great mind frame for me.
One service that's been SUPER helpful is Unroll.me. Unroll.me goes through your inbox and pulls all of your newsletter subscriptions into a list, which you can then go through and unsubscribe, leave in your inbox or 'roll up' into one daily email, all in one fell swoop! I keep all of the important subscriptions in my inbox and roll all the shopping/miscellaneous ones into a daily email. To date, I've unsubscribed to over 1500 lists since I signed up for Unroll.me last year. Blogger life will have you signed up for the most ridiculous PR pitches! Unroll.me is such a lifesaver.
Next step to build on this challenge is only checking email a couple of times a day. That's part of a bigger problem...hey smartphone addiction...
Any tips for managing email? I'd love to hear them! Leave a comment below.
On this last day of my Spark Notebook giveaway, I thought I'd give y'all a peek into how I've been using it myself! I wanted to film a video to walk you through my notebook, but I had my wisdom teeth removed on Friday and I'm just not feeling camera-ready :)
The Spark Notebook's the first notebook I've had that has a place for me to capture all of the various little tasks, big ideas and more in formats that make sense for me. I write everything down, and now I don't have to worry about scattered notes across different Post-Its, notebooks and apps.
Like lots of planners, the Spark Notebook has a monthly calendar for you to plug in appointments, reminders and important dates. What's unique to the Spark Notebook is that the monthly calendar view is immediately followed by space for your monthly goals and a 30-day challenge. It's awesome to see your goals broken down in this way!
One of my biggest priorities this year is to have a healthier relationship with my email - so I've made my March 30-day challenge to process all of the email I get in each day. I love that Kate's designed space for declaring your challenge, but also asks why you're doing it and prompts you to write down a cause of action. There's even a place to sign and make the challenge official, and numbers at the bottom to mark off each day you complete the challenge.
My yearly theme of simplifying? It's the first thing I see when I open up my Spark Notebook, along with my ways of being for the 2015. I worked on all of this during the Stratejoy Holiday Council, and now they live in a place I see every day. Easy access (and no excuse not) to revisit my year's intentions.
My 2015 resolutions live in the back of my Spark Notebook, where there's tons of blank & lined pages for random notes, sketches and brainstorming.
The stuff I have written out in the Project Planner section is confidential for the most part, but checklists and target deadlines are my steez. These pages are really helping me move my professional and blogging projects along smoothly, and help bubble up any tasks for my to-do list while keeping the big picture neat and clean.
The weekly time-blocking is my FAVORITE part of the Spark Notebook! Kate and the Popforms team were super generous with productivity tips during their Kickstarter campaign, and I really took to their blog posts / videos on time blocking and the ninja planning session. Now, instead of just saying "I'll organize my week on Sunday night / Monday morning," I actually have a framework with which to do it. It's worked really well the past few weeks in putting me on the straight and narrow for planning my week ahead.
I'm a sucker for quotes and journal prompts! As I reflect on my past week, I take some time to journal, free-write or answer these prompts. It's a nice, quick way to unwind for a few minutes.
Ready for a Spark Notebook of your own? Fill out this quick & easy feedback form for me and you'll enter to win!
The fab ladies of the SELF Magazine's SELFMade Collective and I have been taking part in SELF's Time Makeover Challenge since the new year, and it's been a huge help on living out my theme - to simplify.
There's a lot of productivity propaganda out there and it can be tempting to get lost in it all. SELF has been shifting its content towards a more holistic look at making time to create your best self, and the Time Makeover tips are something I look forward to reading up on.
A huge reason why we abandon our resolutions soon after the new year starts is because it can be hard to make time for them. When the going gets tough, we're more likely to stick to what we know for the sake of making it through another stressful day.
I am dead set on sticking to my simplify theme, plus the goals and resolutions I've made for myself this year. Sure, I've already strayed a few times, but I always come back to them.
Here are a few things I've been actively working on simplifying this past couple of months, to create space and make time for the things I want to do:
SELF has a fun quiz with the four personalities to the Time Makeover program. I'm a "time philosopher," and hoping to change that this year!
Cutting down on social events
For many years, I was a social butterfly. I love meeting new people, learning from them and seeing if I can help or connect them in some way. All those meetups, blogger events and happy hours take a toll on the schedule and the body. Saying 'no' to the majority of invites that come my way has created more time in my life for focusing on my job, cuddling with my bulldog, reading and getting more sleep. I still love meeting people, but it has been so nice to not have obligations that take me away from 'me' time. I've been struggling with the afternoon slump as I learn to juggle 6:00a.m. workouts and a full day at work. After a couple of years of freelancing, it's a culture shock I'm still trying to get used to!
Less shopping + purging the closet
I'm proud to say that, so far this year, more has come out of my closet thanks to Poshmark and purging than I've put into it! I'm finally acting like a grown woman and putting my finances first. For too long, I've had a fear of taking control over my finances. If I'm not doing it, who will? Saying no to attending events makes time for reading Suze Orman's The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke and on personal finance blogs. All of these reads have put my spending in perspective - a money 'Come to Jesus', if you will. Shopping just doesn't seem as appealing after updating my budget and measuring up against my financial goals. Talk about turning a new leaf!
Email is a necessary evil that I'll be writing a lot about in my year of simplifying. I check my email way too goddamn much, as if I'm just itching for my next stress bomb or some new thing to come and distract me from my goals. I check it when I don't have the time to properly respond, which leads to a lot of forgotten emails. I'm the worst at email, and I'm trying hard to fix that.
Unroll.me has been a HUGE help in consolidating my newsletters, and I'm currently trying to stick to checking it at 3-4 specific times a day. It's definitely a work in progress, but little steps and consistency will eventually make email less of a stressful experience and more of a productive tool in my day.
Social media, blogs, news articles, that latest viral sensation. There's so much to take in, but that doesn't mean I have to consume it all. I've been working on checking social media less, creating a posting schedule for my blog posts, reading a few articles every day and otherwise cleaning out my Pocket, and keeping my Feedly maintained only with blogs I enjoy reading. More on those two apps later!
"Whatever your resolutions for 2015, you need the time to make them happen!"
Sign up for SELF's transformative Time Makeover program here, and let me know what you've been working on this year in a comment below!
I'm a productivity junkie. I will save all the articles, add all the books to my wish list, and read all the tips I can get my hands on in the name of getting shit done. Still, finding that perfect mix of productivity tools and systems for my current lifestyle has eluded me. I'll find some new tips or processes and stick with them enthusiastically for awhile, but ultimately I always fall back in the cycle of getting overwhelmed by everything I need to do. A million things to do, a million different to-do lists, Post-Its, notebooks, planners, calendars and apps to keep track of them all.
My endless pursuit of the perfect productivity system has brought the Spark Notebook into my life. I'd been following Kate Matsudaira and her productivity-centric startup, PopForms on social media when my friend Sarah Lovrien asked if I'd be part of the video she was filming for Kate's Kickstarter campaign. Fast forward to now, with Kate's wildly successful campaign funded in 24 hours and the Spark Notebook completely sold out in its first edition!
What's the Spark Notebook, you ask?
In short, it's a planner on steroids. All of your notes, goals, big ideas and things to do now have one home, versus many different Post-Its. The Spark Notebook was meticulously designed by Kate and team to take your career and life to the next level.
Watch the video below - and visit the Kickstarter page for more insight into Kate's vision for the Notebook as well as how others are already using it. Kate also shares some of her other favorite Kickstarter projects in the updates - click through for more really cool ideas coming to life! There's some serious productivity and entrepreneur inspo going on over on the Kickstarter page!
Soooo I've got a Spark Notebook to give away!
GIVEAWAY CLOSED - Congrats Chloe for winning my Spark Notebook, and thanks so much to everyone who participated!
A big reason I've made this my year to simplify is to create space in my life for the things that are most important to me. It's crazy how many distractions can get in the way of your priorities! It's ridiculous really, and I'm tired of it. This is not the year for grandiose declarations of a 'new year, new me.' This is the year to finally take a good, hard look at what I'm doing every day and carve out the time to balance the things I need to do with the things I want to do.
As part of the SELF Magazine Collective, I'm taking part in their 21-day Time Makeover, and I encourage all of you to do the same! Just take the quiz on this page, and if you're so inclined, sign up for 21 days of tips, challenges and other offerings to help you improve how you manage your time. I am never one to turn down help when needed, and I'm enjoying the daily prompts and inspiration so far. It's only 21 days into the new year and I've made a lot of strides in clearing up my time and space already!
If you're in Seattle tonight, I'll be chatting more about living simply at CRAVEFuel's January event! Come and join us!
I'll be blogging all year about living simply. Hope you'll follow me along on this journey!