Productivity Week: final thoughts

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Originally I wasn’t going to do a ‘final thoughts’ post.

My plan was to wrap up with my last post, but then I thought that it would imply that I think that I have life all figured out and everything is easy now, as well as an overall ‘look at how great I am now!’ kind of thing, which isn’t true at all. Getting by from day to day feels easier but I’m not on cruise control by any means.

Just because you have a system in place doesn’t mean that you can kick back and let it do its thing. It is important that you notice when things don’t work out and a process feels like it gets in the way or a list isn’t making any sense. This doesn’t mean your system failed you, just that you have to change it.

The real failure would be in just letting it fail.

Re evaluating the lists, timelines, apps and calendars you rely on will help you stay honest and productive. A way that I make sure that I check myself is that I have events scheduled in my Wunderlist that asks me to do some review.

I do a daily, weekly and monthly review. Each of these reviews look slightly different and last for about 15 minutes. These reviews are opportunities to empty my mind of anything that I might have be needlessly been storing, review my calendar a few days or weeks out, look at my next action items and take a look at how I’ve been using my productivity tools.

Constantly reviewing myself was something that I brushed off when I first heard about it because frankly, it felt like busy work. I did give it a chance and was surprised at how many things I was able to catch with such direct prompts. For me, the structure has given me a starting point, not the end point, that’s for me to figure out.

The other thing that has been an adjustment has been learning to give my mind space to relax. I’m so use to having my mind feel panicked (even if it is only just a little bit) and searching for the next thing I ‘should be’ doing. At times I catch myself trying to find things to worry about. I have to remind myself that everything is taken care of and now I can just clear my mind or focus on something new. This is a problem that feels more like a luxury when it arrives. Most of the time I find that I am chugging along, not too busy or bored either which is the best feeling you can expect to have.

Okay! That’s it for my Productivity Week! I hope you enjoyed it and learned a few helpful bits too. I had so much fun putting this mini series together.

If you have anything that has worked for you, please share! I love to hear about how people are making their life easier so they can enjoy the good stuff even more.

Have a great weekend! I hope it’s productive and restful.

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Productivity Week: AnyList

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One of the lessons GTD preaches is to have only one master list. For that I use Wunderlist. Except for…

Meal planning.

I treat meal planning differently than the rest of my list making strategy because it is a list that depends on another set of lists, recipes.

Christopher gave me the heads up on my favorite way to plan meals which is AnyList. Like the other productivity apps I’ve discussed there is some upfront work involved but it can save you time in the long run.

Once a week Christopher and I plan our week and what the meals will look like, this depends on our schedule. Will one of us be out of town one night? Do we have plans to go out another night? Are we going on vacation soon? We decide on the nights we will be eating at home, then decide what we will make. Some meals are made in larger quantity for the sake of leftovers on a busier night of the week others are crowd favorite recipes like taco Tuesday. When that is in place and added to our dinner schedule to our calendar in iCal, then I head over to AnyList. Here is where the magic happens…

You can add recipes to it. So add your mom’s chili recipe to the app, it will ask for the ingredients, preparation steps and then it saves it for you. From there you can select individual ingredients from the recipe you will be using and they will be added to your grocery list! I have my grocery list shared with Christopher so we can both make edits. I even have different lists for each of the stores we shop at. This app is free, but it can only be used on your phone UNLESS you buy the yearly family plan or individual plan which gives you web editing access and many other handy tools like a meal planning calendar. The family plan is only $11.99 a year and to me, it is sooooo worth it! I use my phone all the time when I’m cooking because SO MANY of the recipes I use are from Pinterest and cooking while scrolling through a blog post with a great recipe is super annoying. Even using a cookbook tends to be cumbersome. When the recipe is on your phone with AnyList it is minimal and easy to read. The only bummer is adding all the recipes from the phone, which is kind of clunky. Now that I have the family membership I can copy and paste the whole recipe when I’m on the computer, which is so much easier.

What I think is so special about it is that there is a direct action link between the recipes you are cooking and your grocery list. All you have to ask yourself is ‘what do I want for dinner?’ find the recipe and then select the ingredients you need and then they are sent to your grocery list.

Even the grocery list is smart. It automatically organizes your list by categories, like produce, meat, dairy. This makes a major difference because it makes to act of shopping easier so you aren’t hauling your booty all the way back to the dairy aisle because milk was at the bottom of your list.

If nothing else, I’d recommend giving the free version of this app a whirl. It really will make difference.

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Productivity Week: Evernote

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And then there was Evernote. Before I took the GTD class on Skillshare I never understood the draw to this app and the productivity power it holds, but since I’ve starting using it I have been amazed. The Crome extension and sharing ability with the new iOS for my iPhone is part of the reason why I think it is so smart. I have been the Queen of open tabs when I use my internet browser because I want to ‘remember this’, ‘save that!’ Now I can really save it and it isn’t clutter, much like Pinterest but it also is accessible when I’m not connected to the internet. I have my account organized with topic specific notebooks and I can set reminders on content too. Evernote is free, lives on my phone, tablet and computer.

Here’s an example of how it has saved me; I was doing some research at a couple different health food stores and wanted to document comparable prices and products so on the fly I created a new note for each store, added photos and comments. Now I can view this content at home and when I’m out. The research I did doesn’t have to just live in my head because remembering it really isn’t that important, now the knowledge I gained is now with me all the time.

Here’s another useful example; When I create blog posts and want to link back to something I can clip the link and send it to my ‘blog content’ notebook in Evernote and I can go back to it when I’m prepping my post to be published. I don’t have to search for it again or leave it open as a tab in my web browser. Sometimes I still forget that I can do this! Old habits, man…

Keeping projects in progress in Evernote has got to be my favorite thing about it. I can add to it, change it, reorganize it from anywhere. I can add typed documents, articles I found online, videos, photos, etc. This makes the space more complete and reliable.

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Productivity Week: Wunderlist

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Basically, technology and GTD saved my brain.

The human brain is not built to remember everything that’s going on in your life. This is why to-do lists are used by most people, but finding the right system for me wasn’t as easy as go to a store, buy an agenda and boooooom, problem solved. These agendas very quickly started to look like a war zone, I would scratch things out, stuff things in it, use cool colors for no real reason (if the color changes have no reason it can start to feel like there is a reason because your brain likes to make associations and it ends up making it visually difficult for your brain to organize – rant over) leave the thing at home, and then your system is a wash. If you can’t rely on your system then you don’t have a system at all.

Enter the couple of the year…Wunderlist and my phone!

Props to that little hunk of tech for buzzing or dinging at me when I want things to get done or generating a list of things I need to budget time for every day. If I need to move something around, change details or delete something this power couple is on it! The system has everything that I need for it to work, it’s clean, simple and takes very minimal effort.

But, there is effort.

The effort comes from immediately capturing  flashes of inspiration, a memory or conversation. You must do something with your ideas right away! Don’t let them leave your mind as quickly as they arrived. Since I always have my phone with me so this is why my phone is the best tool for capturing thoughts quickly. Wunderlist is the dumping ground for all the random things I want to do, need to do, and want to remember for later. I organize it all in assigned lists such as ‘cleaning’ ‘personal to-do’ and a shared ‘to-do’ with myself and Christopher where you can also assign tasks to an individual. I make a point to check my to-do list every day, first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. I make adjustments such as setting due dates, add reminder alerts, set recurring events. Another very key part of this practice is to name your tasks as specifically as possible. For example, using a task like ‘organize the closet’ is pretty vague since you can ‘organize’ about a million different ways. Something better would be to try making that item more focused on next actions, like ‘pick up baskets for the closet from Mom’, this is when you might want to attach a due date of a time you know when you’ll see her, a reminder too would be even better. I keep my Wunderlist in mind when I am looking at my calendar too so I do not over book myself. Which I have done SO often in the past.

So yeah there is effort, but it’s only 15-ish minutes a day and in this practice you will be able to trust your to-do list and it won’t collect dust like the ones that have failed you in the past…sorry old agendas of yore…

I started using Wunderlist this summer and the advantages of using it came into clear focus in December in the midst of the holiday season. However, since I took the GTD oriented classes at the beginning of January, my lists are better than ever. I rely on those lists like you wouldn’t believe! Amazingly, Wunderlist is FREE (there is a premium version too, but the free version is so good that you can get along perfectly fine with just that). Wunderlist auto syncs with your devices like computer, phone, tablet and the design is very intuitive. The only issue I have with the design is that the interface feels kind of old and its insistence of using Gill Sans as its typeface. I can look past that because it is beyond easy to use and the most helpful features are free which still blows my mind, including features like sharing lists, setting due dates, reminders, recurring due dates, subtasks, tags and notes.

Also, they are the nicest folks on social media. Hey, Dom!

Task managing can feel really overwhelming, but as long as you keep the list honest, always changing and follow a consistent system you will succeed. Give your brain back the power to generate ideas, it doesn’t need to store your multiple to-do lists too.

Free your mind, try Wunderlist and live yo life!

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Productivity Week: the beginning

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Welcome to Productivity Week!

In recent months I’ve been spending my free time cleaning up my poor use of time. I thought I would pass along some nuggets of wisdom that I’ve adopted to any of you fellow scatter brained people with the best of intentions out there.

Let’s start out by me giving you a brief intro of why this became so important to me. See, productivity has not always been a friend of mine. I have been chronically late for things my whole life, scatter brained as heck accompanied by an always changing to-do list associated with a constant feeling of never having enough time in the day to do what I find most valuable. It got to a point where I really thought my brain was failing me and I would forget some pretty important things.

My sun sign is Capricorn but I am on the cusp between that and Sagittarius. (ps. skip this section if you are super annoyed by astrology, I won’t mind) Capricorns are very grounded people and are comforted by order, structure and logic while Sagittarius are more happy-go-lucky and dream big. Basically it’s like the tortoise vs the hare. Being a little bit of both can be confusing when I want to live a blissful life but get caught up in the details and can’t find a balance to calm down both sides of what makes me tick. I get really annoyed when things don’t make logical sense and I can’t find a system to rely on (i.e. I am late to things and can’t remember to do the things I need to do) and then I get mad that these problems get in my way at all (i.e. spending more time on feeling upset than happy). This is a battle I’ve struggled with for a long time.

Then (start reading now if you skipped the last section) I found GTD!!! Sweet, sweet GTD. This program was just what I needed as sort of how-to guide on being more efficient on a daily basis. My logical side was like “YES! Directions! THANK YOU!” and my happy more creative side was jumping up and down because this meant my mind would be more freed up to have time to experiment, write and have fun. GTD or (Get Things Done) is a process oriented strategy that encourages everyone to remove all of the reminders and to-do lists from your brain and store them in a reliable place to organize by category, priority and project. This method has been widely loved and I recommend you giving it a look too! This method has been has been well established by David Allen. He has a couple great TED talks here and here that you should watch if you have some time.

I heard about this method through the Skillshare class called Get Stuff Done Like A Boss. I enrolled in the class and it has absolutely changed me. I then took Tiago Forte’s follow up class called Design Your Habits. Both classes were super powerful for me and maybe they will be just what you need to be even more of a BA.

Okay that’s it for today’s intro to this powerful week of ass kicking productivity! Check back tomorrow for more! (you better believe I just checked something off from my to-do list for the day and it felt amazing.)

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design find / Fileteado

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Holy moly is Buenos Aires beautiful! I have been enjoying the city for 4 days now and my mind is so full of brand new culture. The art I’ve been seeing is such a treasure. None of it has been in a gallery either. Art is force that runs (in my opinion) the best part of this city. One art form that I’ve noticed over and over again is called ‘fileteado.’

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Fileteado is a style of hand drawn signs. These signs are highly stylized and ornate. Like so many things in Buenos Aires, this trade was brought over by immigrating Europeans. It didn’t take long for it to adapt it’s own local distinctions. Signature motifs include a border with organic plant-like moving lines, symmetry and dynamic detailed letterforms that either advertise a product, convey poetry or humor.

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From my understanding, this style of signage was everywhere until the mid-century when it fell a bit out of favor. Today, it can still be seen in traditional areas of the city as well as bistros and markets. I have also been told that art form has recently been making a come back. High five for that!

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The designer in me has loved seeing this type of signage all over town. I couldn’t help but to draw something that celebrates what I’ve been seeing but with a side of honesty. Yikes, guys. I know like zero Spanish and every time I speak with someone all that comes out of my mouth is a hybrid of all the parts of other languages I know that do not include Spanish. So, to everyone I have spoken to in Buenos Aires so far, SORRY!

That is one thing that you can always count on while traveling to a new place, is that it is humbling.

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photo diary / easy sunday

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Hellllllo extra hour! A special occasion such as this calls for good coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls.

From now until Christopher and I leave for Buenos Aires will be busy so thank you, extra hour, for a little mercy before the madness begins.

Annnnd we’re off!

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July/August Favorites

Between July and August I went from a month of crazy-crazy-crazy to a month of kicking back, carefree and happy. I’m so bummed to see my favorite time of year come to an end, but I think I did a pretty good job enjoying it to the fullest! Here’s a short and sweet list of my favorite things from the last two months. Enjoy!

1. LUSH bath bombs
July made me a little crazy. My work load was pretty intense and I relied heavily on the trip I made to LUSH with my mom for some relaxation. While I was there I grabbed two bath bombs and told myself they were just in case of emergencies. Sure enough, during July both of them were gone. Small things like a bubble bath can really be the glue that holds you together during stressful times.

2. Healthy Feet
For the majority of this summer I struggled with limited mobility. I had been seeing a podiatrist to get rid of several patches of plantar warts on my feet. In the very beginning it was very hard for me to deal with. I was unable to go to the gym or do yoga like I had planned on or go on long walks. Honestly, just walking to and from my car some days was excruciating, but as of August 1st I had my last procedure done to my left big toe. It has taken almost all of August for that area to feel normal again but now I have healthy feet once again! I do not want to take the ability to walk freely for granted again. The biggest challenge for me was to reconcile that the pain was temporary and that it will pass.

3. Kalamadoodle
After reading the book Beautiful Anarchy by David duChemin I started a personal project ‘100 Days of Doodles’ as a way to get myself into better creative habits. I have been having a lot of fun sharing small creations with friends and family through instagram. Then my friend, Jami told me about the Kalamadoodle group that was starting. They had their first gathering on August 20 at Arcadia Brewing Company and I loved it so so much! It’s basically the ‘Drink & Draw’ format geared toward creative people to get together, have a few drinks and draw. I love this concept because for those who aren’t so jazzed about networking, it gives you something to do besides nervously making small talk. I can’t wait to go to the next event.

4. The Chocolate Garden
In July, I went to 3 weddings, 2 bachelorette parties, and 1 chocolate garden. For one of the bachelorette parties we went on a winery tour in the South West Michigan area. It was so much fun because I had never been to any of these places before but my favorite stop was at the Chocolate Garden. Much like a wine tasting, they had chocolate tastings of their massive list of truffles. I went back for a second round of tasting because it was sooooo good.

5. ASL Ice Bucket Challenge
My brother challenged me to the very internet famous ASL Ice Bucket Challenge. By the time it had reached me I was getting excited about the prospect of making a video myself and I wanted it to be something special. So when I was nominated, I made some storyboards to have it resemble opening movie credits, planned the filming schedule and once it was all done, I threw it together in iMovie! Making this very quick short video has inspired me to make other kinds of videos, I just don’t know what of just yet…

6. Boyhood
One of my favorite directors is Richard Linklater and when I heard about his new coming of age story that was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast I was super pumped to see it. Linklater was responsible for one of my favorite movie series of all time, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. That series, like Boyhood, starred Ethan Hawke. First of all, Linklater and Hawke are amazing together, the writing of the script and the delivery felt so natural, much like the ‘Before’ movies which is probably why I loved it so much. In the movie Boyhood, not a lot of traditional movie ‘action’ happens, but to me, that’s another reason why it felt so authentic. Sure, there were a couple of dramatic moments but more often moments in life were shown as non-dramatic, sometimes silly and other times full of questions. This approach to showing what it is like to grow up resonated with my own childhood experience. So much beauty, sadness, strength and struggle was captured in this movie. Everyone should see this movie. I think it would strike a cord with anyone who grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s the most, but the method in which this movie was made sets it far apart from your typical coming of age story.

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Photo Diary: Up North

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TAKE ME BACK to the weekend please! A weekend filled with kayaking in northern Michigan, hanging out with puppies, playing outside and basking in the sun(flowers).

Sometimes I forget just how magnificent the state of Michigan really is and then I breathe in that fresher than fresh air and it all comes together.

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Christopher and I took our Oru Kayaks out to East Traverse Bay and paddled in the most crystal clear water I’ve seen since visiting Honduras years ago.

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We spent the weekend with my dad and his wife. During that time we got to enjoy hanging out with his pups and they made us the best food making us feel extremely welcome.

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We made sure to get in a round of disc golf…

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and then we got to experience the beauty of a field of sunflowers in full bloom. Summer really treated us beautifully.

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JUNE FAVORITES

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Here we go again! Almost half way through the month of July and I just now got to this post. Opps! June was a beautiful month full of celebrating and long weekends away from home. I wish I could relive June over and over and over again. It really is my favorite month of the year. Here’s what made it great this year:

TOP LEFT - Belly Dancing
One of my best friends from high school is getting married next Saturday and during her bachelorette party our group took a belly dancing class at Belly Dance Grand Rapids. I had taken belly dance classes in high school so I was pretty pumped to get back into it. I remember really enjoying the music and the outfits. The dance moves felt very empowering and it was a phenomenal work out. That whole weekend was a blast, but for me, that activity was the highlight because this girl LOVES to dance.

TOP RIGHT – 2 year anniversary
On June 9, Christopher and I celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary! It was our ‘cotton anniversary’ so we exchanged t-shirts, mine was a Moosejaw Pancake Club t-shirt and I got Christopher a couple Michigan Beer shirts. Later in the week, we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in town, Webster’s Prime. Christopher had the 28 day dry aged beef and I had the fish feature. We had amazing service and the food was perfect.

We always joke with each other that it feels like we’ve been married for 20 years, not just 2. At the same time, it feels like it was just yesterday when we were hard at work planning the wedding. I feel so lucky to be married to a man that is also my favorite human.

BOTTOM LEFT – Adobe workshop
Towards the end of the month, my co-workers Ashely and Chris and I hopped in a car and drove to the South Haven Yacht Club. We attended an Adobe Creative Cloud workshop hosted by one of our print vendors, Superior Colour Graphics. During the presentation we learned all about what we have to look forward to when our company updates our design software. The fed us breakfast and lunch and we had a great time hanging out away from the office, which every one should do from time to time. The best part of that day? I won a door prize from the drawing they held, $50 in Starbucks gift cards! Starbucks usually isn’t my go-to coffee but for the price of FREE, it is now :)

BOTTOM RIGHT – Comfortable heels
As I said earlier, my good friend from high school is getting married next Saturday annnnd I’m one of her bridesmaids! We had taken care of the matter of what dress we were going to wear months ago, but during her shower I got the info on what shoes to shop for and it was nude patent leather heels. Now, I do not typically wear heels because OUCH! But none the less, heels had to be found. I was preparing myself to either; spend lots of money on comfortable heels OR spend almost nothing and just pack extra band-aids.

Before I did that, I asked my co-worker Ashley what shoes she had because she basically owned what a I needed to have AND she wears them semi-regularly to work, which I took as a good sign of quality. She said Payless Comfort Plus and I thought I would give it a whirl. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical at first, because how nice could they be if they aren’t loads of money? When I tried them on I was SO shocked. I found my size in a wide and my feet felt fantastic! I’ve worn them to a baptism and to a wedding since purchasing them and they’re little rock stars! They have memory foam in the foot bed and, I don’t know, magic everywhere else? I can’t even believe I’m saying that I really like this pair of heels. I’d wear them again and again. Best part is they were only $20! So that means I basically got what I didn’t think existed, comfortable heels at a great price.

The drawing above is part of my new series I’m posting to Instagram called #100daysofdoodles. I’ll be making little drawings every day for 100 days and sharing them too. For me, this is an exercise to encourage myself to spend more time in my sketchbook, a practice that I love but has been rather neglected in recent months. Check in with me if you want to see more!



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