Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

heart

Blog

Scene from movie Limitless

Be Brilliant! Learn Something New On Every Job

In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper takes a pill that allows him to learn enormous amounts of information almost instantly. I often think about that movie and wish I could take that pill (OK, it doesn’t actually work out that well for Brad in the end … but the concept is appealing!). There are so many things I want to learn and understand. I am a pretty fast learner, but it’s hard to know where to start and there is SO MUCH to learn to “level up”it is daunting. (Special thanks to Tonya Mork for challenging us all to “level up” our skills!)  As a self-taught WordPress website “Implementor” … Designer? Developer? Unicorn? I have learned more than I ever thought I could in just a few years. All without stepping foot in a classroom or taking time off for learning. While I would love to have the luxury of full-time school to learn things soup-to-nuts, my path has been “learn what I need to know as I go.” [Tweet “Learn what I need to know as I go.”] Admittedly, a fair amount of learning comes from failure, as well. I am not afraid to try something, and have seen a few…

Read More...
Scene from Stranger Things

Are your Clients in the "Upside Down" from "Stranger Things"?

In a recent meeting where I was training a client to use their new WordPress website, I suggested they keep the “front end” open in one browser tab and and the “back end” open in another. My client was having trouble understanding what “front end” and “back end” referred to. Having just finished the Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” it occurred to me that the front/back end of a website, for a client, might be a bit like the “Upside Down” world in this popular Sci-Fi series. In “Stranger Things,” a group of teenage boys attempts to find their lost friend, who they believe is trapped in an alternate dimension they call “The Upside Down.” They filter their experiences through the lens of their favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, specifically a location called the Vale of Shadows. Their science teacher describes the alternate reality with a drawing of a tightrope, on which balances an acrobat and a flea. On top of the rope, the dimension has rules, you can move forward or backward. The flea, being small, can travel forward and backward, but can do so on the side or even underneath the tightrope, which he describes as another dimension. In our…

Read More...
Image of thousands of emails on iPhone

How To Simplify Your Life with Powerful Gmail Filters and Labels

Do you get overwhlemed by a large number of emails in your inbox? Do you find yourself deleting many emails without even opening them because they are junk mail and/or you don’t have time to read them? I LOVE the feeling of “Zero Inbox!” I feel a sense of calm when I have nothing in my inbox, or at least only one or two messages that I have already read. I have 3 email accounts, all of which are hosted with Google/Gmail. Earlier this year I ditched my mail client on my desktop and laptop computer and now only read my email in the browser. This took an adjustment, but the benefits are : My computer is much faster …. I don’t have to store thousands of emails that take up a lot of space on my hard drive I can view each mailbox separately, minimizing distraction while I am working, as I can keep my personal email account closed during working hours. Gmail has a filter that detects “Social” and “Promotions” messages, keeping your “Primary” inbox all about “real” email that needs your attention. On my phone, I use Outlook instead of the the iOS Mail App or Gmail. I…

Read More...
Photo of watches

It's About Time: One of the Hardest Things about Being a Freelancer

Of all the challenges of being a freelance WordPress website “Implementor” … bookkeeping, invoicing, legal stuff, dealing with difficult clients, finding time to read blogs and keep up with new things, learn code, maintain or repair websites … the one thing I struggle with the most is tracking my time. Even though I bid many of my projects on a flat fee basis, I still do project work. Even on flat fee jobs where time is not directly billable, it is important to keep track of time to get an idea of how long tasks/projects take to be sure that I am not underestimating (or overestimating) the amount of time it takes to complete a job. If you’re like me, tracking time is not something that comes naturally. I recall a former boss, when I worked for an advertising agency, telling me, “if you think about the project in the shower or as you are falling asleep at night, that is billable time.”  My approach is more like, “this will be a very quick task so it’s not worth tracking/billing the time” … and two hours later, I have gotten lost in the project and never turned on a timer and…

Read More...
Expert button on computer Image by GotCredit.com

Building Confidence and Becoming an Expert

expert:  having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced About a year ago I joined an accountability group. I thought it would be good to challenge myself, despite the fact that I am pretty goal-oriented anyway and was fairly comfortable with the state of my freelance web design/development business. I realized in the early stages of this process that my biggest issue was confidence in myself as a skilled professional. I set a goal to build my self-confidence by learning more, while considering the relative value I provide to my clients, who usually have no knowledge of websites, WordPress, plugins, hosting, domains and code. As someone who pays a lot of attention to the WordPress community, it is easy to feel inadequate, especially as an evolving, self-taught WordPress website “creator.” Much has been written about people like me daring to label themselves a “developer,” so I am hesitant to use that term, although in reality I do “develop” WordPress websites from a blank install to something unique for my clients. Many in the WordPress community agree with me here. After much consideration, I have settled on the term “WordPress…

Read More...
This is a photo of a pen on an appointment book

What I Learned from 30 Days of Blogging

Last month I set a challenge to blog for 30 days, to establish a habit of blogging, increase my knowledge base and followers. While I missed a couple of days here and there, and was grateful for some awesome guest bloggers to give me a break, I feel pretty satisfied with the content I created. I aimed for a range of topics, from general business/entrepreneurship, to website design and development, to social media and marketing. Here are the top things I learned and results from my 30 Day Blogging Challenge: Tools are a Key CoSchedule was a key to my process. I signed up and paid for a year, so I was invested in using this tool to schedule my blog posts, create drafts, and seamlessly integrate my content into my social media feeds. I loved the ability to drag and drop blog topics on a calendar, which works with my preference for a calendar/visual view of a schedule. CoShcedule lets you draft posts in your WordPress site directly from the CoSchedule Dashboard and store them in a “Drafts” folder, whereyouI can drag them onto the calendar when you want to use them. It also integrates Evernote, which I don’t…

Read More...

Favorite Google Chrome Extensions for Web Developers

Yesterday I wrote about my favorite Basic Google Chrome Extensions. There are a number of extensions specifically helpful for web development. Here are the ones I use every day: ColorZilla This is a super easy way to grab a color from your screen and learn the hex code. WordPress Admin Bar Control I love this tool for viewing a WordPress website without the admin tool bar in the way. A quick toggle clicking the button in the extensions toolbar is the best way to see a header and website as a non-logged in user will see it. WordPress Site Manager This extension allows you to store all your WordPress sites in one easy to access place in your Chrome toolbar.   SimilarWeb – Site Traffic Sources and Ranking This is a great tool to see real in-depth website engagement, traffic sources, and site ranking information on any website. app.telemetry Page Speed Monitor This extension offers a quick view of a page’s load speed, and when opened, shows more detail about the performance. WAVE Evaluation Tool This last one is a tool to test the accessibility of a website. When I applied it to some of my websites I was bummed…

Read More...

Get these! 10 Best BASIC Google Chrome Extensions

I use Google Chrome as my default browser. I am a fan of the extensions they offer to increase productivity and simplify processes. There are extensions I use for WordPRess website development, which I will cover in a different post. This post focuses on my 10 favorite extensions for basic productivity. 1. LastPass: Free Password Manager LastPass, an award-winning password manager, saves your passwords and gives you secure access from every computer and mobile device. I would be LOST without this. I use the app on my phone, and passwords sync across devices. While it may take some getting used to (here are some tips), once you take the time to set it up, you will not be able to function without it. 2. Be Limitless Until recently, I used te Chrome extension called Momentum to create a cool welcome tab and image in Chrome. I loved the beautiful images that greeted me every day, and the personalized greeting. However, I just discovered Be Limitless, which also creates a nice welcome page, but includes time tracking and a record of your most visited websites. I like the incorporation of these things into this extension (I used a different, separate time…

Read More...

Using Invision to Create a Prototype

l Gentle reader, I missed two days in my 30 day blogging challenge! Client work takes precedence, then sleep and health. I am back today with a design-focused post. Be back tomorrow! I recently wrote a post about Shiny Object Syndrome. I am very tempted by the latest and greatest .. technology, app, device, tool. I like to be close to the cutting edge. This has led me to try a few different strategies for creating a website prototype designs both for my own design process, as well as for presenting to clients. The most traditional way to design and then develop a WordPress website is to create a Photoshop file, with many layers and styles, which can then be used to present a PDF or jpg to show a client, and then given to a developer as a PSD file. The developer then takes the layers, styles and assets to guide them in recreating the design in css, html, php and javascript … in a custom theme for WordPress. Design Software I do not love Photoshop as a program, but it has its place in the design process and is the standard for many web designers. Other programs, like…

Read More...
This is a screenshot of a Happy Days video with The Fonz

Making Mistakes and Falling on Your Sword

As a perfectionist, I have a hard time forgiving myself and accepting my mistakes. I know I’m not perfect, I just don’t really want anyone else to know it! And yet, in a quest for perfection, I also realize that a more perfect person admits when they are wrong and seeks forgiveness. Everyone loves to be right. It is embarrassing to make a mistake, even more embarrassing when others know about it. In her article in the Huffington Post, Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, PhD talks about learning from our mistakes. She says mistakes teach us to take responsibility and help us have integrity. The act of recognizing we were wrong “points out what we can do differently next time.” For me, mistakes often happen when I over-commit and don’t focus. While I am still not always successful, I am trying to be more thoughtful and realistic about my commitments and promises. I am also trying to approach tasks and evaluate “crises” more mindfully and with more calm than frenzy. Owning up to mistakes can be a relief as well as an inspiration to others. Saunders Medlock says “mistakes give us opportunities to talk through what we could or would have done differently,” which can in turn be lessons to others….

Read More...