Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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5 Mac Tools You Should Use To Be More Productive

I am a Mac person. I used to work on PC’s but (to show my age) the first computers I became familiar with in the 1980’s were Apple computers. I worked at the on-campus ad agency on my college campus and loved the user interface and just ha“jived” with it. In the 1990’s my workplaces were PC-focused, so I became familiar and comfortable with the PC, but never loved it. When buying my first home computers, I chose PCs because they were compatible with what I had at work and also with my budget. Once I started designing and developing websites, and switched to a Mac, I had a lot of catching up to do to learn all the tricks and apps and shortcuts available to speed up my workflow and make life easier. Some of these apps may not be specific to Mac, or there may be a PC counterpart. Alfred I installed this app a while ago and use it effectively and simply as a replacement for the Mac Spotlight. But when I read over more documentation in preparing this post, I discovered a whole new set of awesome tools that Alfred offers. Alfred boosts your efficiency with…

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Tips for Working Remotely

I have been traveling more than usual lately and working remotely. A wonderful thing about working for myself and the ease of staying connected these days, is that my business keeps running smoothly and unless I want them to, my clients don’t even know I am out of town (and it doesn’t matter anyway). I am very attached to my connected tools, and take pride in being very responsive. So when traveling, I have found some awesome tools to make my time away as productive (and sometimes more productive!) than I am when I am in my office. Working Remotely with Cordless Phone Chargers The hardest thing about traveling is the potential to run out of power on your laptop and phone. Having a USB cord and plug for your phone, as well as your laptop or tablet cord handy is important. I am attentive to plugging in wherever possible, keeping my devices at 100% as often as I can. At most airports, it is easy to find an outlet or power station. Plug in your computer and then use a USB cord to charge your phone from your computer. Carry a fully charged portable cordless phone charger like one…

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Why I Love WordCamps

I attended my first WordCamp in Baltimore in 2014. I found out about WordCamp by accident. I had hired a developer in Florida to do some php work for a client of mine, and he mentioned in passing that he was presenting at WordCamp Tampa. I googled “WordCamp” and discovered the Baltimore WordCamp was coming up, so signed up – curious and skeptical about what the $40 conference fee could offer. What is a WordCamp? The definition on WordCamp Central says “WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.” The first WordCamp was held in 2006 in San Francisco by Matt Mullenweg. Now there are over 500 WordCamps around the world.   The first sessions were somewhat enlightening. I learned more about the Genesis framework, using Yoast for SEO, and some upcoming trends. As a self-taught WordPress user and developing “Developer” I loved the ease with which I could fill my mind with new concepts. At lunch, I approached the awkward room of strangers and chose a table with a lot of empty seats. I introduced myself to the two people…

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The Blogging Challenge: Blogging For One Month

I met the sister team from @sumydesigns, Susan Sullivan and Amy Masson at WordCamp US. They impressed me with their commitment to blogging about website and WordPress design and development. As a result, I have set myself a goal of blogging every day (or almost every day!) for the month of March. The Design TLC Blogging Challenge begins today! If you are interested in expanding your website and WordPress skills, learning about great tools for website design and development and other general productivity tips, please sign up to follow my challenge. If I know you are reading, I am more likely to meet this Challenge and blog every day!   I am trying out CoSchedule as a tool to help me plan my month of blog posts, and also to help me select compelling headlines and content. Combined with Google Docs, the process looks like it will go smoothly!  

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Why I Love My Job

I started a personal blog on TLC by TARA a few months ago. The intention was to share general thoughts, reflections on life and get in the habit of blogging. While I enjoy that, I haven’t been very regular about it and feel the need to write about what I do all day instead of, or in addition to, what I think about. I decided to add a work/WordPress-related blog that will allow me to share the joys, challenges and lessons of making websites with WordPress. As a start, for my first post, I am going to give shouts out to those who have helped me learn what I know (so far). When I look at the work I have done and the clients I have helped, I am proud of what I see, but I know that it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the WordPress community. Other Developers I am not afraid to ask questions (despite the fear of revealing my ignorance!) Thankfully, the WordPress community is made up of kind, helpful people who are, in my experience, always willing to help. Whether giving advice, making a quick fix, giving a lesson, or being available for hire for more advanced work, I…

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The Evolution of Community

Community is not just where you live, it’s how you live with other people.” -Tommy Rueff, Happen, Inc. Spring has merged into summer and, unlike our gardens, my blog has been dormant. I have been waiting for some inspiration to hit me. For a few weeks I have been considering the different communities I “belong” to, and what they mean to me. After our family, where we live – neighborhood, apartment building, town, city is our “default” community. We can choose to be involved, or not, but we are naturally part of them because of where we live. In these busy days and lifestyles of screens and long work hours, few of us really know our neighbors well or connect on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean if you run out of sugar, your car breaks down, or you just want to sit on the porch and share a bottle of wine, that the neighborhood isn’t there for you … we still keep an eye out for each other even if we don’t know each other as well as we would like to, living next door, across the street or down the block. When my kids were younger, the school community was…

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Count your blessings

Counting Your Blessings

I have recently been reminded how lucky I am. It is pretty easy for me to say that – I have food on the table, a roof over my head, a healthy family and good friends … and many, many blessings. Yet, sometimes, I feel sorry for myself when things don’t go the way I planned, when my feelings are hurt or some obstacle seems to be in my way. It is ok to focus on our problems – however large or small – and to be sad about them. It is also possible to feel guilty about that sadness when our problems are so small compared to the “Third World Problems” or bigger issues faced by others we know and love. This begins a spiral of sadness – the original problem, combined with the sadness from judging ourselves for feeling sad! My kids like to remind me that I need to let them feel sad. Our natural instinct is to try to cheer people up when they are sad – to “look at the bright side.” This is a caring and helpful response. But it is also OK to feel sad, as long as the goal is to eventually work through…

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Solving Problems

My mom just arrived for a visit. She is one of the best problem solvers I know. If something is broken, my mom can fix it! She is not only very talented at “tinkering” with things, she is also smart about asking for help and knowing where to find answers. On top of that, she is a very caring person who often helps those around her when they have a problem to be solved. Thankfully, I think I have inherited her tendency to be resourceful and I get a lot of satisfaction from solving a problem – mine or someone else’s. Back in the days of manual checkbook balancing, I recall searching for the elusive 11 cents that was preventing me from reconciling the account, and the great feeling that came from figuring it out! I think this is why I love creating websites so much: 1) there is immediate gratification from discovering the “key” to making something work the way I want it to and 2) creating a website solves a client’s problem of needing a professional platform to showcase their business. It is rewarding to find solutions, overcome an obstacle and move on. The dictionary defines “problem” as…

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Being Productive

Technology and our constant connection to digital devices can certainly lead to many distractions and “time suck.” Overcoming the urge to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email frequently is one step toward becoming more productive. I love technology, and am as guilty as anyone of being overly connected. However, instead of disdaining this activity and beating myself up over it, I choose to embrace the many ways in which technology helps me be more productive. As a compulsive list maker and Type A person, I rely on a few fabulous apps and websites to help me stay organized and on top of my schedule and tasks. Here are a few of my favorite digital resources. I have used Last Pass for several years. I like that I can have the app on my phone, so I can access all my website logins/passwords wherever I am. The password/url list can be organized into folders to keep it manageable and there is an easy search bar at the top. I use the premium version ($12 per year) so everything is synced across all devices. I couldn’t live without Dropbox! I keep all my files in dropbox, which means if my computer crashes…

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Great Expectations

“You might not need eyes to see!” Last week’s episode of This American Life, entitled “Batman,” is about how expectations affect the way people live their lives. It focuses on the story of Daniel Kish, who is blind, but can navigate the world around him by clicking with his tongue, or “echolocation,” like bats do. He has, by all accounts, exceeded expectations society has of blind people, and he attributes this to the fact that his mother never set low or limited expectations for him, so he never set them for himself. Are expectations good or bad? There are lots of reasons given for not having expectations, or for not having high expectations to avoid disappointment, stress and increase happiness. Expectations can get in the way of great life experiences if we are constantly trying to “live up to” other’s expectations of us. But there is a difference between living UP to expectations and living DOWN to expectations. If we never set a high expectation, or if we are constantly reminded of low expectations others have for us, it is impossible to grow. Our culture seems to prefer HOPE over EXPECTATION. What is the difference between Expectation and Hope? “Expectation influences our behavior and attitudes. It affects how…

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