Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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The 12 Week Year Book

Increasing Productivity & Self Confidence with The 12 Week Year

I have written and spoken a number of times about productivity. This is a topic that both fascinates and inspires me. As I reviewed 2017 and planned for 2018, I knew I needed to implement some strategies and habits to help me focus on the “big picture,” while also getting the little things done. I ended 2017 by reading two books: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, and The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. I had read Carrie Dil’s review of The 12 Week Year and it sounded like something that could work for me. I am a very organized and fairly disciplined person, but I can very easily get pulled into the small stuff and had never actually given much thought to an overarching “Vision.” In addition, the idea of setting goals for a quarter – or 12 weeks – instead of a year makes a lot of sense, as it is easier to keep goals in mind for a shorter period of time. The concept of “attention narrowing,”  highlighted in this article, says that when a finish line or goal is in sight, it is more likely you…

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Designing Your Life Book on Tara's desk

Year In Review and Website Agency Goals

I have spent the past few weeks looking forward and thinking hard about my personal and website agency goals for 2018. As part of that process, I looked at my review of 2016 to remind myself of what my personal and website agency goals were for this year. This is hard to admit … but unfortunately, I am embarrassed to realize that most of the things I want to focus on for next year are the same as what I wanted for this past year. This means, in some cases, I did not make much progress on what I planned for 2017, and frankly forgot about commitments I made here a year ago. For example, my first goal for 2017 was to Work on my self-confidence and inner “story.” Ugh! Self-esteem is such a struggle for me! I said I was going to use meditation to help me with this goal. Did I do this? Not really. Honestly, I forgot I had set this as a goal for myself this year. Perhaps this is because I have always measured myself against those around me and am never satisfied. This behavior is a challenge for me – more than I thought….

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Tara Claeys at WordCamp DC

Learning from a Productivity Challenge: Week 4 & WordCamp DC

This past weekend I was honored to speak at the inaugural WordCamp DC! I talked about my favorite tools for productivity, as well as tips and tricks for being more productive. To help prepare for this presentation, I am undertook a 30 day Productivity Challenge. During this time, I researched different techniques for productivity, and tried different methods to pay attention to, measure and track my behavior and productivity. This is the last in a series of blog posts about this Challenge. Refining and Configuring Tools Week Four Productivity Score: 9/10 I had a busy but productive week! I continue to struggle with being disciplined with my schedule – stopping when time is “up” for a task, and taking breaks. I am really proud of myself for meditating every day, and easily increasing my meditation time to 10 minutes. I do not think this is helping my brain to settle down much yet, but I do believe that my commitment to it has produced some inner calm and I am hopeful that the long term results, if I keep it up, will be a better memory as I age. I spent about 45 minutes configuring Rescue Time at the end…

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Tomato Pomodoro Timer Image credit: Luca Mascaro under Creative Commons license.

Learning From A Productivity Challenge: Week 3

I am excited to be speaking at the inaugural WordCamp DC this summer. I will be talking about my favorite tools for productivity, as well as tips and tricks for being more productive. As I prepare for this presentation, I am undertaking a 30 day Productivity Challenge. During this time, I am researching different ideas about productivity, and trying different methods to pay attention to, measure and track my behavior and productivity. This is the third in a series of blog posts about this Challenge. Improvements, but I am not perfect! Week Three Productivity Score: 9/10 Overall, I was a bit more productive this week, with the exception of one day (Thursday) where I let myself be taken down a rabbit hole or two. I checked my email too often that day, and jumped into troubleshooting a client’s email issue (they were not receiving email from their website). I thought I could solve this quickly, but it took about an hour and still wasn’t completely resolved. I should have put this project on a list for the next day- in hindsight, it was not urgent, but email always seems urgent to me! I had a few nights where I knew…

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police man Photo from Pixabay

Learning from A Productivity Challenge Week 2

I am excited to be speaking at the inaugural WordCamp DC this summer. I will be talking about my favorite tools for productivity, as well as tips and tricks for being more productive. As I prepare for this presentation, I am undertaking a 30 day Productivity Challenge. During this time, I am researching different ideas about productivity, and trying different methods to pay attention to, measure and track my behavior and productivity. This is the second in a series of blog posts about this Challenge. It’s Saturday afternoon. I was supposed to write this post this morning. What happened? I got wrapped up in coding a website. I was just so excited to get started – I couldn’t wait! I went off schedule – it IS Saturday after all, so I should be doing something fun – for me, this is fun! I got a lot done, but not what I planned. I didn’t stick to my plan, and now I am a bit behind on getting this task done. This week was short, since I had Monday “off.” I had big plans and feel like I accomplished a lot! If I am critical of myself, I would say that…

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Be Nice Smiley Face (By Twexy Esy [CC BY-SA 4.0 ) By Twexy Esy [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Being Nice: A Strategy of Kindness

I recently exchanged a text with my 20 year old, which went like this (I love those emojis!) Being nice has been my parental and personal mantra. I recall a time when an elementary school mom came to me privately and told me my daughter had been mean to her daughter. I had a talk with my daughter about being nice … and about how sometimes it is hard to be nice, and sometimes it is easier and more cool to be mean. But I told her it’s always best to try to be nice, even when it is not easy. As I approach the end of my first 50 years on earth, I still struggle with living my own mantra. It is not always easy to be nice, but it is always best to try. As a business owner who interacts with multiple clients every day, being nice is not always top of mind – getting things done, replying to an unending stream of email requests, complaints, misunderstandings – it is easy to be grumpy and unpleasant. Lately I have felt exhausted. This doesn’t just mean I have trouble waking up in the morning (although after years of waking…

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child having a nightmare

How to Wake Up From A Professional Nightmare

Setting Client Expectations: Learning and Improving the Hard Way A couple of weeks ago, after receiving a series of hostile emails from a client, I burst into tears. I spent that night sleepless, having conversations in my head with this client who I felt had treated me badly and debating how best to walk away from the project. Now, three weeks later, the project is successfully completed. Communication has lost some of its nastiness and I have made my best effort to make this client happy. A business coach I work with, Maura Fredericks, often reminds me to remove/separate emotion from business. In this case, part of the problem was that the tone of communication from this client was so hostile, I was unable to see past how this made me feel instead of stepping back and trying to understand what was causing the hostility. The experience was devastating for a while, but also enlightening. After my initial feeling that I had been wronged, I started to imagine the situation from the client’s perspective. In doing so I realized that, while I thought I communicated the design and development process to this client, I could have done a better job…

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Design TLC Lunch

Looking Back and Ahead: Confessions and Entrepreneur Goals

Today I was excited to have lunch with some local people who have supported my business throughout the years. As my business has grown, I am so grateful not only for my clients, but for all of the generous, talented, smart people who have helped me be successful and “up my game.” One of the career goals of an entrepreneur is to foster a community that helps us grow as a business, friend and human being! I wish I could have gathered together all those who live far away as well! I love the online WordPress and Genesis WP communities. I have been helped by strangers who now are friends, even if we have never met. I am sure I won’t remember everyone who has inspired me, provided solutions, offered assistance and given me advice, but I want to list a good number of them, just to demonstrate HOW MANY people have impacted my life and my business this year! So thank you shout outs from the bottom of my tender loving heart go out to (in no particular order!): Davinder Singh, Tom Ransom, Sridhar Katakam, Robin Cornett, Carrie Dils, Liam Dempsey, Chris Lema,  Chris Wallace, Jon Brown, Brian Hogg, Jeff King, Shay Bocks, Jackie Delia, Tonya…

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Why Wait? My Struggle to Be More Patient

As the season of Advent begins, I am reminded that this is a season of waiting. As Christians, we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children anxiously wait for Santa Claus and presents under the Christmas tree. Anticipation can be exciting, but it is hard. [Tweet “Anticipation can be exciting, but it is hard.”] I am not good at waiting. I was brought up by parents who didn’t like to wait – my father was “that guy” in traffic who drove in the shoulder past lines of waiting cars. I am a “Type A” person who likes to get things done in a hurry and cross them off my list. When I was expecting my children, I didn’t hesitate to find out their sex because it was too hard for me to wait! This translates into my life as an entrepreneur, where my lack of patience has helped me forge ahead, but can also cause problems when I respond too quickly to an email, purchase something without thoroughly researching its usefulness, or rush through a job to get it done by a deadline. I recently wrote about using new projects as an opportunity to expand my skills. This…

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Group at CaboPress The CaboPress Group 2016

How 5 Days Can Change You

Five days ago I flew away from paradise. I was fortunate to attend a 5 day Mastermind conference in Cabo San Lucas called CaboPress. The event is the creation of Chris Lema, one of the foremost authorities, and kindest mentors, in the WordPress community. Chris speaks and writes about business leadership, entrepreneurship and public speaking (to name a few!). To say Chris is awesome might be an understatement! Many people say it, and it is true – Chris is a generous, wise and caring person. I met him in 2013 at WordCamp Baltimore and during our brief conversation he made a huge impact on my path as an evolving WordPress freelancer. I read about CaboPress in 2015 and was tempted to go. I eventually chickened out, worried that my business was too small to fit in with others attending from large, established companies. I told myself if my business continued to grow, I would apply to go the following year. Fast forward to 2016 and now I am looking back on an amazing experience! I wrote a thorough review on the plane coming home, but I have to say that the past 4 days, where I have been revisiting conversations…

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