Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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Addicted To Work: Change Is Hard

I have spent most of the past five weeks in a temporary home on the New Jersey Shore. I wrote about this opportunity when I first arrived, hopeful at the first signs of a “new me.” I am going to share my experience, even though it is not really advice on how to be productive and doesn’t contain any tips or tricks. Perhaps you will relate to the feeling of disappointment in not being the person you want to be, and not being able to disconnect from work. I had a mind full of visions of spending mornings overlooking the bay, while working on a creative writing project after drinking coffee and reading the newspaper on my iPad. I had an expectations of pensive walks on the beach, going to bed early and rising with the sun. I dreamed of losing 5 pounds and increasing my running speed. I brought boxes of old photos I looked forward to sorting through to send some off to be digitized. Oh, and I was going to spend time on my own website content as I continue to expand my niche business. And in my spare time I would do client work on a…

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Person leaping between cliffs

It Doesn’t Hurt To Ask

Going out on a limb is a trip that is not always easy to take. Sometimes when we ponder the risks of asking or saying something that has a risk involved – a risk of getting a negative response or reaction, we don’t take action. This could be a good thing, if the question or statement is not well thought out or is inappropropriate. I have a well worn spot in my mouth where my foot has a habit of going because I don’t always think before I speak or act. On the other hand, asking for something, making a connection or “putting yourself out there” can create opportunities and benefits that could even be life changing. It doesn’t hurt to ask if, as Seth Godin says,  you “invest some time and earn the right to ask. Do your homework. Build connections. Make a reasonable request, something easy and mutually beneficial.” What holds you back from asking for something? We are afraid of rejection. Asking for something requires an answer, or a lack of an answer, which we probably interpret as negative. If we don’t ask for something we want, we avoid the possibility of being personally rejected. As long…

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Working from Avalon New Jersey

Where Are You? How Changing Your Environment Can Help Change Habits

I have recently been spending time at my family’s house on the Jersey Shore. Alone. I am so lucky to have this opportunity for many reasons. I wish everyone could have this experience. I acknowledge the place of privilege this post is coming from. However, the basic point is universal. Even if you don’t have a beachside retreat at your disposal, changing your environment can change YOU and how you spend your time. My discovery is not original. There are tons of blog posts about the impact of environment on habits. This article by Gregory Ciotti in Psychology Today talks about changing one’s environment to change habits. He suggests, “Head to a local library or coffee shop and that place will become associated with ‘writing time’.” Your brain has a muscle memory that snaps you back into habits when you are in a certain place that you have occupied in the past. Have you gone back to visit your parents in the home you grew up in, and found yourself behaving in ways you used to – drinking milk out of the carton or leaving the toilet seat up, which you never do in you own home? Do you turn…

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Lego toy business man at desk

The Benefits of Being Small

In our consumer culture “Bigger is better” is a common philosophy that challenges us to want more, bigger, better all the time. Yet, I like small things. I drive a small car. It fits in small parking spaces and uses less gas. I have a small dog. He’s easier for me to manage, because in the scale of people, I am also small to medium-sized. My business is small. For the past few years I was self conscious about this, yet also committed to it. I have brilliant entrepreneurial friends who aspire to have a large staff, an office with their company logo outside the building and acclaim for being great at what they do. I have watched these businesses grow, and follow their social media feeds that show their success and fun times with their employees. I am happy for them! While I confess to being a jealous person in many ways, being happy for the success of others has not translated into jealousy or a desire to grow my own business. I have heard tales of cash flow problems, sleepless nights worrying about how to make payroll, huge clients who cancel contracts and months where the owners could…

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Man with paint roller painting the word "Why" in the sky

Contemplating the “Why”

I have made a regular practice of setting goals and planning my time very deliberately. As a result, I usually feel more mindful, productive and calm. Seeing my goals scheduled gives me peace of mind that I won’t forget about something I was scheduled or intended to do. Having a “To Do” list every day can be helpful in avoiding distractions and focusing on what needs to be done. The Negative Space With a strategic planning mentality, I can also be very critical of myself for becoming distracted, not meeting goals, losing focus, and working too much. For example, I continually set a goal for myself to take breaks during the work day. Studies show that taking breaks improves productivity. There are numerous apps and alarms to help enforce these breaks. And yet. I have never met this goal for even one full day. And I beat myself up about it all the time. Why? I recently saw this Ted Talk called “What Is Your Why?” When I thought about its message, I applied it to my “break” goal. While my take away is different than the message of the Ted Talk, I asked myself, WHY do I set this…

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Open 24 Hours Sign Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Creating Productive Habits and Avoiding Procrastination

Developing and maintaining good habits to be productive can be a challenge. On the other hand, it’s easy to develop a procrastination habit. For me, I suddenly feel hungry when I am about to start working on a project I am not excited about. Since I work from home, I wander into the kitchen, roam through the pantry, stuff something in my mouth that I shouldn’t eat (chocolate chips from the giant Nestles Toll House bag has been a recent source). Then, I say to myself, I am ready to tackle the project … until I suddenly notice a new email in my inbox. Two hours later, I still haven’t started that “priority” project. Hello, procrastination, my old friend. Habits For Productivity I recently finished the book, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I am inspired by books about productivity and habits. It helps to be reminded that other people struggle with maintaining productive behavior, and to learn techniques to be more productive. The psychology behind our actions is fascinating to me. Ultimately, productivity results from good habits. When I employ good habits that result in productivity, I feel great. I feel in control and am happy and proud of myself….

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Favorite Podcasts for Life, Work and WordPress

I was at a gathering recently where the topic of Podcasts came up. Like many people, I am a podcast junkie and have some favorites I listen to daily, weekly or frequently. It’s always fun to share favorites so I put together a list. I also started using Stitcher to listen to and manage podcasts. Previously, I was using Overdrive, as the Apple Podcasts app used to freeze up on me and I had to delete it and re-add it to get it to pull down episodes sometimes. This year I am trying to use my Amazon Alexa Echo Dot more. It integrates with Stitcher and I really like the interface and ability to create lists by topic to make it easier to find what I am looking for or in the mood for (Overdrive has this list making ability as well, but I never took the time to use it). I discovered a few new WordPress Podcasts while adding podcasts to my list in Stitcher. There is no way there is enough time to keep up with this list! It’s worth sharing, and below I list my favorites. My Favorite Podcasts The DailyThis podcast from The New York Times…

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Tool box

Annual Cost For Business Tools and Subscriptions

I love finding and using tools and apps that help me run my business and my life more productively. It helps to be insightful and looking for ways to improve my processes. I recently reviewed my budget from 2018 to ensure everything was categorized properly. As part of that process, I made a list of all the tools I use which require an annual license/subscription. I was really surprised to see the total was over $8000! Since I work from home and don’t really need much in the way of “office supplies,” it often feels like I have almost no overhead cost other than the cost of my computers and internet. All the little things add up, though. I was hoping I would find some tools that I pay for and don’t use so I could cut some costs, but in reviewing this list, I really do use all of these things and in many cases, can’t imagine functioning without them (thank you, Alfred!) Digital Tools Cost Breakdown I have written about many of these tools before, but here is my complete list of my favorite tools and how much they cost. The items in yellow are business tools that are…

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How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome: Easy Steps To Productivity

This week I am happy to share a guest post from Rene Morozowich. Rene is a Pittsburgh-based WordPress developer who loves a good plan, a cup of tea and an afternoon nap. Read more about Rene here. You’re scrolling through Twitter, catching up on Slack or browsing through your emails when you see it. Something new. Something promising. Something that will revolutionize your business, your process, your life. You have to investigate it. Right. Now. Before you know it, your entire afternoon is gone and you don’t have anything to show for it. You’ve succumbed to shiny object syndrome again. Instead of falling down the rabbit hole checking out the newest and shiniest object, try this: Quickly add the shiny object to your “to investigate” list. Your list could live in a Google doc, a Trello card or as a note on your phone, but it should be easy to access. Once the shiny object is on the list, return to your previously scheduled programming. Schedule time to look through the list later in the day or week, namely during a time when you’re not usually very productive anyway (the 2:00 slump or Friday afternoon). When the time comes, peruse the…

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Toggl Timer

I Hate Tracking Time For Work. Do You?

I’ve said it a million times. I suck at tracking time! I have tried most every time tracker there is and written numerous posts about my struggle with time tracking. No matter what I try, I still resist starting a timer, forget to turn it off, or to assign it to the correct project. My favorite time tracker, when I am tracking successfully, is Toggl. I have written about why I like this the best. I think subconsciously, I don’t start the timer because: I think I will only be doing something for a few minutes I multi-task, so jump between things every few minutes I don’t want to know how much time I am spending/wasting on something I am “playing” or learning and don’t think I will be billing or accountable for that time Whatever the reason, not tracking time is an excuse to WASTE time. I have recently been trying to lose a few pounds I gained over the summer. I spent a month doing the Total Wellness Challenge, where I was accountable to eat healthy foods and avoid processed and unhealthy foods. While I felt better, I didn’t lose weight doing this, and it was really frustrating….

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