Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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The Early Bird Gets It Done: Does When You Wake Up Affect Your Productivity?

I have noticed that I am more productive on days when I wake up early (5am) than I am on days when I “sleep in,” which for me means 7-8am. It’s decadent to lie in bed and pull out a book – or to be honest my cell phone – and aimlessly scroll through my Twitter feed, then bounce to Instagram, then to email. Before I know it an hour has gone by, and I am still in bed, and I feel like a slug most of the rest of the day. I justify this by telling myself, “Everyone needs unstructured time” and “I don’t have any place I have to be – I need  sleep!” Yet, I notice on the days that start off without a wake up plan I am almost always regretfully unproductive. The Best Part of Waking Up On the days when I wake up at 5am, I head out to exercise with my running or biking group. There is a deadline – a meeting time – so I have to be on time. This means I pop out of bed and get going without distraction. Usually, when I get home, I shower, eat breakfast, walk…

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Year One: The First 12 Week Year

I recently completed my first “12 Week Year.” Overall, it was a productive and more importantly, focused experience. I was able to connect my daily tasks to some overarching goals, and to think about other long-term goals for the next year. To Grow or Not To Grow As an entrepreneur, I love connecting with other entrepreneurs and sharing ideas for how to improve processes, increase revenue and to be happier and more satisfied with my life and business. Part of being an entrepreneur is having a passion for growing and getting better at we do, or expanding our services. While I definitely share these qualities, I also have been struggling with the idea that I am generally satisfied with my business and my life. I have been asking myself if I really WANT to grow my business. I am fortunate that I don’t have pressure to make more money, but I worry that if I don’t continue to expand, I will fall behind and will not only struggle to be competitive for new business, but also to fit in with my colleagues. Life Goals The 12 Week Year has helped me create a vision of what I want to improve…

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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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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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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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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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