Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness


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 of the week, and purchased the Pro version to allow me to add some categories and get alerts and set goals. With my enhanced configuration and increased attention to my daily tasks, I improved my productivity this week:

Rescue Time Screenshot

“Netural” time is mostly email, some of which is probably also “productive” time. It is possible to actually review each email within this category, but I have not taken the time yet to do that.

Actions Implemented/Continued:

  • Continued commitment to daily meditation – usually in the morning.
  • Configured Rescue Time to more accurately attribute tasks to productivity categories

Improvements Going Forward:

  • Try to get email time to one hour or less per day.
  • Be more disciplined about taking breaks and stopping when time is “up.”
  • Continue learning to read music and play the guitar and learning to read music. Schedule time for guitar each week.
  • Keep Facebook off my phone. Only check it once or twice a week going forward. Keep an eye on time spent on twitter as well.

Key Lessons:

  • I have a hard time stopping!
  • Sticking to priorities is important for bottom-line productivity.
  • I feel in control and energized when I am organized and have a schedule ahead of me. Some days I am not motivated or inspired and those days are less productive. This week I discovered that rainy days are harder for some reason.
  • Spending time setting up systems to automate tasks is worth the time investment.

WordCamp DC LogoWordCamp DC

I met so many interesting, smart and fun people at WordCampDC – it was amazing!

I knew this week’s goals would need to be adjusted to accommodate the first ever WordCamp DC! I was so excited to be a volunteer and speaker at this event, and it exceeded my expectations! I was able to get my most important work done by Thursday afternoon/early evening to attend all of the WordCamp-related events, beginning with the Volunteer/Speaker/Sponsor reception on Thursday night. This was a great kick-off to the weekend, and the Organizers showed their tremendous teamwork in putting together this wonderful, huge, event in a very short timeframe.

I was a volunteer who helped coordinate the Registration, so I arrived at the venue around 6am on Friday. The team was busy unloading a U-Haul truck with supplies. It was quick work with many hands, large and small, pitching in! The WordCamp was held at the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC. This historic location was welcoming and beautiful! We checked in over 300 registered attendees on Friday, who came to attend presentations ranging from code and marketing to talks about government-related websites.Because I was overseeing registration, I did not attend many talks, but popped my head into a few and enjoyed hearing recaps from others. One talk I was able to attend in full was “Accessibility is More than an Add-On: The Responsibility of An Open Source Community,” by Marissa Goldsmith. Her personal story, combined with lessons on what to do to improve the usability of a website by people with disabilities, was memorable, informative and meaningful.  At the end of the day, I really enjoyed a very interesting presentation about Information Architecture by John Conrthwait. I have started putting more emphasis on IA with my clients, so it was very helpful to hear about structures and strategies from an expert. Lunch was provided by four different food trucks, and despite the overwhelming heat, everyone patiently waited and enjoyed their food during a midday lunch break.

Saturday we checked in another 100 or so attendees throughout the day. I enjoyed chatting with other registration volunteers and meeting people as they arrived. Again, I didn’t attend many sessions since I was mostly at the Registration Table, but we had a team of great volunteers, so I did sneak off after lunch time (the awesome food trucks again!) to prepare for my talk. I was nervous, as I had scheduled several times in the week to practice my talk, but never actually went uninterrupted from beginning to end. I was worried that it would take too long, but knew that I had prepared the material well and had memorized the order of information I was going to present. I took found a quiet place (this was hard to do!) and meditated for 10 minutes. This was helpful in calming me down and helping me focus. In addition very kind friend offered to watch me run through the talk as a practice run about an hour before my talk. This was really helpful as it was fresh in my mind, and I realized the timing was ok.

Twitter commentWhen my time came, I was nervous but excited! I had a great crowd in attendance – a full house with many familiar faces. The clicker for my slides didn’t work with my computer, so it was a bit awkward to change slides, as I didn’t want to stand behind the podium the whole time. I think it worked ok. I saw a lot of nods and light bulbs going off, so I think my material was helpful. Several people came up to me afterward and asked questions, shared information and said nice things! And there was some great, positive feedback on Twitter, too! My slides can be viewed here.

It was a relief to have the presentation over with! I was a bit wound up and ended up in the “Hallway Track” and at the Registration Table the rest of the day. I joined some friends for dinner in Chinatown in DC. We had authentic Chinese soup with fresh noodles! It was nice to chat with other WordPress people about our workflows and to share tools and techniques over dinner and a beer before the WordCamp After Party! WordCamps are an amazing experience – and and amazing value! For $60, attendees can attend a range of over 20 talks, and also receive (really nice) t-shirt, coffee in the morning,  lunch all three days and a fabulous after party! The WordCamp DC After Party was held at the Carnegie Library. There was an open bar, cheese and crackers and crudites. Great music was playing, and plenty of space for chatting with others. The Map Room actually has a map of the city (And some suburbs – I found my house!) embedded in an underlit floor, and this room served as the “Game Room” where people played MarioCart and board games. On the opposite end of the building, the Theater served as the Karaoke stage. WordCamps often include Karaoke, and this crowd loved every second. I could tell several performers were experienced and talented Karaoke entertainers!

The last day of WordCamp was Sunday. This was a Contributor Day and also had a learning track for WordPress beginners and entrepreneurs, as well as a coding track that covered html, css and javascript. I started the day with an amazing walking tour to the Washington Monument with my business partner, Evelyn, and her DC History Buff husband, Stephen Powers. We had about 6 people join us and we all were fascinated by the interesting facts Stephen shared with us. It was a beautiful morning – the heat wave had calmed down!

Back at the Carnegie Library, there was a great crowd for Contributor Day, and I actually found a couple of useful things to do! I also attended most of Zac Gordon’s Intro to Javascript class, which was easy to follow and really informative. At the end of the day, I delivered the leftover lunches – we enjoyed delicious boxed lunches from Roti – to Martha’s Table. It was nice to end a wonderful weekend doing something to give back to the community – both with Contributor Day, and with meals for those in need.

Congratulations to the WordCamp DC Organizing Team for a fantastic WordCamp!



  1. Jenn on July 18, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Sounds like a great experience. Congrats on your achievements!

    • Tara Claeys on July 18, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you Jenn!

  2. Ann Leithaser on July 19, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    This is awesome Tara!

    • Tara Claeys on July 19, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      Thank you Ann!

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