productivity · Review · Time management

Trello – A Visual Way To Plan Your Productivity

I recently discovered a great new tool for productivity tracking called Trello that has helped me a ton! I still use my bullet journal as well, but I keep my monthly goals and planned projects on my Trello board as well so that way they’re just a click away when I’m working on various projects. I wanted to give a brief overview here on my blog so you can see if it’s a tool that might help you as well.

What is Trello?

Whether you are working by yourself or with a team, you can use Trello to track your tasks visually on a board. Overall, I found the user interface to be really fluid and easy to use, so there’s not much of a learning curve to figuring out how to use the boards.

How to Step Up Your Board

You can really set up your board in whatever way works best for you. You can make lists and then fill them with cards that represent different tasks.

I’ve set up some of mine by laying out goals for each of the coming months and each month was its own list, but I’ve also found I like the “To Do, Doing, Done” list layout as well, because it helps me focus on what my current projects are. Here’s an example of what your board could look like:

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You can also easily drag and drop cards between lists, so it’s simple to move things around your board as you need to.

Features I Love About Trello

Color coding, the ability to add checklists, and the ability to add deadlines are by far my favorite features! You can add a color label to cards, so if you have interconnected projects you can add the color label to them and easily see where all the different pieces are.  

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Checklists are nice if you are like me and love the feeling of marking something off the to-do list.  You can also see how many of the checklist tasks have been done by just looking at the board itself, so you have an easy idea of how much more you need to do. Deadlines are something I like to have, even if I miss them, so I have something to work towards.

If you haven’t tried Trello out, I would definitely give it a whirl! A basic account is free to use and it has all the features I mentioned here. If you’re looking for more advanced features, you can get a Business Class account for you and your team, which is super affordable at $10 a month.

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productivity · Time management

How To Achieve Your Goals With An Accountability Buddy

Creative work can be isolating and it is easy to lose your motivation when you feel like you spend day in and day out working on your projects alone. Finding a friend or creative partner to help you stay on task is a great way to keep yourself motivated. I have had a few different accountability partners over the years and it has made all the difference.

A few years ago a dear friend and I decided we would work together through “accountability sprints” where we would check in via email every hour or so to see what the other had worked on. More recently, I’ve done weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with my accountability partner because that’s what our schedules allow for. If you need motivation and you want to start looking for someone to help hold you accountable, here are some tips and tricks I have learned over the years.

Make Checking in a Habit

I’ve done this a few different ways.  As I mentioned above, I have had partners I checked in with pretty frequently and some that I only checked in with every week or so. When we check in we always go over what we accomplished, what we did not quite finish, and what we want to do in the future.  You can use tools like a shared google doc to keep track of what you are currently working on, so your partner can visually see what your goals are and what you are working towards.

Build Trust and Be Comfortable

You need to be able to give and take constructive criticism from your accountability buddy.  If you can’t be honest about your productivity with your partner, then it may be difficult for the partnership to really push you to do more.   

The two best accountability partners I’ve had were people I was good friends with first.  We both knew when to say “Hey, dude, you are slacking” and when to say “Hey, I know you did not hit all your goals this week, but you worked really hard and that matters.” Finding someone that you share enough trust with that they can give you honest feedback and helpful praise is really important.

Make Sure You’re On Similar Levels Creatively

A couple years ago I met a friend who I thought would make a good accountability buddy.  They were just starting to build a writing career, so they needed a lot of feedback, but they seemed rather eager and willing to do start the work so I dove in.  As time went on, I realized that I was giving them a lot of constructive comments on their work and trying to motivate them past the planning/plotting stage of their work.  As the months wore on, they stayed stuck in that stage and I realized it was not working out for either of us.

It’s best to find someone who is on a similar level to you creatively.  If you work with someone who has some finished work and has shown they can start and finish their projects it is more likely you’ll both be able to move forward creatively together.

Be A Good Buddy

One thing from my career as a teacher that stuck with me is that you need to give a good amount of positive feedback and give negative feedback carefully and kindly.  This applies to being a good accountability buddy too! Think about the feedback you give and make sure it’s both helpful and productive. You want to be a good cheerleader for your buddy and have them be a good cheerleader for you too!

Writing

2019 Theme: Level Up

2018 was an interesting year for me in a lot of ways and some of those issues were part of why I did not blog quite as much as I should have.  A lot of the year was figuring out and re-negotiating my balance in life.

2018’s theme was “Hustle” for me, but as I said above, it probably should have been “Balance.”  I spent a lot of 2018 learning and building my skill set and trying to figure out my personal direction with things.  I went to Denver Comic Con in June and spent many of my hours there in writing panels, learning from experts about the craft I love so much.  Late in the year, the lessons learned there helped me recommit to writing and publishing my first novel, which I’m still currently working on.

I formatted and self-published a short on Amazon in the fall of 2018, which was both a big and little accomplishment.

I found new friends and let go of some of the people who were not quite right for me (and I was likely not quite right for them).  I think that will be another part of 2019 for me, letting go of people who aren’t really kind to me and aren’t really worth me investing a lot of thought into.

I improved my health in some great ways (Lower body weight, better blood panels), and then got hit with some unexpected health problems of the chronic variety.  I’m still working on getting those under control and doing my best to remain hopeful.

One of my goals this year is to blog more consistently, so hopefully, this is not the last you hear from me for months!  I hope you are having a great beginning of the year and that you’re ready to work and strive towards your dreams/goals!  This year I want to “level up” by writing more, learning more and publishing more!

Writing

Punctual, Easy To Work With, & Brilliant: 2 Out Of 3 Is Fine

In a lot of ways, this blog ends up being posts that I write because I need to read them or someone close to me might need them.  Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writing role models and I come back to his book “Fantastic Mistakes” over and over again.  The book is just a fancy version of a speech he gave at the Philadelphia’s University for the Arts commencement ceremony, but it was filled with amazing advice for creative people.  One of my favorite parts of his speech was a specific tip about freelancers and getting hired for jobs.  The advice basically goes as follows–

Freelancers get hired for the following reasons:

  1. They do good work.
  2. They are easy to work with.
  3. They are punctual and meet deadlines.

…And you really only need two out of three to get hired.

Even though I’m doing less work for hire because I’m focusing on writing fiction, this idea still echoes in my head.  If you are easy to work with and you always hit deadlines, you can build a freelance career, even if your work isn’t always brilliant.  If you’re brilliant and easy to work with, you can miss some deadlines and people will most likely be forgiving.  If you do good work and hit deadlines with ease, it might be okay for you to not be the most social/easy person to work with.  Focus on what you’re good at and build your skills accordingly.

I personally strive for all three, but my main focus is that I’m easy to work with and I always am either on time or early for deadlines.  I think deadlines are important because they can really help you show the people you work with that you can be reliable and consistent.

Anyways, that’s my short post for this week.  I would highly recommend “Fantastic Mistakes” to anyone who wants to pursue a creative career or even a creative hobby.  Gaiman’s advice is always so uplifting and yet so grounded and simple.

Personal Post · productivity · Writing

Self-Care for Creative People

I am a very type “A” person.  I also have ADD, so I tend to bounce around from project to project, furiously trying to get everything done.  In the last year or so, I’ve learned that self-care is kind of key to my mental health and I’ve been learning more and more about what it means to me.  Often times I feel too ‘busy’ to take a minute for myself to refill and refresh my mental state.  It can be difficult to do this normally but I’ve also found it can be hard to do creatively.  There is always the temptation to push for more.  Push to get more done.  Push to write more, draw more, create more.

Instead of feeling super accomplished after I push for more, I tend to feel like no matter how much I get done there is always more to do.

My Favorite Self-Care Rituals

1. Read

It can be tempting to get so into my own projects that I leave no time for reading, but lately, I’ve been trying to set aside 10-20 minutes a day to read something.  A book, a comic, something with some kind of storytelling aspect.  I’ve even gotten a little app called “Webtoons” on my phone where I can scroll through short comics and binge read entire creator-produced series.

2. Color 

I’ve found that coloring is a great way to feel creative without the burden of creating something brand new.  I spurlged on some colored pencils and markers and I have a mermaid coloring book I pull out sometimes.  I’ll listen to music or watch youtube and just feel in the lines to my linking with purples, pinks, and blues.

3.  Go For A Walk

I’m bad about taking my own advice on this one, but getting out of the house can be a great way to clear the mental/creative clutter.  It’s also summer, so right now it’s a lot easier for me to take a stroll.

4. Declutter/Clean Up A Small Area

If it’s really for self-care, I try to pick a small cleaning task like loading/unloading the dishwasher or picking up my office.  I’ve always found that small cleaning tasks can help me feel a little less disjointed and a bit more together.  I have also found that sometimes it helps me work through ideas I’m stuck on.  Something about using my hands/body, allows my mind to hum and work in the background.

Book Recommendations – Novels To Help You Avoid Feeling OverWhelmed

I also want to recommend a couple books that might help you avoid feeling completely overwhelmed in your creative journey.  Sometimes their advice is a little at odds with each other but I’ve found gems that I cling to in each of them.

  1. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero – I still re-read this book on a regular basis.  It helps remind me that I have great to things to share with the world.
  2. The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving a F* by Sarah Knight.  So yeah, this one does swear quite a bit, but Knight has a great approach to figuring out what things you should care about and what things are okay to let go by the wayside.
  3. Anything by Gabrielle Bernstein.  – She is totally Guru-esque, but she’s also just full of light and love.
  4. Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis – A really lovely book that helps you work on the lies you tell yourself (You’re not talented/good/skinny enough).
my writing

Short Story Release: Battles

So I actually wrote this story about two years ago.  It was accepted into a superhero anthology and I was giddy and then…The anthology was never made.  Despite my disappointment, I decided I still wanted to share this story with the world, so I opted to self-publish it through Amazon.  You can pick up the ebook here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FK4SJP6

Here’s a synopsis:

Rae must face an enemy that she thought was once a friend. She is faced with an impossible choice. She can use her newly-discovered powers to stop her old friend or she can give into his demands and possibly lose herself in the process. Will she face this battle and find out what she is truly made of or abandon it?

Here’s a short preview:

“You know what makes a hero, right Rae?”  Her mother’s words echoed in Rae’s head. “They keep fighting, even if they know they can’t win.  They don’t pick their battles. The battles pick them.”

She continued down the rain-soaked city streets as the words reverberated in her head.  Even as she tried to think on other things, she could not shake them.

Rae could not remember if she had asked her mother about what a hero was, or if it was just the curious look on her small features that prompted her mother to make the comment, but the words had stuck with her for the next twenty years – long after she had gotten super human abilities of her own.  

Long before she had to test her mother’s statement.

Writing

Passion Vs. Skill

This is a struggle that many creators often face.  The idea they want to write is so perfectly formed in their head and yet when it comes time to put pen to paper, the story doesn’t quite match what was in their head.  It’s much rougher and not as fully formed as they would like it to be.

I recently faced this with a project I’ve been working on.  I had plenty of passion for the project, it’s a story that has been on my mind for 4 years or so…But after a few months of working on characters and plot, I realized though I loved the characters and my idea, my skills to tell this story weren’t up to snuff.

When you hit this crossroads, you can do one of two things:  

  1.  Give up and throw your hands in the air.
  2.  Put the story away for a little while.  Build your skills.  Come back to it later.

If you give up, it’s over.  If you put the story on the shelf and keep working to become a better creator, you can come back to it someday and do it justice.

I’m an avid Neil Gaiman fan.  I loved his writing advice before I fell in love with his writing, because he is often very raw and very honest.  There are a few times where he will mention that he started a story or got an idea, only to finish it years later, long after the initial spark.

Sometimes you just aren’t ready to tell a particular story, even if you love the story to pieces.  I find that I know I’ve hit this point when all the pleasure goes out of writing the story.  Writing is a job, yes, but for me I never want it to feel like hard, monotonous work.

It’s important to have passion and skill for any project you plan to work on.  If you are pursuing a creative endeavor, if you are making stories or art you should love it.  It shouldn’t be just a job, if it feels like a constant slog and you can’t find your passion for the project…Switch projects.  If switching doesn’t help, maybe it’s time to find a new passion.  You want to be excited about what you are working on.  If you can’t find that excitement no matter what you try, then it’s either time to take a break or time to try something else.

There are much easier jobs that pay better that don’t require creative stress.  Creating is labor, but it should be the kind of labor you enjoy doing.

I’ll end this post with a great quote on this topic from Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”