All posts filed under: Productivity

The Beauty of a Bullet Journal — and How it Keeps Me Organized

A glimpse of a bullet journal. (Photo courtesy Rachel Grob) I have always struggled with organization. I would make to-do lists on Post-its, update calendars and planners but nothing really stuck…until I tried a Bullet Journal. I first heard about the journals through a Facebook post and was intrigued by the beautiful handwriting and colorful drawings that covered the pages. I love to doodle, paint and scrapbook, and so I knew that the creative aspect of a Bullet Journal would keep me interested. It’s not monotonous like a planner, so each page is something completely different and new. Unlike a traditional planner, a Bullet Journal doesn’t require you to stick to a pre-designed layout or theme – in fact, it thrives on creativity and sporadic inspiration, allowing you to organize your thoughts in a way that works best for you. While you could use virtually any notebook to create a Bullet Journal, there are a few rules you need to follow. Every Bullet Journal starts with a Key, an Index and a Future Log. The …

Why I Want to Live Like I’m 40 In My 20s

My best friend and I are both named Ashley, we’re both 28 years old (born 12 days apart) and we both have brown eyes. That is pretty much where our similarities end. She loves animal print, high heels, Channing Tatum and holding onto the hope that she looks this young (or younger) forever. I love tartan, converse and Idris Elba. I also love aging. In my mind, every year of my life is an opportunity to learn more about who I am and what I want from this life. It also gets me closer to the age I’ve always wanted to be…40. I’ll be honest, watching the years tick by, another scratch on the wall, hasn’t always been a source of pleasure for me. When I entered college, I assumed I would graduate in four years just like I was supposed to, the way we all were supposed to. Being the control-freak I am, I’d studied my course catalog all summer, drawing my own charts until I was satisfied that I had a fool-proof plan …

Can We Ban “Busy”?

Over a leisurely lunch of pasta and prosciutto, I was talking to a dear friend about how much I had enjoyed reading over the summer. My friend, a successful entrepreneur, paused and looked at me thoughtfully. Then he shook his head, looked down and said he would love to read but, unfortunately, just didn’t have time. Specifically he said he was “too busy.” I smiled. Our lunch lasted an hour and a half. Afterwards we strolled to browse menus at nearby restaurants, evaluating spots for a family dinner he was planning later in the week. He then met a friend of mine about joining a social club neither of us thought he would actually join. By the time he returned to work it would be 4:30pm, nearly four hours after he had left to meet me for lunch. My friend was making decisions about how to spend his day. They were active choices. The decision was, simply, not to read. We all have the same 24 hours in our day. Most of us are choosing …

Lady MacDeath to Dirt

Out, damn’d dirt! Out, I say! I entreat you, be gone from my hardwood floors this day Swiffer in hand, I walk this abode all the hours long, My heart a-full with dark song Why must this grit persist? We are not that kind of a home, I insist! When I wake, I run the Roomba, and that’s not a moment too soon At noon, comes the Dyson vacuum The evening brings the Wet Jet And yet and yet! This dirt remains set Oh how I long for a clean, clean floor Shining in the sun, greeting me as I walk through the door I crave that smooth, silky feel beneath my feet, No dust, no junk, no earthly particles do I want to meet No crumbs, no scraps No Lego pieces that go snap No shriveled Cheerios No nastiness from heaven knows I want “House Beautiful” clean, Scandinavian cosmopolitan clean, Never-have -to-wash-your-gray-feet at night clean Friends, do you know what I mean? But this city air plus three little ones’ daily plunder and thunder Continually …

Why I Will Never Pull an All-Nighter

Procrastination is almost always presented as a negative act, a problem to be tamed, a character flaw to be furtively confessed. As someone who never does tomorrow what I can finish today, I’d like to present a different view. I have harbored secret admiration for procrastinators my whole life, because they’re comfortable rolling with last-minute changes and short deadlines in a way I fear I never will be. I was the kind of student in high school who received her assignments, immediately broke them into smaller, manageable tasks, then dutifully counted backwards from the due date to record each one on my desk calendar with a blue Bic pen. At a time when my social life and hair were unenviable (the latter thanks to ‘80s spiral perms and Aquanet,) I craved the feeling of control and calm that came with seeing exactly what would be expected of me each day, checking each completed task off the list. Adolescence could feel like wading chest-high through peaty sludge, but at least my homework was always complete, and …

The Real Trick Is to Ask a Friend for Help

It was early 1993, in my last few months of college, and my plan to become a Famous Actress Who Would Change the World With Her Talent was knocking it out of the park. I had just returned from a thrilling trip to New York City, where I’d auditioned for and won a spot at my first choice graduate school. I had also managed to score the lead in my first paid acting gig. In Omaha. Now all I had to do was graduate a few weeks early and get myself to Nebraska in time for the first rehearsal. I talked to my professors and made up an accelerated schedule to graduate. It would be fast and furious, and I would miss all the celebrations with my friends, but I would be rewarded; my mom bought me a used car from a family friend, and I would road trip it to Omaha. Artists road trip you know, and I was an artist. One problem: I didn’t have a driver’s license. I don’t trust people who …

5 Gifts For Your Resolution-Ready Friends

It’s natural that the indulgence and celebration of the holiday years precedes the asceticism and vows to do better of the new year. If you have a friend who’s already figuring out how she’s going to make big changes once the clock strikes midnight on January 1, these five gifts will show her your unwavering support for her mission. The best part? You can buy them for yourself — all in the name of self-improvement. 1. Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, as she’s known, actually released two albums this year; the Think Like A Man Too soundtrack wasn’t officially dubbed as such, but she sang all the R&B jams on that album. For her just-released The London Sessions, though, she packed up and headed to the UK, where she reflected on getting sober and collaborated with of-the-moment songwriters and producers like the soppy Sam Smith and the glitchy duo Disclosure. The result is an album that’s very 2014, with Blige’s undeniable pipes pulling her collaborators’ sounds even further into …

18 Reasons I Love Lists — And You Should Too

Like the headline says, I love lists. And obviously you do too, otherwise you wouldn’t click all those bulleted, “34 Reasons Why Dennis Quaid is the Hottest Movie DILF Ever” listicles. (Yes that’s a real one. With math behind it.) When I can’t sleep, I make mental lists. I craft acronyms in the shower to remember my tasks. FLAD = Feed cat; Laundry; AT&T bill; make that Dentist appointment. While subway riding over the Manhattan Bridge I make lists on my phone. The thing is, I really love keeping lists everywhere. This has nothing to do with being organized. I have approximately 13 to-do lists going at any one time, across several different platforms. You think I’m kidding. 7 Ways I Am Not Kidding: A few Word docs variously titled ToDo, ToDo-NOW! An Excel spreadsheet where I attempt to organize my life in tabs A Google doc that’s a variation of that sheet, but accessible cloud-style An iPhone Notes list that I usually craft on said subway ride Voice-activated emails to myself as I walk down …

Why I’m Thinking of Trashing My To-Do List

I’ve always got a to-do list going. Occasionally that list is in the “Fresh” stage, when most of the items have been recently added. Sometimes, roughly half of the items are checked off, with the rest awaiting completion – I call that the “In Progress” stage. But most often, my list is in the “Can’t-Stand-to-Look-at-It” stage, where the tasks that remain glaringly undone remind me of failings both large and small. One such task that lives on every list I’ve compiled over the past six months is “Get Direct TV.” It’s a concise and seemingly benign line item, yet its simplicity belies the pain-in-the-ass job that it actually is. [pullquote]Because of the smart phone, no place is sacred or safe from the tyranny of the list. Sitting on the toilet, I type “Almond Butter” into the subject line so I remember that we’re out of it.[/pullquote] Instead of “Get Direct TV,” the phrase should really read: “Do a competitive analysis of all TV/internet/phone service providers in my area by calling each company; spend 23 minutes …

You Can’t Play Drums in a Dress

I was never a girly-girl. To hear my mother tell it, there were no pants tough enough to escape my wrath —  there’d be holes in the knees the first day out. She could buy Danskins or Levis. No matter. I despised sitting still.  I had to chase and run and climb. I  couldn’t help climbing that tree. I had to. Oh, that tree. It was a weeping willow. I’d climb to the second perch and it was exactly perfect for reading and hanging out.  Exactly perfect. Even now, all these years later, I can close my eyes and be in that tree. I can feel the way the branches came together to make me a nest. I can smell the fresh, leafy scent and the faint aroma from the stream down the hill. My parents let me be exactly who I was. They didn’t assign gender roles. Sure, I had Barbies, but I also played with the Erector Set and Incredible Edibles. I was not the little girl who played dress up and planned …

Hello, It’s Me. The Writer’s Voice

A friend called last week to shoot the breeze. After we caught up, the conversation turned to our respective writing projects and he confided that he wished he were more literary.  This man is the author of several books and currently writes a thought-provoking column for a national newspaper. Yet with all his success, here he was expressing dissatisfaction with his writing voice at a fundamental level. I thought about his statement for a moment and tried it on to see how it felt. Did I wish my writing were more literary? In a word: nope. I’m no stranger to self-criticism. But when it comes to my writing voice, I feel solid. I felt even better after reading Delia Ephron’s mini-memoir, Sister Husband Mother Dog: (etc.) It was the first time I’d read anything by her and from the first paragraph, I was hooked. This wasn’t because her writing was particularly beautiful. In fact, her voice is similar to mine, only ten times more experienced and assured. Like Ephron, I often write one word sentences. …

Turning Around an Old Thrift Shop

It wasn’t really hard to convince me to volunteer at a second-hand shop. I’d been a thrift-shop/flea market/garage sale junkie ever since I scored the best wagon ever at a neighbor’s garage sale for a buck. Not chump change for an eight-year-old. But what I didn’t realize was how a once-a-week job to consign clothing would become an all-consuming passion. It started with a weekly lunch date with a friend who worked at a charitable consignment shop. The shop is in a well-heeled area of suburban Philadelphia. Downstairs the store sold household items, jewelry and art, and upstairs they sold clothing. My friend wasn’t always ready to go when I arrived so I’d hang out, peruse the jewelry cases and eventually I started volunteering. I discovered I really enjoyed it: I’d scoop up great vintage pieces I could rework for my own handmade jewelry line and found pleasure in sprucing up messy displays. Plus, I was “giving back” in the process. The store’s profits were equally divided between local charitable organizations — from a school for autistic children to a …

Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for. I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word. My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes. My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal. And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of …

10 Things I Learned From Creating a Break-Up Bucket List

In late 2012, I had a milestone birthday and my long-term relationship of nine years ended. I had met my ex within weeks of moving to London from New York and so most, if not all, of my life in London had revolved around my relationship. I loved my life and partner tremendously and was hit hard by the break up. Knowing I could easily spend years in bed wallowing over my loss, I realized that I needed to keep myself busy. Looking back on my own role in the failure of the relationship, I discovered that I had completely lost sight of who I was — separate from being in a couple — and vowed never to do that again. I decided that I wanted to live the next stage of my life differently, so I made a list of things that I’d been meaning to do over the past few years but never quite found the time. Some were things that I’d never done, others were things that I hadn’t done in years and …

7 Big Returns on My Intern Investment

An entrepreneurial artist and burnt-out mommy trying to keep her businesses going — that was me in a nutshell. My daughter was just three months old when I hired a part-time nanny and decided to return to work in my studio. If I ran to work, didn’t bathe, talk to anyone, exercise or eat, I could get in four solid hours of work a day. After dedicating myself to this schedule for six months, I saw little progress. I ended up throwing my back out and was confined to a chair for two work days. Not to mention that I was now running late on projects for the first time ever and my commission list was on hold. I knew I needed help and something had to change. Four different people suggested getting an intern. I didn’t listen at first; I’d had interns before with mixed results — they can be more of a cost than a cure. Example: I once had an intern make $300 worth of color copies from a black and white document. Yeah. However, …

Four Women Share a Real “Day-in-the-Life”

If we really look at how we manage our various tasks every day , it’s probably not quite the pretty picture we’d like it to be. Our daily lives are a succession of triumphant wins , mini fails and emailing from the toilet. As our own Adrianna says, “more often like the ups and downs of a seesaw than a constant juggling act.” But that doesn’t mean we’re unbalanced. It just means we each have our own unique strategies for getting stuff done. To that end, four TueNighters jotted down a typical day, or summary of our typical wins and “fails” — in our own fashion, of course. Click the plus sign to read each person’s “day.” [accordion] [acc title=”Adrianna”] BOO! Daughter standing next to my bed at 3 a.m. with wet pants and sad eyes. Time to clean up an “accident.” YAY! 7 a.m., secretly reading the NYTimes app in bed on my phone surrounded by sleeping, hot-breathed girls — they’ve climbed in and nearly squished me off the bed but this is my favorite time of …