Monthly Archives: March 2012

Friday Bites – (#11) Clean as you go (#12) Clean kitchen as you cook

This week’s selection of Bites from Tsh Oxenreider covers two topics near and dear to my heart. Keeping an organized house – whether you live alone or have more crotchfruit than the Duggars requires constant vigilance.

 

#11: Clean as you go

Best cleaning hack there is – if something spills, or gets dirty, clean it up right away. A few minutes of time can really add up when it comes to keeping your home under control. I know either F or I make the bed every morning as soon as we get up. It takes two minutes and it makes the room look that much less like ass. The other thing I do – and this is a constant struggle, I won’t lie – is to hang up clothes and put away shoes after I take them off. A tough thing to do when you drag home from a long day and just want to throw everything in a pile and curl up on your (unmade) bed…

Here are a few more things we currently do to keep things a little less chaotic in Casa Lopez:

• put away primping items when I’m done (I hate having a bunch of crap on my bathroom counter)

• wiping down kitchen after cooking

 

Things we need to work on:

• loading and unloading dishwasher (HATE the damn dishes)

• clearing the tub of dinos and Polly Pocket dolls after Oliver is done with his bath

 

The book suggest that you set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can get done in your immediate environment. Do this until it becomes a habit – clean your house in small sprees throughout the day.

 

#12 – Clean your kitchen as you cook

Professional chefs learn this – and they look like they’re pretty damn busy (at least on Food Network), so I’m pretty sure we can do this in real life. Easier said than done.

Clean up after every task, no matter how miniscule, before moving on to the next. What seems like a drag will eventually become a habit.

 

Tips:

Start with a clean kitchen

Assign a proper home for each type of kitchen waste – compost, recycling, garbage

Arrange your workspace for a mini cleaning “mise en place” – place a garbage container nearby for food scraps, for a double sink: run one side half full of hot soapy water for hands and dishes and leave the other side free, keep a dust broom and bin right there, have several clean towels on hand.

PRO Restaurant tip: place a jar of warm water on the counter and stash several soup spoons inside. Use them for stirring sauces and other foods while cooking, eliminating sticky crap on the counter where a spoon has been rested. Also cuts down on dirty dishes since the spoons can be reused.

 

I know we always TRY to clean as we cook – but when we’re up against a deadline, like a looming gathering or trying to get the kids fed, etc – it’s a struggle.

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I had Evernote on my old work computer back in NYC and never felt like I was taking full advantage of its robust offerings. Sure, I halfheartedly clipped a couple of web pages to it, but never really took the time to play around.

Evernote is a “personal digital assistant,” allowing you to record thoughts and notes, clip web pages, take pics and store PDFs. Your notes are available everywhere you’re your desktop computer, the internets, your iTems… Everything you do on each of your devices is aggregated in your personal Evernote account for access anywhere.

Evernote supports tagging and advanced search and replaces bookmarking apps like Delicious.

When your’re on a website or in a pertinent document, select the text/image, hit command+c to copy, click the Evernote bookmarklet and choose “clip to Evernote.” Easy-peasy.

Evernote uses OCR to recognizes words and catalogs them – index, searchable by text.

Premium users can put it Word docs and spreadsheets.

CNET, Lifehacker, … they all RAVE about Evernote, calling it “life-changing.” Well with all that sexy hype, I must try it.

One con that was frequently mentioned was that Evernote doesn’t play well with Outlook (like anything does?!?!) but other than that, it’s all positive.

I’m not going to install on my current work computer – because it might not be my work computer forever… I’ll play with it at home on the desktop and my iTems and will report back.

Mac demo:

http://www.evernote.com/about/video/#OlOLXWvaIy0|1|1

Evernote overview:

http://www.productivity501.com/evernote-review/6307/

Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Getting Started Guide (paid eBook):

http://nerdgap.com/landing/evernote-essentials/

Tech Tuesday – Evernote

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Productivity: The Job Purpose Statement

I’ve explored the idea of a purpose statement before – specifically the “family” statement, which I think is a fantastic idea. Mission statements are such a great exercise because you can clarify your actions and discard the nonsense.

I lifted this particular “job purpose statement” concept from the “Why People Fail” book and performed further research on the trusty internets. A job purpose statement is a good way to think through and illuminate your objectives – both in your current position and long-term career.

It’s important to have a statement of purpose for every major aspect of your life – career, family, education. Subsequently, you can constantly review your activities and decisions against your purposes to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting time on extraneous crap.

The Job Purpose – from Why People Fail

Write down three most important tasks at work and put in order of priority.

I did this for my current contracting job, just to get some clarity and cut out some of the bullsh!t that comes along with a new position in a start-up. It’s not for my “ideal” position, it’s for what I’m dealing with right now:

(1) Produce compelling projects on time, in brief and within budget

(2) Make the client successful and satisfied; simplify her life as much as possible.

(3) Make improvements to process/workflow that allow us to get additional/new business and grow the company

The other method to draft a job purpose statement is a more involved three-step method outlined below and in the following links. This is particularly helpful if you are looking for a new position or looking to pinpoint and resolve possible dissatisfaction with your current position. I gave this a whirl as well….

This is tough in a down economy, I think, where employees just don’t seem to have the bargaining power that we did, say, 6 years ago. It’s hard to demand a bunch of stuff from an employer who flat-out tells you that you should be “happy to have a job.” But, it’s a worthwhile exercise, just to remind yourself that you still have values! And prep yourself for the possibility of better things to come….

Step 1: List your expectations: wants, needs, fears

I want to be able to take my 16+ years of ad agency project management experience and leverage that into a career change that allows me to focus on people rather than projects.

I want to work in a company that allows for flexibility – I can work in the office, work remotely, work from home, and handle my business as needed; secure in the fact that the company acknowledges that I’m a responsible adult.

I need to make at least $X per year in salary.

I need a job with a generous benefits package.

I fear starting something that is very different from my past experience, but – at the same time – I’m thrilled by the possibility

I fear getting stuck in another PM job where I’m doing the same thing forever – I’ve proven over and over that a fantastic PM, but I’m ready to move on and grow.

Step 2: Write a long, “from the gut” job purpose statement using the list from Step 1

Purpose statement: The purpose of my new job is to make a career change that leverages my advertising experience and soft skills with a company who values flexibility and work-life integration making at least $X per year salary with a generous benefits package.

Step 3: Write “I will” statements for your job purpose.

Return to the expectations (wants, needs and fears) and to the right of them, write down an “I will” statement. Try to make each “I will” statement specific, actionable and measurable. See below:

I want to work in a company that allows for flexibility – I will make sure to focus on employers who treat their employees like adults and will who value work-life balance. I will research Working Mother’s “Best Companies” list to get an idea of what types of organizations operate with this attitude. I will state this requirement to every prospective employer I meet with.

I need to make at least $X per year in salary – I will mention my salary requirement to potential employers and I will not consider any less, as I am more than worth that amount.

I need a job with a generous benefits package – I will get a full and complete picture of all benefits offered – from health and dental to educational expenses and the little perks and will weigh packages carefully against our family’s needs before deciding.

I fear starting something that is very different from my past experience – I will focus on the wealth soft skills that I gained from over 16 years as an advertising PM, and leverage those in a new position.

I fear getting stuck in another PM job where I’m doing the same thing forever – I will commit to looking only at non-PM jobs and will not settle for another such position. I will network with people from the other industry(ies) that I am interested in, to get a better picture of possible career choices.

I feel like the last couple of “I wills” aren’t super actionable – so I’m going to keep plugging on them. But you get the idea…. Go forth and create the opportunity you deserve!

http://robdkelly.com/blog/getting-things-done/how-to-write-a-purpose-statement/

http://ongig.com/blog/career-development/statement-of-purpose-for-job

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Recipes: Best Friends or Worst Enemies?

The Mr and I love to cook – the ritual of preparing and enjoying a great meal (preferably shared with friends) is one of the great joys in life. What isn’t great is keeping track of the many recipes I pull out of magazines or print off the web, etc. I have a file folder in the kitchen stuffed with the most recent items that I want to try. There’s also a small accordion folder under the bar with even more clippings – somewhat categorized. Plus we have about 30 cookbooks and there’s Epicurious, etc… It’s sometimes a daunting pain in the ass to sit down and plan the weekly menu or conceive a party spread with so much nonsense floating around.

There are many apps and electronic solutions to my problem – but they mainly tackle organizing recipes that are already digital. Plus, I don’t always agree with the way they are categorized – I like to break stuff out into groupings that meet our particular lifestyle needs, such as: food for the kids, party food, weeknight meals, weekend feasts, etc. I think I’m going to go analog luddite on this one and just buy a honking binder with dividers and a bunch of plastic sleeves to protect my recipes.

I’ve been doing some research about electronic options, and while none of them appeal to me, you might find them useful.ImageI think BigOven looks like a really robust option and does allow for scanning or typing in your analog recipies. But, ugh, when do I have the time to transfer all of that data to an electronic format. Good lord – if I had like 10 hours to kill, it sure as hell wouldn’t be spent typing recipes – but I digress… BigOven.com features a 30 day free trial followed by a $15.95 annual subscription charge. I’m doing some research before I make the commitment and document my experience in a future post.

http://www.bigoven.com/?gclid=CLjF8pa6iq8CFQpjTAodxGQMDw

Lifehacker – 5 Best Recipe Organization Tools

http://lifehacker.com/5862746/five-best-recipe-organization-tools

If you’re into a more traditional method of organizing your recipes, you might give this a whirl:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/barefoot-contessa-recipe-organizer-ina-garten/1100026339

But at $100 a pop, it had better cook the damn food for me. Not sure how the Barefoot Contessa can justify the cost otherwise.

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OCD Mission Control

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The brains of the Casa Lopez operation are housed in our utility room… The magnetic chalkboard contains:
-the wipe-off chore list clipboard
-shopping lists
-a plastic envelope of current/relevant coupons
-a plastic envelope of items needed that week (a blank thank you note that has to go out, party invitations, etc.
-that week’s school activities for the boys

I love it. The board’s mere presence makes me feel content and in control. If only the wall was big enough to add our calendar so that area could truly serve as the aggregator of all pertinent family data…
Dream big, Lopez, dream big….

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Friday Bites – #10 Plan an Annual (Stay)cation

I truly hate this term with a passion, but I’m afraid it’s here to stay. I can’t remember the last time F and I went away for an entire week – with or without kids. Oh yeah, I can, we came to Texas from NYC….again… I think it’s good to try to vacation far from home every year – maybe every other year if money is an issue. Preferably not just to visit extended family.

This week’s Bite suggests the “staycation” as an alternative if you need a “break from the daily grind of living to bond with your family.” Unfortunately, staying home for a week isn’t exactly leaving your daily life behind – dishes still pile up in the sink, bills still come in the mail, and O still wants to sit and watch back to back Disney movies every day. It’s hard to get into a “vacation” mindset while staying at home.

52 Bites has the following list to combat this problem…

Tips for planning a staycation.

(1)  make a plan – list of things to do and general schedule of when to do them

(2)  make sure list has at least one thing that everyone would enjoy doing.

(3)  Parents take turns sleeping in

(4)  Have plenty of snacks and easy meals on hand

(5)  Keep up with basic housework like dishes and laundry

(6)  Stay flexible

(7)  Schedule in some “recovery days”

(8)  Be brave – do something new in your hometown, stay up past your bedtime

This year, F and I are taking a kid-free weekend in San Antonio, holed up at a luxury hotel for a fantastic wedding (the “adult prom.”). Also hoping to take a kid-free drive to Colorado for a few days followed by a kid-free group RV trip to New Orleans in the fall.

I’m noticing a trend in our “staycation” plans… They don’t involve staying and they don’t involve the kids. Maybe we’re doing this wrong.

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Book Review – Brand You by David Royston-Lee

I went into this book thinking it would be the usual bullshit rah-rah cheerleading self-talk nonsense, but it was actually a great exercise in uncovering your “brand” the way you would in a planning session in the “real” advertising world.

The author uses leading, open-ended questions to coax the information out of you – a fresher way of looking at where your talents and values lie and how to translate that into a cohesive “brand” to present to the world.

The first exercise is to list seven peak experiences in your life and under each, complete the following information: talents used during this experience, how these talents were used, where were you, who were you with.

Pretty flat on the surface perhaps, but as I was completing the exercise, I began to notice a couple of trends throughout my experiences that were not previously top of mind. First, my best experiences took place with other people who had tested or auditioned or otherwise qualified into the program/situation. In other words, I don’t like working with stupid, unmotivated people. Big Shocker.

From your peak experiences, go back in and mine a list of talents. Then, go back and reorder the talents used in order of how much joyous energy you received from using them at the time – from most to least.

List 20 people you admire – living or dead, real or fictional followed by a list of traits that you most admire about them. Go back in and mine this list for all of the talents and categorize into 3-5 different categories from most to least important to you. After going through both parts of this exercise, I learned that the trait categories I most admire/aspire to are: (1) intelligence (2) humor/wit (3) high style/aesthetics (4) feminine strength/working mother (5) hardworking + genuine.

The next exercise was something out of Office Space.

How would you spend $5MM on yourself?

How would you spend $5MM on others?

If you had unlimited funds and everlasting life, what would you do? (Other than drink – a lot….)

Uncover your “archetypes” – both primary and secondary – and how to work those into how you present your brand.

  • Caregiver
  • Creator
  • Explorer
  • Hero
  • Innocent
  • Jester
  • Lover
  • Magician
  • Ordinary Guy
  • Ruler
  • Outlaw
  • Sage

I most identify with sage and explorer, with a touch of caregiver and ordinary guy for good measure. From there, the book instructs you to come up with a list of three things about you that are a “unique combo” and can be easily spit out at parties and online.  I’m going with…

I prescribe and implement custom workflow processes for creative agencies and design firms.

I create beautiful finished executions from art directors’ musings and clients’ deepest desires.

I’m a mother of two boys, a productivity + organization blogger and a crafty baker.

Overall, it was a good way to spend a few hours really thinking about what’s important to me, how it can translate into my working life, and how to distill that into a personal “brand.”

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Getting Things Done: Collection – Corralling Your Stuff

In this week’s installment of GTD, we finally get to take some action. Gathering all of your crap, sorting, tossing, and moving forward.

ImageSet aside several hours to gather all of your incompletes, your paper, your “stuff” into one place. Note: this works for both your home and office workspaces, so tackle the most egregious one first. Search your physical environment for anything that doesn’t belong where it is and put it in your in-box (or if you have a lot of crap, use an actual large shipping box), so that they are available for later processing.

What shouldn’t go into the in-box:

• Supplies

• Reference material

• Decoration

• Equipment

If something is clearly trash, go ahead and toss it, don’t put it into your in-box.

Order of attack:

• Start with your desktop

• Move to your desk drawers

• Countertops (stuff on top of cabinets, credenzas, etc)

• Then inside the cabinets

• Floors, Walls + Shelves

• Equipment, Furniture and Fixtures (anything you want to change about the physical space itself)

Once you’ve gathered your stuff to be processed or tossed (hopefully), you’re ready to move on to what David Allen calls “the mind sweep.”

Sit with a stack of blank printer paper and a big ass marker and write out each thought, each idea, each project or thing that has your attention on its own separate sheet of paper. You will be processing these items individually, so it’s best to put each thought on its own sheet. Stick these sheets into your in-box.

To assist in your brain dump mission, you can use this trigger list – go item by item to make sure you’ve included everything.

http://wiki.43folders.com/index.php/Trigger_List

Print out your important emails, transcribe important voice mails – it sounds terribly analog – but make everything paper-based and physical and put it into the in-box.

Once you have an overflowing in-box and feel that everything is physically and psychically in one place, you can tackle next week’s step: “Getting ‘In’ to Empty.”

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Tech Tuesdays: PageOnce Road Test

ImageI’ve been playing with Pageonce on and off for a couple of years, especially so this past month. I’m feeling the same way about Pageonce that I do about Mint…that I’m better off with my Excel budget/bill payment spreadsheet than dealing with any of these app solutions. My apathy is even more intense with Pageonce, which seems to be perpetually two days behind in updating my information. Case in point: paycheck deposited Saturday, so yesterday I get a notification from Pageonce that I had a large deposit into my primary checking account. Gee, thanks.

Pageonce claims that you can automatically track your money and pay your bills from one app. Unfortunately, again, it doesn’t appear to have the permissions to link to several of my accounts. I also don’t seem to have the ability to make payments directly from the app (not even sure I’d want to – since I’m concerned about security).  Originally, Pageonce was supposed to function as your iPersonal Assistant (note to tech types: please stop putting “i” in front of every f@cking thing, for the love of jeebus…) It was supposed to aggregate all of your online accounts like Netflix, Gmail, cell phone, banking, etc in one location for your easy reference. Not sure if that has gone by the wayside, but it seems to be primarily intended for personal finance management at this point.

As far as user ratings and popularity of personal finance apps go, Pageonce is a distant second to the giant Mint.com (see last week’s review…)

Another shortcoming of these personal finance apps is that not all banks will reimburse you for unauthorized charges to your account – check your Terms and Conditions carefully before proceeding. Some apps play better with some banks than others, unfortunately. Your mileage may vary….

Here’s Lifehacker’s ranking of personal finance apps:

http://lifehacker.com/5724757/best-mobile-personal-finance-tool-mint

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Productivity: The “TO DON’T” List

focused on the most important tasks?

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Take a day or two, and jot down the bad habits that keep you from being productive on a daily basis as they arise – like opening your inbox every time a new message comes in, spending too much time on blogs, working on unimportant tasks, etc. I’m super guilty of opening my email as soon as something pops up and then getting distracted there, or going down the rabbit hole of the blogosphere.

Post your list where you can see it every day – preferably somewhere near your to-do list. It’s just a little visual reminder to keep your eyes on the prize.

Here is the original Lifehacker entry on the topic:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/02/create-a-to-dont-list-to-avoid-repetitive-tasks/

As well as the source material from Marc + Angel’s Hack List:

http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/02/20/12-things-highly-productive-people-do-differently/

There’s even a whole blog dedicated to the subject (although it’s on the humorous side):

http://todontlist.blog.com/

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