A Generation of Franticism

Franticism. The theory of franticness.

Not really a word in the dictionary (yes, I looked it up), but something great to add to my selly-ictionary.

We live in a generation that’s in a constant state of Frantic, and I mainly noticed this due to my own slight tendencies towards the Frantic. We’re surrounded by constant noise, a chaotic orchestra; where technology is slowly becoming means to an end and an accomplice to insanity.

Yes, Frantic.

In 2011, I’ve resolved to not be eaten alive by the Frantic- but to overcome and kick the crap out of it so it no longer rules my life. The Frantic causes anxiety, impedes the ability to work effectively… hell, it just makes me a basket case. NO MORE.

In the spirit of a question and answer post, let’s look at some common problems and solutions to the Frantic that makes us feel like we’re on a carousel 100 feet in the air.

PROBLEM:

We live in a reactionary state of mind, as opposed to the much sought after proactive state of mind. We are automatically responding to every distraction that comes in:

Email- because OF COURSE every one seems to be urgent.

Texts- because OF COURSE they’ll get mad if you don’t answer right away.

Tweets- because OF COURSE you can’t possibly live without reading that article that got shared RIGHT this moment.

Facebook- because OF COURSE your friends can’t possibly execute what their status messages say they’re doing until you read it. Somewhat of a “does a falling tree make a sound if we’re not around to hear it?”

Will the Internet keep moving if we don’t react to it? Yup. And guess what- it probably won’t even care that you didn’t hit “retweet” or “reply” or leave some stupid response under a status message.

SOLUTION:

You need uninterrupted time to really work efficiently- with minimal distraction. If you’re always in a reactionary mind set, you can never really tackle what’s on your beloved To-Do list (because I know, deep down, you really want to.)

How do we curve this? Check your mail once every half hour. I know this might be tough for some of you (it’s REALLY tough for me, seeing as I work in digital marketing, and the majority of my work actually comes in via email) but generally, if it’s a really urgent email, someone in your office will also ping/IM you- or at least call your extension if your company isn’t down with digital communication via instant messenger/iChat/gTalk.

When you’re ALWAYS responding to emails, more things naturally build up. But are these things urgent? Do they immediately need to be made top priority? Usually no, but the problem is, we THINK they do- therefore dropping the progress we’re making on our current project in order to solve the crisis that comes through email.

PROBLEM:

Our To-Do list becomes an everything list- cluttered and scary- making it impossible to tackle. It causes anxiety just by looking at it. We then get to the crossroads of the Frantic which we are unknowingly going to give in to, whether we like it or not.

SOLUTION:

One of these:

This little baby is an Action Book- one of the paper products of the Action Method. There’s tons of sizes, and a special way to use them. If you’ve followed me before, you’ll know I’m a big advocate of Making Ideas Happen- an amazing and transforming book by Scott Belsky.

In fact, I wrote a super long blog post a while back about pushing productivity (taking key points from the book and talking about them) which was very helpful and made a lot of people understand why this book was so awesome. But, I digress. I’m totally getting off topic (Frantic!)

What makes me loyal to the action method paper products, as opposed to using the beloved and widely used Moleskine, is that this particular method employees the use of many ways to keep yourself on track. There’s a section for actions steps in the sidebar- meaning things that you need to tackle and accomplish immediately. First priority. There’s a back-burner section and an area to write notes in.

I use mine for not only my tasks, but for meetings and daily notes. As the problem above states, it gets over saturated. As you can see, I definitely get some use out of it. So what’s the solution? WELL, there’s another little book I use called the Action Cahier- a cute little pocket sized action book with the left side of the cahier for writing, and the right side for tasks. Very compact, conducive to ONLY tasking yourself out and not being maniacal with your notes.

If you find your main book is getting saturated- make a separation. Get another small book ONLY for tasks, so when you need to focus without meeting notes or other distracting things, use it.

PROBLEM:

We open up our email and it causes instant anxiety. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand when everything floods into my inbox. I can’t stand when I have unread messages. I can’t stand when things don’t go where they need to. I can’t stand a messy inbox. I can’t stand when I can’t find anything.

It puts me in an instant state of Frantic.

SOLUTION:

FILTERS! FILTERSFILTERSFILTERS! Filter everything you need to. You know what’s most important- when emails show up in less important folders, ignore them for a little while. If they show up in your urgent folder, check them out but leave them unread so you know to get back to them later.

There’s also something called “quick links” in Gmail. If you enable this particular labs feature, you’ll have a little box in your email that allows you to “quick link” email to it for fast reference. You can also change the name of the quick link to something easy to recognize.

Also, take 10 minutes at the end of your day to organize and prioritize what’s urgent. This makes for a happy inbox in the morning, and a happy you.

Also, if you have tasks coming into email, you can also use your Gmail tasks box to quick link your email into a task. When you click the task, it’ll instantly reference your email. OR, just go old school with a post it note or To-Do list like meeeeee.

PROBLEM:

You’re trying to work on a project and you keep getting little distractions (IMs, meetings,tweets, texts, phone calls, emails, whatever) and it’s making you feel like you’re being pulled in all directions. You can’t concentrate. Once again, you’re thrown into reactionary mode.

SOLUTION:

If you’re in a creative field especially, you need time to work where you’re not interrupted. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t happen in an office- most of us in the working world generally aren’t allowed to work from when we need to, where we can really dig into what we need to without distraction, unless your company is okay with telecommuting.

The only solution I’ve found to this (aside from looking crabby and making people not want to talk to you as part of your secret plan to get uninterrupted work) is to actually block off time on your calendar that your colleagues look at. Treat it like a meeting. Don’t let anything get scheduled there and throw up an away message on your chat. In the end, you’re responsible for your OWN work- do what you need to do to get it done.

PROBLEM:

Your brain is everywhere. You’re constantly thinking about everything. You thought multi-tasking made you awesome but suddenly it’s killing you. You’re causing yourself anxiety.

SOLUTION:

We all get anxious at work. We’re under pressure to perform. We’re under pressure to provide results. We’re under pressure to work in an office where we can’t necessarily leave to get some alone time to work in peace and quiet. We’re under pressure to help everyone who needs help. We all face it- it’s part of growing within your career and we need to learn how to manage these things.

I can feel when I get anxious. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in the car… thinking… and all of a sudden, I feel like there’s tons of things I need to solve RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE that put me in a state of Frantic. I catch myself. I breathe. I tell myself, it’s not going to kill me to calm down and get it done some other time than right this very minute and that I’m only human.I’m totally down for an all night work session if I need to- but sometimes it just isn’t possible.

Approaching these things in a calm state of mind is much more conducive to actually getting it done than attacking it without a plan.

Take a moment, breathe and think. It’s worth it for your sanity (and so everyone around you doesn’t want to throw you out a window). People can feed off your own anxiousness so it’s important (especially if you’re leading a team) to stay cool and collected (even though, inside, you may not feel that way).

PROBLEM:

Always being plugged in. Our bodies are practically hard wired into the internet.

Can you find something without Googling it? When did Google become both a noun and a verb?

Can you hold a conversation in real life? Can you speak full sentences without wishing you could erase it and retype it? Do you listen to others, and not just talk about yourself like a little narcissist? The problem with our generation is we’re constantly connected and sharing- which always leaves us feeling like something is doing on without us knowing.

Which is just silly.

SOLUTION:

Set some time for yourself where you unplug. If you’re reading a book (an actual, real life book?! Not a Kindle?! Yes.) don’t start grabbing at your phone every time you hear an email come in.

If you’re out to dinner, don’t interrupt it to check your phone. Your email will still be there at the end of dinner, and your date/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband won’t be pissed off at you, either. Win-Win.

If you can’t unplug every night due to the demands of work (and hey, it happens.) choose one night where you’ll unplug completely, and leave yourself available other nights. You can even let everyone in your office know you’re unplugging so they won’t hold it against you when you don’t answer a late night email that you’re normally all over.

So, I think that’s all for now. I actually want to go read a real live book now (they do exist- even though nowadays seeing a book is like spotting a Do-Do Bird in the wild) so I’ll catch you next time.

RSS Reader HELP.

I really need to catch up on blogs and websites I like to stalk (please see previous post, to understand why its neccesary for my sanity) and as much as I love Google products, Google reader is just way too cluttered and annoying for my liking. YEAH. I said it. I dislike a Google product Whatdya know?

So anyway, with that being said, what are some other RSS readers that are a little more simple but have a nice interface and organization? I don’t want some ghetto application that just displays titles to me, but I also don’t really need to have it completely integrated with Gmail, seeing as I spend my whole day in there anyway.

So? What are some good ones? Why do you like them?

Life Block- where’s the inspiration?

WARNING: this is not going to be cohesive at all. Can’t think.

It seems like I’ve been getting writer’s block frequently. I haven’t been on here to update much (been busy writing elsewhere, working, etc) and I know that my poor site is losing its fun.

I APOLOGIZE! So here’s something I managed to conjure up about the very problem that I’m having. Writer’s block solved? Perhaps.

I’ve noticed that a big part of writer’s block is something I like to call “life block.” When you’re stuck in the same routine- wake, breakfast, work, home, dinner, gym, sleep. How can you be inspired to write if you’re going through your day almost like a robot? I’ve been noticing that I have no time [or, I guess, no energy when I do have time] to read interesting articles (hi! I love science!) or find things that are out of the normal to get my brain back in action.

LIFE BLOCK!

I’ve become pretty normal lately. No piercings (trust me, I was a big fan of my lip piercing but unfortunately jobs were not) no fun hair colors, no new tattoos, no extreme sports. This is part of life block. Sometimes we need to find inspiration in unlikely places to inspire ourselves.

I haven’t had much time to appreciate art, to listen to music I love… it’s just been “go go go and go fast” that I’ve been losing out on the little things lately.

When you’re stuck in a rut, your mind just kind of thinks about the same things- I’m always thinking about clients, or work projects, or deadlines, or money, or bills or sleep. All of this makes my brain turn to mush and kind of kills my creative side.

I’m really struggling to write this, as we speak, which is pretty amazing because I used to be able to write 1 or 2 posts a day about everything and anything.

But when you’re not trying new things, or reading new things, or doing things that are abnormally stimulating to your brain, you just run out of ideas and creativity. Or, at least, I do. I’ve been just going through the motions, and even in this post, just writing things in such a sterile and un-engaging way. WHAT THE HELL, LIFE?

Life shouldn’t be about “just the facts”, life should be fiery and crazy, unexpected and exciting. But I guess life slows down when you get into your mid 20′s and you start acting responsible and doing what’s in your best interests. Just because life slows down, it doesn’t mean you need to as well.

It’s taking some time and reorganization but since the boy is finishing up school this month, we’re finally going to have time to explore, play and do fun things- some stress will be lifted :)

Since my industry requires me to be be online for what I do, I’ve been taking some time at the end of the day to kind of “unplug”… well, in the internet aspect anyway. We’ve been watching movies, TV (never watched too much TV before but lately it seems like all my favorite shows are on during the same month… not that I’m complaining), trying to cook some amazingly awesome stuff (and only slightly failing), spending more time at the gym, taking long walks.

I’ve been trying to get back into physically writing- keeping a notebook of dreams, thoughts, drawings, whatever, to just get myself off the habit of relying on electronics to get everything done during the day. I think this is another reason why I’m having trouble writing. I used to do all my planning on paper (planners, journals, action method, post its) and for a brief period of time I moved into an online calendar, Evernote, etc.

Being reconnected to actual pen and paper is helping me split up my thought process, and maybe it’s the first step to getting back and recapturing my creative side.

Moral? I need to surround myself with art and music asap to lift my mind to higher levels and kick out the everyday that’s cluttering it… and pretty much kick Life’s ass :)

Part 1: Pushing Team Productivity and Action (an Ode to Making Ideas Happen)

Making Ideas Happen is a genius book and I’ve been utilizing it to its fullest- it’s great for anybody within any kind of business to take a peek at. I think it’s really important for a team because it instills a sense of responsibility and structure. Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to action steps- if the whole team isn’t on board or isn’t following what makes sense, you’re going to end up with a huge discombobulation of everyone doing what they want to, when they want to. Below are some excerpts that I thought would be useful, from Making Ideas Happen, in working within teams and for individual workflow as well.

Action Method Excerpts- Tally ho!

Attraction often breeds commitment: If you enjoy your method for staying organized, you are more likely to use it consistently over time. For this reason, little details like colors of folders you use or the quality of the paper can actually help boost your productivity.

This is SO TRUE. I have a hodgepodge of different sticky note colors and little action cahiers because I LIKE THEM. And when I like something, I use it. I enjoy it. Everyone has an individual method to keeping track of their personal tasks which is necessary. Find the method that is best for you- because when you’re organized as an individual you’ll be organized in the team as well.

While many project management methods support “to-do” lists that multiple people can share, true accountability is never achieved unless your team members choose to accept their delegated Action Steps. Not only should outstanding work tasks be transparent to all members of the team (or at least one or two other colleagues), but your colleagues should activity accept or reject Action Steps that you assign them. This “conceptual handshake” creates accountability and eliminates the ambiguous Action Steps that notoriously clog the progress in any project.

I completely agree with this, and he couldn’t have said this in a better way. I know having a check and balance system can be annoying, but when you’re leading a team or  working within one, you really need to have a system like this in place. Nothing is more frustrating than making sure you’re accountable for everything given to you, and then not having people do the same. If I have an action step delegated to me, I confirm- and I generally expect the same when I delegate myself.

If you have a disconnect in the team and you aren’t sure if something has been seen or acknowledged, it could seriously kink the whole team’s effort. Not having confirmation is equivalent to having a car without a functioning gas pedal. You know the pedal is there, but you can’t get any motion til you feel the movement. It’s simple to me.

  • Input action steps into system
  • Acknowledge
  • Confirm ability to complete task
  • Acknowledge that task has been completed

Yes, it seems very forced and rudimentary but when you having vagueness floating around it makes it difficult for the team to start and finish their project. Once a team member gets used to not conforming to everyone else’s standards, it becomes harder to make them engage with the team and see themselves as a vital part of it. A rogue team member will often feel they don’t need to confirm action steps which alienates them and also causes confusion among other team members.

Whatever action management system you use, Action Steps should be recorded in a consistant way, assigned to a project, and given a due date (when applicable). By doing so, you are setting yourself up for the ultimate productivity.

Consistency is key and I think setting an internal deadline is best since sometimes projects don’t go according to plan. This way you have a buffer from your actual deadline. I usually set internal deadlines for my own work so I trick myself into thinking it needs to be done earlier than it does.

If it can be done in two minutes, it should be done right away. After all, it will take a minute or so just to enter it into your system, so why not take care of it already?

What can I say about this? It’s so true. If you have a task that will take you no time at all, don’t procrastinate until you truly don’t have time and need to push it off. Unless it’s a personal task, it will affect everyone.

Don’t dwell. When urgent matters arise, they tend to evoke anxiety. We dwell on the potential negative outcomes of all the challenges before us- even before the action is taken. Worrying wastes time and distracts us from returning to the important stuff.

It’s true. Often times when we’re working on multiple projects, things that come up will throw us into a frenzy because it doesn’t fit into our plan. We have to take these in stride- the amount of anxiety you allot to something new isn’t going to change what has to be done, or the outcome. It can only harm the outcome if you shut yourself down.

Hoarding urgent items is one of the most damaging tendencies I’ve noticed in creative professionals who have encountered early success. When you are in the position to do so, challenge yourself to delegate important items.

I’ll admit it. I’m extremely guilty of this. I trust things to be done in my own hands, so often times I won’t delegate. I’ve been actively working on this lately and I feel like I’m making progress with trusting team members to work on things that are urgent so I can concentrate on my main tasks at hand. This goes back to acknowledgement of an action step- If you’re delegating a task and nervous about whether it might be done the way you want it to be, make sure the action step is acknowledged by your team member and it will put your mind at peace.

  • You can check in from time to time on progress, but not too much.
  • If it’s a week long process, maybe check in every few days.
  • Both you and your team members should be mutually accepting of this practice and know that it’s nothing against their ability to work, it’s simply to make sure it’s done effectively and to show that you’re available for help if wanted.
  • Team members can get annoyed with check ins if they know they aren’t proactively working on the task they need to be. Be calm.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be walked on and if you feel you are- let your superior know.
  • Make it clear that if the task cannot be complete, to be notified ahead of time- this will also set your mind at ease and set boundaries.

If you are new to delegation in the team environment, make sure it’s clear if you’re receiving negativity from the team. A team can be like a pack of hyenas if they don’t accept your position or aren’t willing to see you as someone they need to be willing to work with. Much disconnect comes from a lack of clear hierarchy ; and while hierarchy clearly isn’t everything (especially in the creative environment) it helps with the check and balance system and makes everyone’s lives easier on the team when they willingly acknowledge and execute.

Amidst the chaos of meetings and trying to prioritize the elements of  multiple projects, nagging from others helps you prioritize by natural selection. When someone is consistently bothering you about something, chances are you have become a bottleneck in the team’s productivity. As you allocate your energy across projects, it is often difficult to know how your decisions affect others.

I don’t like the word “nagging” (mainly because it’s used by people in the married life talking about their significant others) but I LIKE being nagged at in the work place. I like knowing when something becomes urgent, and I like making sure I get it quick and make the other person’s life easier. Nag away! If you want something done, just tell me.

I totally support this culture and you would be surprised at how many highly successful companies pointed out in this book support this culture as well- it attributes to their success because they don’t have rogue employees.

Making ideas happen actually boils down to self-discipline and the ways in which you take action.

I remind myself of this everyday. Is something not getting done on my end? I probably just need to sit my ass down and considering it urgent to myself. There is NO benefit to procrastination unless it involved pizza/chinese food night, wine and a movie. Then, it’s kind of acceptable :)

When we become passionate about a particular project and invest tremendous amounts of time and energy, it’s only natural that we become less willing to change course. Momentum and other sources of energy that help us survive the project plateau can also make us headstrong. As we become more confident, we also become more resistant to change- even when we need it.

I’m used to change. I’ve lived my life moving (sometimes even living outside the country) and adapting to new places, people and things. My brain thrives on changes and I really see the benefit. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone for the benefit of the project is crucial for self improvement and growth. If you’re on a team and your project needs to be adapted or others have ideas as to what could help with an issue- accept it. Your team is there to help and support you, not mess up your projects.

In my industry especially, change is important and if you can’t work with it, you either need to find a way to do so, or get left behind.

This is all I’m going to pull from the book in regards to the Action Method. Part 2 (which I will be putting up later today/tomorrow) is going to go over leadship and team productivity- pulling more quotes from the book :)

Why Social Networks will never replace email

Have you ever had this conversation with someone in their teens? Siblings, relative, friends, perhaps?

Me: “What’s your email address?”

Kid trapped in social network: “An e…. wait, what?”

Me: “Email address! Electronic mail!”

Kid trapped in social network: “Mail can be electronic? Cool. so… what is mail anyway? Is that that thing called ‘snail mail’ that I hear about? …….DO I HAVE ONE?”

Me: “No! I don’t know, DO YOU have an email address? You know, so and so @ whatever . com?”

Kid trapped in social network: “I don’t know who so and so is. Is he at whatever.com? Is that a physical building?”

Me: “……….”

Kid trapped in social network: “………!?”

Me: “Nevermind.”

Kid trapped in social network: “Hey! Do you have Facebook? Or Myspace? What’s your Twitter handle?”

….

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Either that, or I’m the lucky one who finds people who have no idea what an email address is. This is more common than you may think- youngish (well, age is relative I guess, seeing as I’m in my mid 20′s) kids that don’t have an email address and have no clue what purpose it could possibly serve (because duh, everyone loves having public communications on a social network that essentially owns all your data) are easier to find- because they can do everything through FB private messages and wall posts, Myspace Email, and Twitter DMs.

Guess what!

I love signing into my personal email address, where everything is JUST how I want it, organized until it’s apparent I’m OCD- with no clutter, status messages or anything irrelevant to what I’m doing. This is why social networks will never…. repeat after me please… NEVER, replace traditional email, for those of us who are actually using the internet for useful things and not to spy on who went where and who broke up with who.

Security Reasons

Social networks are NOT secure. And I’m not saying that Gmail, Yahoo! and other webmail accounts are completely secure, but I’m saying that they are probably more secure than a place where you can accidentally post something to someone’s wall, rather than in a private message.

Also, believe it or not (shocking I know) businesses will not be sending private messages on Facebook to get things done. Facebook messages and events are ideal for sending out charity fundraiser information, office party time and location, or after work activities, but for the LOVE OF GOD do not send anything related that could break a confidentiality agreement or NDA. Just don’t. And if you have to ask me why, then you’re way worse than I thought.

Plus, if you use certain mail services, you can track when your mail has been received and read.

File Sharing

You can’t share files through social network messages- and even traditional email can’t handle certain sizes that you may need to send for feedback, editing or collaboration. While there are apps like BaseCamp and Central Desktop that can handle this for you, don’t let that be the reason you deny yourself a wonderful email address. There’s plenty of external services you can use through email to send large files- and organize.

Email will allow you to sort, filter, label and categorize your files so you’ll never lose what you need. No functionality like this has been replicated in a social network messaging space- and I hope they don’t try. It’s hard enough to concentrate at work when you’re getting notifications from social networks in your email address- let’s not make it so that we have to cross through the evil social network barrier to even see our important attachments.

End of the world right there.

Privacy

Some things really should be shared via email. I’m actually pretty disgusted at the amount of stuff shared via Facebook wall posts, Myspace messages and Twitter replies. Also, Facebook status messages are just out of control. 1) I don’t really need to know how many times in the day you went to the bathroom, what you ate for dinner, or what TV show you’re watching. 2) I’m sure nobody else really needs to see your personal invites for friends to go out, on their walls. Haven’t you heard of a telephone? Or even a text message! Maybe… AN EMAIL!

TMI. Get it under control. Thank god for privacy options that will allow you to cut people out of your feed stream so you don’t see updates every 5 minutes.

Also, putting boyfriend and girlfriend stuff up can be cute- I don’t necessarily frown upon that. But full on 9 sentence wall posts or status updates outlining your date night from start to finish are entirely unnecessary- including how much fun you had. Maybe I’m old school, but I enjoy getting to work and seeing an email (in my personal account) or text message from my significant other (and yes, even 4 years later) about what fun we had the night before. Don’t put this out for everyone to see. Make it special! Better yet, try writing a handwritten note. This completely trumps email.

Note: this becomes a worse offense if you live with your significant other.

Separation of work and play

This is pretty much the last reason. I don’t want to work where I play. While I may need to utilize Facebook, Twitter and other social networks while working on campaigns, it doesn’t mean I’m playing on there or even checking my personal stuff. Productivity wise, having a separate space for work and personal emails… surrounded by nothing but sidebars with labels and folders, is best for your productivity.

Also, if you really want to have some things for stress relief inside your email, try using an RSS feed or Google Reader. This way, you’ll have content waiting for you to consume it with your hungry eyes, but it won’t be directly in your face.

Finito

Keep an email address. Some things are better off being communicated through email and not wall posts and private messages. Have your own separate space to be as OCD as you please- free from drama and messages that could side track you.

A side note? If you’re only using email for work purposes and conduct ALL your personal business on a social network (I hope there aren’t many of you out there who do this) make sure that when you have a file to send, an email to reply to, or a task assigned through email, that you aren’t uploading pictures or replying to people on a social network where everyone can see you. Saying “I’ll get to it in a minute, I’m busy with work!” while you’re posting pictures from last night just won’t cut it.

That’s another reason why you shouldn’t work where you play.

Mini Post-it note children, OCD and tech, OH MY!

I wrote a guest post on Freelance Folder the other day (which I’m super ecstatic about, by the way, because I’ve been wanting to post on there FOR-EV-ER! after site stalking) and was getting a bunch of positive and interesting comments on there. Pretty much, the article was about how pen and paper can slow productivity down and hold you back from getting a lot of work done. If you know me, or have seen my desk at home, you know that I’m a post it note LOVER. I LOVE THEM. I have so many different colors and sizes…and they are stuck everywhere- including my forehead. If I could marry them I would. I could have little post it note children, and I could totally write their appointments on their faces and it would be OKAY. Because they are mini-post its and I could do that type of thing without being arrested.

I also used to carry around a planner the size of my head just to stay organized- because I had a big problem with trusting that kind of stuff to technology. Plus, I’m so OCD about little details, that putting it in my iPhone calendar didn’t make sense. It would take me about 5 hours (total exaggeration, by the way.) to get it how I want it. So, I stick to post it notes.

I was amazed at how many people on there are like me- they use their laptops/iPads/smart-phones for certain parts of planning and organizing, but still stick to good ol’ pen and paper for other things. Like a to-do list. I tried SO HARD (I really did.) to use my tech for organizational purposes. I have a macbook, which is too big to really take around solely for the purpose of planning… so that stays home. I also have a netbook, but the real estate is so small on it that it irritates the hell out of me. Then, I have my iPad. I would have the calendar open, and my to-do list open. But guess what! The iPad isn’t up with today’s technologies and can’t multi-task! Thanks Apple! You’ve taken a step backwards with a revolutionary product!

So that totally went out the window.

Out of everyone out there, my friends and coworkers are always surprised that I still resort to my to-do list style. I tape post it notes, in a row, on my desk so I can see what I have to do. Yes, I know post-it notes are sticky. Don’t ask about the tape.

BUT I SEE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE! I’m glad to see there are others that find solace in cute little moleskins, flashy colored post-it notes and awesome pens. Thanks for making me seem normal for not completely trusting my daily life to a piece of technology- as well as curbing my insanity JUUUUUUST a little bit.

Gmail Labs is Awesome Part I

It’s been brought to my attention that not everyone knows that Gmail Labs exists, thanks to the surprised look when I showed some of the ladies in my office (love you guys!)…so I thought it might make a cute post to wrap together a few useful features of Gmail Labs.

Where is this “Flask”? If you’re wondering where this is, it’s located up by your settings option. You have to first go into settings, and click labs in there, in order for this nifty little flask to show up.

I’m going to make this a two-parter and show you a few features that I find really useful. Since all of my search & social work is done online and in the cloud, I’m always in my email, all day long, corresponding with clients and coworkers in the office. As a result, I am OCD about having my inbox exactly how I want it… not to mention I get bored and like all the new things that come out too. Here’s a taste, if you haven’t peeked in the magical labs section yet.

Nested Labels: THIS LAB FEATURE IS A LIFESAVER! I know everyday I have some new kind of lifesaver. But really- this is it. By the way, this was the default image in the labs section… I don’t have kids nor do I make a section only for shopping. Just saying. You can put a / on any sub folders you would want, and voila! So this person would have Home as one label, Home/Kids to make the first child folder, then Home/Shopping to make the second child. If you click “show” and set your filters to archive, your new mail will show up in the bolded label.

Create a Document: This is a pretty simple (but useful) feature which allows you to turn any email that you get into a google document. This way, you can file it away or organize it if you’re invoicing. There isn’t really too much to say about this one… it tends to be self explanatory.

Default Text Styling: I like changing everything, right down to the font. It’s no suprise to me, or anyone else, that this is one of my favorite features :) You can set your default text to whatever font and color you want. Just make sure it’s readable. Nothing sucks more than getting a business reply in bright pink cursive. Keep that in mind.

Import Filters: My personal email account has over 20 filters… I kid you not. I did tell you I was OCD about organization right? This makes it easy, if I ever get a new email address, to import my filters over to that one so I don’t have to set them all up again. This may be lifesaver # 3, depending on what kind of email crisis I am having.

Insert Images: This comes in handy if you ever need to include an image within your email and you don’t feel like adding it as an attachment. It’s nice if you’re sending over a post with an author byline (since I do a great amount of guest posting) because it makes it look like one big cohesive email, instead of: “Hi. My picture is here,  but please see the attachment.” Believe me… no one likes attachments. Not even me.

Mark Unread From Here: Last, but not least, of my Gmail awesomeness part I is this feature. I LOVE THIS because often times, our office has these really, really long emails full of funny replies and witty comments to read, and when I’m in the middle of working on something, I’ll mark it “unread from here” and get back to it. I’ve lost my place many-a-time without this nifty little feature.

So, there you have it. Part I. I hope you find these tips interesting… and if you know about all these features then thanks for sticking it out through a pretty grueling basic post. Stay tuned for part II. I know you’re jumping out of your chairs waiting for it….