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bullet journal

2018 gift guide: writer’s block

Posted in Shopping by

gift ideas for writers

It’s that time of year again! Holidays always seem to be the time of year where we feel totally stumped by the people we want to gift. Either they have everything, or they don’t “need” anything. Sometimes it’s a really nice gesture to take a deep look at the recipient’s personality and connect that to any gifts you want to give them. It’s a good tip to keep in mind year-round!

There are tons of different kinds of writers – novelists, journalists, essayists, bloggers, or those who like to journal every day. Show your support for their passion with some of these hand-picked items!

Easy Tiger Literary AF Pen: There’s something about writing with a pen and paper that makes me feel super accomplished, plus removing a computer from the equation can cut down on distractions, increasing productivity and focus. This one from is super heavy duty and features a replaceable ink cartridge, so when they use it up, they can keep on going with this super sleek pen.

Writer Emergency Pack: These are great for both daily writing exercises or to get over a hump in a new piece. Each card provides a tip, situation, or some other way to look at a scene. I used to have these and loved using them to write quick flash fiction pieces.

On Writing Well: This book is a classic for a reason. The style of the book, the timelessness of the advice, and the practical skills make it a must-read for any writer (and that includes people who write anything through the day, be it a text message to your friend or an email to your boss.)

Scrivener: Every writer has their favorite word processor, so they might already have something they’re married to. Even so, Scrivener is widely regarded as the be-all, end-all of writing softwares for writers. Scrivener creates index cards for everything so it’s easy to reorganize, features a robust outliner tool, and basically just provides any feature a writer could dream of. (Plus, the company is called Literature and Lattes. I love that.)

Aquanotes: While it seems like a quirky white elephant gift, these do actually sound pretty useful. I can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve lost in the shower, and the ability to jot down a few notes for later is invaluable.

Frixion Pens: These are some of my favorite kinds of pens. They’re erasable and come in tons of different colors – there are even highlighters to go along with them. I love using these in my bullet journal and planners, but they’d also be great for outlining stories or mindmapping plot points.

Novel Teas: No secret that I love tea! There’s something about a warm cup of tea or coffee on my desk that puts me in the writing zone. These cute ones are themed to American Classics, so the quotes on the bags could offer some motivation through writer’s block. Maybe they’ll be on the next run of bags!

Tea Press/Travel Mug: Even if your writer doesn’t like loose leaf tea, this travel mug is a must-have. Dani and I both bought them recently, and it keeps your drinks hot for HOURS. My tea was so hot that after an hour, I finally took the lid off to let it cool down, and four hours after I made it, it was still warm and toasty!

Aloe Plant: Or any kind of plant, really, but studies have shown that plants can increase productivity! I have this aloe plant and love the nice ceramic pot it came in. Costa Farms on Amazon has many other different options, including hard-to-kill varieties like pothos and snake plants.

What’s on your list? What’s your favorite tool for writing?

November 20, 2018
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work-from-home must-haves

Posted in Career by

I’ve been super lucky to have been working remotely for almost five years now, and I think I’ve gotten it down to a pretty productive science. There’s definitely a lot to be said about creating a workspace that is comfortable for you, but not getting too comfortable. Through a lot of trial and error (and too many days working from my bed,) I thought I’d share some of my most-used products and setups for getting the job done!

I really like ambient background noise, which is funny, because usually that kind of noise pollution while I’m at a coffee shop or something will make me crazy. Ambient-mixer is one of my favorites, but when I’m really struggling to focus, I bring out the big guns: Brain.fm. It’s an AI composer with music and sounds that help you focus, relax, or even sleep. The Beach Focus station is constantly on repeat for me, and I always feel hypermotivated when I have it playing.

In your home office, it can be really easy to think of something in the house that needs to be done, then doing it. Instead, I keep my bullet journal next to me wherever I’m working. This has been more effective for me than any other planning method – even my much-beloved Passion Planner – because it is so customizable. In addition to pages of to-do lists, I also keep my weekly schedule here, including meetings, scheduled breaks, and my weekly work outline. (If I don’t schedule breaks, I don’t take them, and not only does my productivity tank, my burnout hits me like a ton of bricks.)

Not sold on scheduling breaks into your day? Watch this video from Marisa Mohi on how scheduling breaks and sticking to them is an important part of self-care.

Create a dedicated workspace that you enjoy being in. I’m guiltier than anyone for working in bed more often than I should (i.e., at all.) Sometimes it just happens – it’s 1pm and I’ve been typing away since 7 without relocating or moving more than once. It’s important to have a place that isn’t your bed in order to work – trying to condition your brain to be more work-oriented will not only increase your focus, but it will also help you sleep better and improve your posture. Eventually, if you work in bed long enough, your brain and body will be conditioned to work when you’re laying down to sleep, and that’s no good for anybody. (My office is a work in progress, but by the time I’m done, it will feel like you’re on the beach in California – sand in your toes and all.)

Honestly, a dedicated workspace doesn’t even need to be fancy – it can be your kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom. Being in that space is a good physical symbol for your brain that now it’s time to work.

Find a desk that you love (or pop on craigslist to find a cheap one and do a DIY revamp so it becomes a desk you love,) and outfit it with things you want to be surrounded by. A vision board of inspirational quotes or your dream vacation, a candle of your favorite scent, and easy access to your favorite pens – whatever it takes to make it a space you like to spend time. I like a really simple, empty desk – otherwise, I won’t want to sit there. The file organizer that sits on my desk was $1 at Target, as was the wall calendar I have tacked up. I’ll rotate candles out with the season (I’m currently loving Bath & Body Works’ Salt Flower, thanks Dani.) Other than that, there’s not a lot of clutter on my desk.

(Yes, I do have a treadmill desk, but it can be hard to type and walk. I still sit at my old stationary desk pretty often as well when I’m working on copy-heavy projects, like blogging.)

Another thing that can help you get out of bed or off the couch and over to your desk is a mug you love that’s for work only. I have a giant one from my old arena that I love, and I only use it when I’m working at my desk. It’s important to keep a water bottle nearby too – when I moved from an office to a home office, I was constantly dehydrated because I wasn’t drinking water at all. My favorite is this Contigo one, which keeps drinks cold for hours.

Get dressed. I hate this as much as the next person, but to be honest, my work uniform isn’t even that fancy. I get up, put on a sports bra and workout shirt along with workout capris, and call it a day. The act of changing out of my pajamas is all I need to get the creative juices flowing. You could even change out of sleep clothes into sweats – as long as it works for you. This could also be the start of a morning routine – another way to slide into your workday. Get up, maybe do some yoga, start the coffee machine, make breakfast, take your vitamins, say some daily mantras – it’s a good and gentle way to transition from sleep to work.

Lastly, it’s important to have a place to escape to. Luckily I have the option to enjoy my outdoor patio office (since I live in Chicago, I get to do this for about two weeks a year, but still) but sometimes being home at all is too much of a distraction and it’s time to get out of the house. Or maybe the internet has gone out for the tenth time in a day and you can’t deal with one more router reset. Knowing what coffee shops nearby helps because some days you just can’t focus on the work at hand with all those distractions – or the power will go out, the internet goes down, or your neighbors decide that 9am on a Tuesday is the appropriate time to have band practice. Escape to the coffee shop for unlimited caffeine, camaraderie (there’s always someone else working in a coffee shop,) and internet connection.

Do you work remotely? What are your home office must-haves or favorite products?

June 6, 2018
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2018 reading challenge

Posted in Entertainment by

2018 reading challenge

It’s little surprise that I love to read – just check out my Goodreads feed or my Instagram for a taste of what books I’ve picked up lately. Last year, Dani and I discovered the PopSugar reading challenge, and we thought it would be a fun way to read different books (and make a pretty spread in our bullet journals.)

Toward the end of last year, we decided to make a 2018 challenge of our own. Over the last few months of 2017 we started noting down categories or prompts we saw on other lists, or ideas we thought of as we walked around Chicago. In December, we sat down and culled it to a list of 50 prompts, thinking that 50 books in 52 weeks was a pretty good read rate. We then added a 51st prompt to pick a book for each other to read, because we do have pretty diverse reading tastes.

I thought I’d share our challenge here in case you’re looking for some creative prompts to mix up your reading and want to read along with us! I have a shelf on Goodreads where I’m cataloging the books I’m using for the challenge, and at the end of the year, I’ll probably do a recap post.

This will probably mean that my formerly-quarterly book club review posts might get more frequent, so get ready for lots of recommendations!

We’re also making notes with ideas for next year’s challenge, so if you have any suggestions for prompts, let me know in the comments! Check out this printable Pinterest graphic (it’s sized perfectly for a bullet journal, so you can print it out and paste it in if you, like me, are too lazy to draw a pretty page for all the challenge prompts :))

2018 reading challenge

What do you think of the prompts? Any suggestions for our reading challenge next year?

January 7, 2018
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using Best Self Journal to reach your goals & giveaway

Posted in Living by
Best Self Co. provided a sample for review and giveaway, but all opinions are my own.

If you’re like me, you have some big goals. Whether it’s running a marathon, going back to school, starting a company, or even starting a blog, it can be really hard and intimidating finding a way to make those dreams a reality. A few months ago, I discovered Best Self. Their planner/journal is created specifically to help users reach their dreams by breaking them down into smaller goals and actionable steps. That way, your big dreams feel more attainable (and you’ll be more likely to work toward them!) I thought I’d give a preview of what my Best Self journal looks like as well as a look at my routine and how I use it.

best self review

The package itself comes with the journal, as well as a pen loop and Wall Roadmap to mount so you can always keep your eyes on the prize. By putting your goals and steps up on your wall, preferably in a place where you see it most often, you’ll stay even more motivated to work hard every day. It’s dry erase, so you can even use it over and over.

Inside the journal, it’s packed with resources and advice on how to create goals. It can be harder than you think if you’ve never really set them before! You’ll learn about the 20-Mile March, and how Best Self’s 13-Week roadmap helps you achieve these goals. They’ll also point you to online resources for even more support, like a Facebook group of other users, and a guide on how to create good goals. In your journal, you’ll establish three main “result goals” which you’ll break down further. Best Self has you note the reasons that achieving these goals will improve your life, and you’ll also sign a commitment to achieve your goals. These are powerful psychological methods to motivate yourself.

The actual daily layouts are built to plan your day in a way that help you learn how to schedule your tasks in ways that work toward your goals. They also include places for morning and evening gratitudes. Practicing gratitude has many scientifically proven benefits, and it will put you in the right mindset to kill your goals. Sometimes it’s harder than others to find things to be grateful for, but if I can find six things every day, so can you. Even if it’s something as simple as the choice to take a shower every day (#RemoteWorkPerks.)

best self journal

Now that I’ve gotten into a routine after about a month of use, I’ve finally settled into a routine that works for me. I spend about thirty minutes a day with my journal. In the morning, I’ll wake up and write down my gratitudes. I’ll also write down my targets for the day. I’ve color coded each of my three result goals, so I try to have one target a day for each goal. At night, I reflect on the day, update my lessons learned and wins, and lay out my planned tasks and activities for the next day. That way, when I wake up, I don’t have to think – I’m already set up for success.

best self daily planner

During the day, I check off my progress, add things to my to-do list, and track my food (since that’s one of my action goals.) Tracking wins is fun too, and sometimes I run out of space. When you really focus on positivity and gratitude, you start to realize how great things are.

Since my goals are all color coded, that’s how I try to break down my day. You’ll see three to four colors (sometimes I’ll track work tasks in a fourth color here) in my daily spreads, and I try to add a reminder of what I’m working hard for in the My Goal section. Plus, one of my favorite parts of the journal are the inspirational quotes throughout. On each page, there’s a bit of inspiration and advice from people who are successful in their own rights. It’s helpful to have reminders on the bad days. Going forward, I’m also going to include a self-care line here. Planning in self-care is a great way to ensure that you’re going to do something for yourself every day.

best self weekly tracker

Best Self Co. was also generous enough to send over a journal for a giveaway, and I’m really excited to share this amazing productivity tool with you! Enter below, and share with us in the comments what your goals for the year are, or how you use your journal or planner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 2, 2017
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how to quickly fill your content calendar and get ahead on blog posts

Posted in Blogging by

fill your blog content calendar

If you’re just starting a blog, it can be intimidating to think of enough topics to regularly post about to keep your visitors engaged. Having a schedule is really important, though – otherwise, your readers won’t know when to keep an eye out for your new posts! There’s an easy way to quickly fill your content calendar. These are the steps I use to write up my blog posts and stay ahead of the game.

Develop a posting schedule: Do you want to write three times a week, or just twice a week? Block out regular days for posts, and you’ll have a feel for exactly how many posts per month you’re looking at.

Make a content calendar so you can visualize your posts: I’m a very visual person, so I have my month calendars in my bullet journal. Since I have two blogs, I color code each of them so I can tell what post is for what website. You can use a digital calendar like iCal or Google if that’s how you prefer to plan. Laying out a month at a time helps me see what’s coming up, what I have time for, and can even help me plan posts far in advance. If you only have one blog, you could color code your themed posts or series if that helps you plot out your posts better.

Do recurring series or themed posts: There are a lot of themed weekly linkups to participate in: I’ve done Music Mondays, Tune Tuesdays, Workout Wednesdays, and Fashion Fridays here on the blog. Sometimes having this kind of theme makes it easier to focus and sit down to write. Right now I’m working on developing series, focusing on remote work as well as blog management. I’ve found that picking a broader topic like that makes it a lot easier to get ahead on my content calendar – in March, I was already planning content into May. (This is also a really great way to keep fresh content coming on your blog if you plan to take some time off.) Plus, using a series allows you to re-use the opening paragraph – this gives the series cohesion, and saves time on writing the post!

Another benefit I’ve found in developing a series is that it’s made it super easy to brainstorm topics and build off each post. For example, this series on blogging stemmed from an idea I had on doing a walkthrough of my blogging bullet journal. I’m still going to do a larger post on that, but breaking them down into individual topics allows for more in-depth information to be shared. Be sure that once you’ve written the new posts, you go through any related posts to drop backlinks in so your readers can easily access related content!

Dedicate a few hours each week to developing future content: There’s always going to be some part of blogging that has to be done every day, like sharing posts on Facebook groups, submitting to StumbleUpon and Pinterest, and responding to comments. (If you aren’t into that, think about hiring a VA to outsource the parts of blogging you find icky!) Getting ahead on writing your posts and shooting photos frees up a lot of your daily time – instead, I like to sit down a few Saturday afternoons per month and churn out posts. (Of course, if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired, this might not work.) I prefer doing this because it lets me tune out any other distractions and really focus on creating great content – once I get in the zone, it’s easy to stay on task!

Write some unscheduled evergreen posts: Life happens, right? One way you can stay on top of your posting schedule is by having evergreen posts you can lean on when you have off weeks (or months.) If you see a blank spot in your calendar that you’re struggling to fill, pop in and post one of your evergreens. Even if it doesn’t exactly fit into a series you might be working on, at least your visitors have new content (and are probably getting the chance to learn more about you!)

Do you plan your blog in advance? What’s your process like for planning your content calendar?

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May 17, 2017
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