May 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
I used to consider myself a minimalist. A few weeks ago when we were living in Pasadena still, I began to realize how much I really had. So much that I didn’t feel like moving it for the fourteenth time in five years. Who wouldn’t?
In March, a pen found its way into the washer and ruined many of my favorite clothing items. I tried a couple techniques to get the black splotches out, but even then they just turned to brown. I ended up tossing out what was a lost cause and making use of the other t-shirts, tanks, and pants that I already had.
Even after what I threw out, I still had more than most.
“This is kind of depressing,” I thought to myself, “I still didn’t lose that much considering and I’m okay. I am not a minimalist.”
In that moment, it hit me that I still wasn’t living how I thought was best in my own head. Best in the sense that I know I do well with less. With as little as possible. My mind gets too cluttered with more and my focus turns to stuff rather than what’s important.
Before I was with Trever–although we had already met and hung out before–I went on a trip with my dad to Vegas. It was February 2006, a cold and blistery winter in the tacky city. My dad asked me where I was going with my life and I told him,
“I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t want a lot. I want to live somewhere that I don’t have to drive and fit my life into two boxes.”
It would only be a little over a month until I found myself doing just that. I was moving to Perth, Australia, with a backpack–a backpack that recently got moldy and, not gonna lie, I was sad–to a place with glorious public transportation and a melting pot of beautiful people.
Fast forward over five years and here I am married with two adorable children and a whole lot more stuff. After our whole mold mishap (see parts one, two, and three), I told myself enough was enough. We had to take two truckloads of our belongings piled three feet high to the city dump.
Besides that, we packed up two garbage bags with clothes and only kept necessities. Each day since we have moved in, I’ve been trying to organize and put stuff in the goodwill pile. A box of unused dishes, craft and office supplies that just sit there, stuffed animals that are keepsakes that mean nothing to me.
Most of my clothes were moldy, so I’ve just repurchased or been given what I need. I told my friend Megan in April that I wanted to memorize what I had. Self-fulfilling prophesy. Encouraged by Miss Minimalist (aka Rachel) to have 100 possessions, here’s what’s in my drawers:
1 pair of shorts
3 night time shorts
2 pairs of sweats
6 pairs of socks
1 sports bra
2 swimping suits (yes, swimping)
3 pairs of shoes (because the other pairs got yucky, boo!)
When I write out that list I still feel like I have a lot. I can fit most of it into two sock drawers. I’ve got issues. Haha. I’m addicted to the feeling of having less and being in control with what I do have. Just enough.
Thank you to all of those who helped us move, have us clothing, food, and fulfilled other needs. And, of course, to those who provided moral support. We love and appreciate you all.
April 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Okay, so I get it. You’re feeling super stuck. You want to do what you love–and you are–but it’s so time consuming, so hectic, so difficult, that you don’t have any time for anything else in life. That “everything else” just gets put on the back burner, so to speak. And it blows.
I’ll tell you what, that life stage won’t last long. You’ll either fizzle and burn out or continue being miserable…neither choice is a positive outcome. So while you may be feeling stuck while you read this, what can you do? Let’s look at some options:
• Create A System: One of my favoritist things to do is to design a system so I can clearly see what it is that I’m actually doing. In doing so, I come face to face with reality. That usually means I realize where I’m wasting time, what I’m doing inefficiently, and how many steps it’s taking to complete x, y, and z. Seeing it enables me to change it for the better.
• Make a Schedule: Even though it’s not the funnest, sit down and write out a schedule. Whether it changes from day to day or not, just do it. You’ll be glad you did when you see it sitting in front of you, kicking your butt into gear.
• Automate Emails: If you have trouble getting to emails that need replying to, send out an automated email that goes out when an email is received. In a few short sentences, let your client or vendors know you have many emails to get through and you will respond within fill-in-the-blank. Hopefully this will allow you to feel like you can catch up and someday stop the automated email from being sent.
• Clear the Unnecessaries: Doing all of the above will give you clarity of what you’re doing, how your spending your time, and the amount of time it’s taking you to respond. Once you see what you’re doing, you’ll be able to clear out the stuff that isn’t working in your best interest. And that always feels good.
• Simplify cooking: Believe it or not, buying fresh whole food to combine into easy, quick meals is way faster than waiting for the oven to heat up and popping in a frozen lasagna. And better yet, it’s the best thing for you. You can even throw brekky (or any other meal) in a slow cooker! I’m super into Ayurvedic food at the moment.
• Assign the chores: Audrey isn’t quite old enough to help me with the dusting–although she tries to–but Trev and I have decided to go back to our childhood days and assign duties. For instance, we switch off each day with who does the dishes.
And last but not least: Bring in the troops!!! If all else fails, rally those around you–friends, family, soon-to-be allies–to work along side you, to help you at home, to be there for you. We need community and there’s nothing better than helping one another further our goals, loves, missions.
Community Discussion: What will you do to automate your assistant and focus more on what you love?
April 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Ask Jenny: I would love to start a blog and you seem to be a huge advocate for doing so. I’m just afraid that I’ll run out of ideas or get bored of it and quit.
I struggle with the same fears all the time. It can be super scary to think about writing every day, something new and fresh, for the next year. I’ve got five tips that will help it seem much less daunting. And, trust me, the reward of writing posts is much higher than not writing at all!
1. Take it one day at a time: It’s as simple as that. You just focus on what’s right in front of you and trust your inner creativity to bubble forth when you need it. I get floods of post ideas some days and none on others. And that’s okay.
2. Keep a running list: I keep a running list on my phone of title ideas with a blurb of what the blog is about. This way, I always have something to look back on when I’m feeling über uncreative, but need something for Monday. The funny thing is, my running list hardly ever gets used and when I do look at it, it spurs on even more ideas to add to it.
3. Write in advance: Squash the fear of not having an idea for a post by always being ahead of yourself. Schedule posts however far in advance that you feel comfortable with. If you write an extra long post, break it into two. If you have an idea that you love and want to use the next day, re-schedule the already scheduled post.
4. Look into the past: My favorite post-inspiring technique is reading my old blogs. There’s just something magical about reading what I wrote beforehand that inspires me. Of course, reviewing your most popular hits and building off that and linking back to it is even better.
5. And if all else fails: Start small. If you’ve already started, back up. Take a break. A breather. Relax. Get rejuvenated. Start posting material that makes you feel alive and refreshed. Throw in other fun stuff besides your usual. Post about recipes you love or places you’ve been to. Write reviews of restaurants, movies, or books. Write poetry. Post once or twice a week.
No one ever said this has to be a job. It’s for you to express yourself, share with others, build community, and enjoy. That’s simply it: Enjoy.
Photo: Are you spinning out of control over your blog? Change your perspective and make it fun! (Edric and me on the Tea Cups)
March 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
At some point over the past few months I decided to entitle my “To Do’s” something a bit differently. I discovered that every time I would look at To Do’s, I felt like I needed to do them right then and there. And I was over it. I was over feeling the pressure of accomplishing something, however minute or menial it might be.
Heck, I was already making a baby, running after a toddler, managing the finances, doing the laundry, picking up after everyone in the house, washing the majority of the dishes, making all the lunches, dinners, and some breakfasts, scrubbing the floors, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom. You get the idea. I didn’t really need to feel like I had more to do. And that’s what “To Do’s” felt like to me.
So I thought to myself, “What could I title my to-do’s so I feel less pressured by them and more like they’re reminders?”
I spent a couple weeks using the new Reminders app on my updated iPhone, but I couldn’t get used to having to click on and go into each and every to-do when I wanted to edit it or delete it, respectively. Nor did the ability to check it off do anything for me. So I went back to using my notes.
“Reminders” also felt like a demeaning mother–one that I never had but can only imagine–that leaves notes for you by your school things, on your desk, and stuck to the fridge just to help you “stay in line”. Rather than helping you feel independent, competent, and intelligent, she begrudges you to follow in the ways that she would do things. Yeah, I’m not into that. Not into feeling that way about my To Do’s or into that style of parenting. Ha!
So I deleted that notes page on my iPhone that says To Do’s and just sat on it for a day or two in early January. When I finally did need to realistically write something down, I opened a new page in my notes and wrote “This week…” and then completed the sentence.
I knew in my heart that I needed to get it done in the next day or two. I didn’t need a “Reminder” and I certainly didn’t need to feel like it was a To Do that needed to be accomplished ASAP. There it became: This Week. It was simple enough. After using this technique for the past couple months, I can honestly say that I like it.
I don’t feel
• pressured to complete it in a certain amount of time
• or like my imaginary mom is leaving me notes around the house
• or that I have to even do what’s on the list whether I want to or not
Rather, it’s simply there. And I often don’t even look at it because I remember what I wrote down without needing to. It’s pretty beautiful in fact. And I’ll take it. I like this feeling much better than the problem of To Do’s.
Photos: Trev and Audrey going to get gas in the jeep. Hehe.
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March 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The biggest problem that consistently gets in my way and makes me feel like pulling my hair out is when I don’t follow my own simple little rule:
Do it now.
It’s really that easy. I put off the dishes until tomorrow because I don’t feel like putting what’s already dry away. I run out the door instead of getting Audrey’s toys back on the shelf. I tell myself that I’ll get the stuff in the car after I get the kids down for a nap.
All excuses I use on a weekly basis. All crap.
You see, every single one of us has a lot going on. We’ve got social lives, errands to run, chores around the house, families to support, and so on and so forth. We get it. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there.
But before I break out any more cliché’s, let’s go back to the original point. Let’s do what we need to do when we need to do it. Yeah, it’s not always fun or convenient. Yet what is?
Perhaps the best thing to do here is to look at one’s perspective, motive, and decision making process when it comes to putting off the little that turn into the big eventually. I’m not arguing that you can do a blanket effect and thus discover the mystery of self-procrastination. I’m suggesting making it a weekly habit to practice. Maybe once or twice during a seven day period we can all get one more thing done in the moment. Not tomorrow or next week. But now. Today. We can do it now.
Community Discussion: What’s your favorite thing to put off? And what can you do to get it done?
Photo: Take time to do it now. Meditate like Audrey, “Om!”
February 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
From a recap of a previous post, The Assistant, we went over the importance of figuring out whether or not you need an assistant as a creative entrepreneur in the first place. It can be a tough decision, but you don’t have to do it alone. With the amazingness of technology out there, the choice of what type of assistant you need and what you actually need help with–sometimes it’s just a matter of creating a personal system that gets you on more of an automatic virtual track or slimming down your workload or both–whether it be Personal or Virtual.
As stated before, I’ve helped others create Guide’s and systems countless times. It’s amazing how you can always trace the issue back to not having something written because it’s so easy to loose focus and get spread too thin. Finding an assistant should be no different. It is not their job to help you discover your expectations of them, it is your job to know what you need, have that written down, and find a good fit for those specific obligations. You can do this. And you don’t have to do it alone.
So who’s job is it? Well, besides using your deductive logic, this is where I come in. I can help you create a system for your assistant before you even start putting your feelers out there to hire someone. (I can also help you in the hiring process and have tons of experience knowing what to look for.)
What you need to do for you is to decide on two critical factors: Personal or Virtual. In the post, The Assistant, I asked you to write down what it was you wanted your assistant to do. So let’s look at your options:
Personal: A personal assistant usually sees you in person and does errands that are related to your personal life. Not always, but more so. They watch the kids, pick up groceries, help you organize, set appointments, do bookkeeping, run to the dry-cleaners, purchase last minute gifts, and so on. Basically, they make your day-to-day life easier.
If you need more time to focus on your business while someone preps dinner for you, makes calls, and feeds the chickens in the backyard (an actual request of a previous client of mine), you need a personal assistant.
Virtual: A virtual assistant can help you almost entirely remotely, although you might hire them with the promise or prompting of “75% can be done online or by phone, but 25% will be done from my home/place of business.” A good example of this would be because you need help setting appointments, writing emails, sending out newsletters, creating a blog, interviewing experts, etc. as well as filing, bookkeeping, and general organizing of your workspace.
If you need help with menial tasks that you just don’t have time for now that your business has grown or because it’s not your cup of tea, a virtual assistant might be the way to go.
Can the two blend? Sure! But you have to know that before you hire them so you can give them a clear and succinct list of expectations before they say “yes” to the job. What makes a happy assistant? One that has a defined position in your life that knows their hours, pay rate, and expectations. They should be able to tell a friend over drinks what they’re doing for you…with a smile.
Personal vs. Virtual. It’s a big decision. Yet I know you can do this. And someone assisting you five hours a week can be the most glorious relief in the world and well worth every penny. If they’re doing their job correctly, whether Personal or Virtual, they should be allowing you to do what you do at a higher level, making their expense speak for itself.
Jenn O’Brien is a Creative Consultant and Coach, helping entrepreneurs in So Cal and virtually elsewhere discover their strengths and do what they do best. If you would like to start doing what you do at a higher level, email her at jenny lvoe at gmail dot com today.
Photo: My assistant works in her PJ’s.
February 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Ask Jenny: You’ve mentioned a few times that you keep your inbox clean. It sounds awesome, but I have no idea where to start. Help!
That can for sure be a toughy! Especially if your inbox is over-flowing to the max, it can be an overwhelmingly daunting task to achieve. Yet there is a method to the madness. Follow these five tips to Inbox zen-ness and fret no more!
1. Unsubscribe: Not to my blog of course (wink, wink), but go through your emails and unsubscribe from listings like Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, iTunes, and the like. If you’re not going to look at it now, you won’t look at it then. If you can’t click “unsubscribe” or it never seems to work when you do, create a filter to block all emails coming from that address. I’ve also found that googling what I want to unsubscribe to can lead to some pretty awesome tips.
2. Trash the trash: Next, trash everything you don’t think is important for saving for later–save the stuff you do want to keep, we’ll get to that–and don’t think about it for a minute more. An easier approach to this is to select all emails on a page and unclick the ones that you actually want to keep. Make sure your viewing the max amount of emails–50 or what not. Then hit “delete!” Bye bye!
3. Review the saved: Go over the saved emails that you haven’t trashed and note themes. You can do this either in a journal or just a blank page on Word or Pages. For instance, if you receive bill notifications and bank statements in your Inbox, consider a Boring file (hehe) with headings like Bank, Utilities, Insurance and Credit Card, and Other underneath.
4. Create folders: This is the fun part…go into your email account and create folders to your hearts content. I keep mine organized by creating sub-folders to each file. Almost nothing goes into the “header” because everything has its own special place. If it doesn’t, I create a new sub-folder.
5. Repeat as necessary: This isn’t a one-off project. Yes, the initial purging of 539 emails from your Inbox is, but it’s continual. You continue to unsubscribe when you get signed up on listings. You trash things you’ve read–or not read–and don’t need as soon as you’re finished. And you create new files when need be.
Lastly, you respond to emails once a day. You don’t leave them sitting there for an eternity. You simply respond. Keep emails to five sentences or less, short and to the point. If you have emails that require more attention on a consistent basis, create a file titled “Reply To” or “Respond”, so that your Inbox stays empty, you feel more zen, but you know exactly where to look at the end of the day. Keep that Inbox clean!
Photo: Keep your inbox clean like I keep my Edric clean!
February 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
A very sweet friend of mine has been feeling overwhelmed with her closet space. More so, she’s been struggling with the amount of clothes that are in her closet space as well as the dressers in her room. According to Megan, “The drawers are difficult to close because they’re so stuffed full.”
We all know the feeling. I know that I go through seasons of more and less clothing possessions. During my pregnancy the first time around, I purchased a few maternity shirts and shirts in larger sizes. I wore them so many times, I got sick of them. This time around with the second, I borrowed clothes from my sister and my friend, Brandi.
What I like about the borrowing is that I get to give them back. So now I’ve pulled out my “normal” shirts and placed my pregnant borrowings in bags to return to their original owners.
But what do you do when you aren’t pregnant and need of clothes to borrow? When your closet is too full and yet you keep changing sizes–and thus, you want to keep everything? Or when you just feel like getting one more flannel or pair of jeans? Let’s look at a few organizing techniques and perspectives to help with the stuffed closet.
5. Make THE List: As silly as it sounds, it’s true. Sit down and write out exactly what you wear on a weekly basis. You can be super specific (my baseball T with red sleeves) or extremely vague (2 pairs of jeans). The point is to see what you wear on paper. You’d be surprised at how little it is.
4. Add the Seasonal: This So Cal girl doesn’t really worry too much about seasons, but hot and cold happen even here. Add to your weekly list what you need when the weather changes.
3. Note What You Need: Is there anything missing from your closet that isn’t on your list? Is anything you have that you wear often in rags? Okay, so then ask yourself: Is there anything that I need right now? “Need” being the keyword. If there’s not, whenever you have the urge to shop bring THE List to mind and remind yourself of what you actually wear and of what’s in your closet. If you really love something try using one of these money-saving techniques:
• Tell yourself you don’t “need” it
• Remind yourself of what else you have that is similar
• Tell yourself you will always find something you’ll like while shopping
• Remind yourself of another item you have at home that you love
• Tell yourself to wait 30 days and then see if you still want it
Or do what I do the majority of the time: Avoid shopping altogether if you think you’ll be tempted to add to the closet.
2. Organize What You Have: If you can’t remember what you have in your closet, you probably have too much. Take what you own with your list in hand and organize it by type of item and season. You can pack away sweaters and jackets or just put them on the side of the closet you use less. If you need or have various sizes for one reason or another, apply THE List to each size. Place the size in a box and label it for later use.
1. Donate the Rest: Okay, you probably knew that was coming. But just in case you missed it, you should be giving away the items that you haven’t worn in the past year. If it’s just been sitting there, you won’t wear it anytime soon. I promise. Some exceptions might include a suit or a formal dress. Yet in all reality, if you didn’t wear that argyle sweater from your aunt last winter, you won’t wear it this one either.
Hope that helps a bit! The closet can be the most daunting place of all, that’s for sure. I love organizing, but clothes can be very sentimental and hard to part with. Even for a hard knock like me. I’ll probably never give away my thread bare Mickey Mouse shirt from my mom or my see-through Ziggy shirt from my Aunt Amy. Everything else is just closet stuff.
February 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
One of the biggest decisions you will make as a creative entrepreneur is who to surround yourself with that will be beneficial to your company. More so, beneficial to your vision. It’s important to remember that we can’t do this in isolation; we need the support of one another to continue moving forward. Whether or not that means you need someone there to help you and get paid for it–rather than a community either virtual or “live”–is another thing entirely.
Firstly, you have to process what it is YOU do, what you see yourself doing every day, and how that fits in your vision. Without this being answered, you’re simply wearing every hat and you like it that way. If that’s you, cool. If it’s overload for you, perhaps it’s time to slim down your workload by doing one of two things: getting an assistant or minimizing your focus until you can add more to your workload later on. Both are viable options.
Secondly, you have to create an idea of what you would like an assistant to do, keeping in mind a few questions:
1. What aspects do I dread and need help with?
2. Can those be fulfilled with an assistant?
3. Am I willing to let go of some of my workload and delegate?
4. Is this just too many hours for my company or do I simply need a way to get more done (personal vs. virtual assisting…more on that in a later post)?
5. Can I afford it?
Before you jump to the answer of number five–ofttimes the end all, be all for many of us–work through the first four to wrap your head around what you need. Getting your needs met in business and otherwise is always important. It sometimes just takes a bit of guidance to see that you do have options to make that happen.
Lastly, once you’ve done the footwork for one through five, you get to do the fun part. Okay, at least I think it’s the fun part. Perhaps here is where you contact me and we work through it together. Before you start posting crazy, long-arse ads on Craig’s List with your laundry list of requirements and pay rate–$8/hour in So Cal is only going to get you what you paid for–you have to create a system for that assistant to follow.
If you just cringed, email me.
It’s really not all that bad and once you see how simple it is to set-up a system–a fancy way of putting “a list of to-do’s”–you’ll see how you can save countless hours of explaining, correction, and heart-ache. So until we have a way to download what we are thinking to another human being, this is what you have to do. All before you even think of hiring someone.
How did I learn this? Well, when I pin-pointed what I loved to do during my Junior year of college it was just that, creating systems. I realized many people just started projects, groups, businesses, etc. without having something written down first. No mission, vision, goal, focus, nothing. So I started by helping a non-profit, then a band, then a coffee shop, and a church. And I kept going. I would write down what they were doing, where they were going, and what that looked like in Guide form and, man, did it feel good.
Since then, I’ve helped others create Guide’s and systems countless times. It’s amazing how you can always trace the issue back to not having something written because it’s so easy to loose focus and get spread too thin. Finding an assistant should be no different. It is not their job to help you discover your expectations of them, it is your job to know what you need, have that written down, and find a good fit for those specific obligations. You can do this. And you don’t have to do it alone.
Jenn O’Brien offers creative consulting to both firms and individuals. She would love to help you discover your needs, become a more focused creative entrepreneur, and create a Guide for your company. Do you think you need to hire an assistant? Email her today.
Photo: My Assistant.
February 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It’s been a few weeks since Christmas and I’d imagine that’s long enough to put aside our attachments to the emotional side of the gifts we received and do some serious thinking. The meditation is simple, but can be difficult for sure.
What owns you?
Take five to ten minutes to ponder this. If you’ve got a second and are reading this blog during your lunch break, etc., write some things down. Your most favorite things.
Speaking of favorite things, I’m sitting here on the couch with the latest family member in my arms, my Edric, editing this post and remembering how good it felt to write this. To really sit down and think about what is important to me in this life. So here goes…
How do you decide on your most favorite things?
• If your house burned down with everything in it, what would you be crying about the most?
• If you lost this or that, would you be able to let go?
• Do you actually use your favorite things or are they more sentimental in nature?
There are no right answers to these questions. I’m not sitting here–on the other side of my iPhone writing this post–up on my high horse of minimalism or total materialistic and consumeristic control laughing smugly at your inability to not need “things.”
On the contrary, like a religious evangelism to some, I’m sitting here with fingers crossed that this meditation practice brings you freedom in your ownership. It’s not in the owning that we drown, but in the ownership of those things over us that’s a brick. I’ve seen too many beautiful friends–inside and out–that are constantly thinking about the next “thing” they’re saving for, can’t live without, needing/wanting, or going to get. And judging by the popularity of last years post, The Needs Discrepancy, you actually like thinking about this stuff (no pun intended).
So what around you has a hold of your heart? And what do you need to let go of? What are you gripping in the palm of your hand that is keeping you up at night, causing you to loose sleep? Where has your stuff gotten you? To need a bigger living space? To have so much that you lose things and can’t find what you need when you need it? Can you not keep track of what you have? Do you just keep getting more and more? When you purchase something or receive it as a gift, do you get rid of another thing at home to make space for the new? Do you keep things even though they don’t meet needs? Are you always gaining and never losing? Do you purge stuff only when absolutely necessary (like those holes in your socks)?
Just some thoughts to consider. We only have the capacity to fill our brains with and deal with so much. I’ve realized more and more that I stink at, get overwhelmed with, and would be better off with as little as absolutely possible. My addictive personality gets a little creepy with too much anyway. That being said, I personally have very little to my name. My daughter and hubby have more clothes and things than I, because I get too overwhelmed with and loose track of too much. Less is simply more to me.
All I’m asking is that you know yourself. Know your capacity to deal with things. If our place burned down, I would miss a few of my favorite things, but I would deal. And I would heave a sigh of relief in hopes that we wouldn’t have to replace it all. So, what owns you? What owns you. It makes all the difference in the world.
Photo: “Hmmm? What does own me?”