Tuesday Tip 005: How to Eliminate Distractions on Social Media

If you're anything like me, social media can be a black hole of procrastination. Buzzfeed articles, is it a dog/is it a muffin memes, photos of friends, Bernie Sanders GIFs, reminders from Facebook of things that happened 10 years ago...the list goes on. 

But I'm a big believer that in order to enjoy social media we have to control our experience on each platform. That's why I swear by three tools that I use to focus my social media experience and get to the good stuff. I highlight the first one in the video below. 

Here's a link to the Newsfeed Eradicator Google Chrome extension.

My two other secret weapons of social media satisfaction and productivity are Nuzzel and Facebook lists.

Nuzzel is a daily digest that I get in my inbox that gives me a rundown of the most shared articles on my Twitter feed. Because I'm pretty serious about who I follow on Twitter, this digest gives me a bird's eye view of the conversation and posts that I will find important. And I get to see them all in one place eliminating the need to go hunting on Twitter for interesting or helpful posts.

Facebook Lists help me categorize the various pages that I follow on Facebook so I can just see posts from the individuals and businesses that really interest me. I have them categorized by different topics. A few separate lists that I have include Social Media, Thought Leaders, Bloggers and Theatre. This is helpful in cutting through the noise of all of the hundreds of pages and people I'm following on Facebook and helps me quickly find the content that I'm looking for. Also, as a social media professional I can compare the social posts of several different companies, individuals or media entities in one continuous stream so I can see what types of posts are trending and who is doing what. It's lovely.

So those are a few of the tools that I use so I don't get sucked into the social media abyss. I'd love to hear YOUR tips for using social media without letting it own your day. Drop in the comments!
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How To Get Stuff Done From a Home Office

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So you have the option to work from home…but every time you go home to work you’re distracted by the mail, the dog, the messy kitchen, the laundry, the neighborhood drama, the tv, the dishes, the…you get the point.

How do you actually get stuff done from your home office? Is it possible to be at home and to not be focused on the things of home?

Yes I say!

I’ve been exclusively working out of a home office for about three years now and I believe that I get done in 1/3 to 1/2 a day what a lot of workers in offices get done in an 8-hour day. Of course the 20-second commute helps, but beyond that I've found some key aspects to make working from home work. 

Here are the elements of my work from home success:

1. Invoke a morning routine. I get up. I make the bed. I have breakfast. I go run. I shower. I’m at my desk. Same time every day. I don’t get distracted by morning television. I don’t decide each morning what I will do that day. I wake up. I invoke my routine. 

2. Ignore the doorbell. I can ignore texts, calls, emails, and other interruptions and a random sales person would never be able to interrupt my day at my desk on the 9th floor of a corporate office, so why should I let them interrupt my workflow in my home office? If I’m not expecting you at my front door, I will ignore you. 

3. Make a schedule and a to-do list the day before. In my work with Pursuant I make plans for the week ahead on Friday afternoons. I absolutely love this strategic planning. And each afternoon I take a look at the plans for the next day. That means I don’t waste precious brain power in the morning (when I’m thinking the most creatively and clear) figuring out how to order my day. 

4. Have a dedicated workspace. Whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or (better yet) an entire room that you can dedicate to your work, I encourage you to set aside a specific space that is just for work. When you enter that space your mind immediately clicks into “work mode.” And when you leave it, close the door, and enter other spaces in your home, you’ve mentally “left the office.”

5. Invest in a comfortable chair. You’re going to want to hop out of it non-stop throughout the day and head to other Rooms de Distraction if you don’t have a comfy spot to sit. So don’t go to Ikea and buy the cheapest thing. Trust me. Been there, did that. Learned my lesson. 

6. Make plans to get out of the house ahead of time. You’ll be most productive if you limit your offsite lunches to once a week or so. At the same time you need to connect socially, so prioritize getting friends and colleagues on the calendar. We all gotta eat, right? Determine ahead of time when you will go out to lunch and stick to that day of the week. It's easy to say "yes" to last minute offers that suck up our time when we don't have a plan in place.

7. Surround yourself with decor and office supplies that you enjoy. I have a framed print of Galatians 6:9 right above my desk. I love it. I also have Kate Spade office supplies for days and it makes me inexplicably happy. 

8. Listen to your body. You don’t always have to be rigid throughout the day with your breaks. For me, once I’m at my desk I don’t like to get up and take a break unless I’m leaving the house. So I don’t set a lunch time. I just go make lunch when I’m hungry and then I get back to my tasks. You’ll be more productive if you don’t ignore your need for mid-day sustenance.

9. Be intentional with social media. When you work from home you can keep literal tabs on social media all day. But that is a major distraction. If you need some support when it comes to ignoring Facebook I suggest the plugin Newsfeed Eradicator. I swear I got an hour back in my day when I installed it. 

10. Wear comfortable clothes but maybe not pajamas. Now this is controversial advice I give but I stand by it. For the past several months I have swapped my Pajamas And/Or Yoga Pants All Day uniform for comfy cotton sundresses. I swear I can attribute my energy and alertness in part to the fact that if a friend *did* drop by I wouldn’t be completely embarrassed to answer the door. Again, it’s a signal to yourself that you’re awake, you’re alert, and you’re at work. And don’t you just feel better when you’re a little bit put together? I know I do. 

These are my ten proven productive, successful work from home tips. I’m sure you’ve got your own tricks of the trade. Share em in the comments! 

How to Create an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

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We bloggers are busy people. Blogging is something we love but it's far from our only focus. (Though that's the dream for a lot of us, right?!) So how can you make sure that your blog posts are topically on point and regularly showing up in your reader's inbox despite your busy schedule? Simplify things for yourself by creating an editorial calendar. Here's seven easy steps to knock out your editorial calendar and make sure your blog posts are getting written and you're hitting your goals. 

7 Steps to Creating an Editorial Calendar

1. Determine how often you will post. You've got to start here. What's a feasible goal for you? What is the minimum effective dose? Does your audience need to hear from you daily? Weekly? 2 times a week? 3? Determine how often you will post and which day of the week. 

2. Narrow down topics. Bloggers are people so naturally we like as much variety as anyone else! But your blog needs to be predictable to your audience. Giving your audience a survey of the Platforms of the Current Republican Presidential Candidates one week and then your Top 5 Reasons Hanson is the Best Band Ever the next week may seem fun and exciting but your audience likely won't trust you as an expert on both topics. And beyond that, they probably won't care about both topics. Remember: keep your audience in mind first! What is useful to them? 

3. Add contributors. Are you authoring your blog solo? Do you have a team? Plug your writers and their areas of expertise into your editorial concept. Make sure to communicate expectations to them and give them at least a week of cushion between their deadline and when you actually need to move forward with the post. 

4. Batch tasks. I take a half day every quarter to brainstorm blog post ideas for the next three months. Likely I've been reading and mulling over ideas that I can plug in right away. And another thing you can batch and knock out at once? A month's worth of posts. I prefer to write one at a time (I'm just a little ADD that way) but if you can sit down and knock out 4-8 blog posts in a day, you've potentially created content for a month or more. Avoid interruptions and knock out tasks all at once.  

5. Brainstorm headlines. When you are clear on the kinds of posts you will write--my post categories are around social media, writing, marketing, productivity, creativity and goals--you can begin to flesh out post ideas that fit within each category. Don't overthink it. Just, stream of conscious, write down as many post ideas as you can. Then review them and refine them to put them into words that are the most intriguing and "clickable." 

6. Plug headlines into your calendar. Once you have a good solid list of post ideas, plug those headlines into your calendar on the days you're committed to publishing new content. Be sure to spread out the types of posts throughout the month so there's a nice variety. I really like the Excel calendar template but you can also use a desk calendar, a planner or even your Outlook or Gmail calendar. 

7. Schedule weekly time to write. Habits are wonderful because they eliminate troublesome decision making. If you know that you write every Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30, you don't have to look at your calendar each week and ask yourself "when am I going to write?" When Wednesday rolls around you don't have to ask yourself if you should make time for it. The decision has been made. Plug in meetings with yourself on your calendar. It's an unfortunate truth but blogs don't write themselves!

If you've ever been stumped at your laptop or just stared at your screen because you couldn't figure out what to write about, an editorial calendar may be the perfect solution to help guide you on the path to consistent blogging.

Do you already employ some tricks to make sure you blog regularly? Share em in the comments! 

4 Non-negotiables of a Quarterly Zoom Out

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I live for milestones. 

I’ve always loved New Years Day. I’ve been guilty of making “June Resolutions” and finally last year (the year building up to the big 3-0) I started making monthly and quarterly goals. 

I’m a classic ENFP who’s constantly probing within. “Am I doing all I can? Am I being intentional enough? Am I spending time on things that matter? Will I have a lasting impact? Am I living up to my potential?”

It can get a little intense.

One of the most effective ways I’ve come to deal with this non-stop interrogative energy within is to stop everything once every quarter. 

On this day I shut down social media. Grab the books that I’m close to finishing. Open Pages in my MacBook. Pull up my latest list of goals. And just think.

Think. Write. Read. Think some more. Walk around. 

And think.

On this day that comes but four times a year I go back to what my big crazy goals were for the entire year. These are the things that I really want to contribute and achieve but let’s be honest, these things are hard. It’s much easier to get busy with the things that other people are expecting of me: the boss’ deadline, getting dinner on the table, volunteer commitments. 

But these big crazy goals, these bigger dreams involve research, time, figuring out complex ideas that take me a while to mull over. They also involve the possibility of facing rejection. (Yikes.) 

But after I’ve come away from the Quarterly Zoom Out (QZO is a fun acronym) I have greater clarity and a greater vision for the future. I’ve probably even ticked off a few nagging items from my goal list. 

I’m not the only one who vibes with QZO. Greg McKeown author of the New York Times bestseller Essentialism said:

“Sometimes we spend more time planning our vacation than planning our careers. One cure to this is to schedule a quarterly offsite. We can take a few hours every few months to think about the bigger picture questions: ‘If I can only achieve three things over the next three months what should they be?’ and ‘Where do I want to be five years from now?’ When we don’t take time to ask these more strategic questions we become a function of other people’s agendas. We are left to react to the latest email and can become rudderless; blown about by every wind of corporate change.”

To further map out what a QZO includes, here are my top four non-negotiables: 

1. Solitude. I can’t be in a public place where I’m bound to run into people I like and want to catch up with. I need to be somewhere where I can’t be found. 

2. A blank page. Now whether it is literal or digital doesn’t so much matter but I have to have a way to get my thoughts out and work through them. 

3. Time. It takes me a little while to settle into the zone and reflect on what’s been happening, decide what I want to make happen and write what needs to be written. A QZO only works for me if it is more than a four-hour stretch.

4. A break from routine. For me this means that I never have a QZO in my home office. It helps trigger my brain to get creative and approach the day differently than other days. I like to try and never do two QZOs in the same place. Although, I do have a favorite QZO location. 

QZOs are a refreshing opportunity to put daily work on pause and check in with yourself. If you sometimes feel like the urgent gets all of your energy and the important gets very little, consider implementing a QZO. Here's your challenge: implement the “rule of three.” Every 3 months take 3 hours to identify 3 things you want to accomplish over the next 3 months. 

Do you do something like this? Once a month? Once a quarter? I want to hear about what you do to reflect and recenter. 

3 Surprising Things You Can Learn About Goals from Facebook

During the company's third-quarter earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg let the world in on his three, five, and ten-year plans for Facebook. Yep, Mark fully anticipates Facebook being around and relevant in ten years. His plans for the social network are specific, calculated, and gutsy.

What You Can Learn About Setting Goals from facebook

Mark zuckerberg

Mark zuckerberg

Take a cue from Zuckerberg and make your own three, five, and ten-year plans. Here’s what I noticed about his plans.

3-Year Goals

Zuck said,

“Over the next three years, our main goals are around continuing to grow and serve our existing communities and businesses and help them reach their full potential.”

Zuckerberg’s discussion of Facebook’s three-year plan centered around what’s currently happening and proving their approach is working.

What are you currently invested in regarding your career, relationships, and finances? Do you want to have anything to do with where you currently are in three years? If you don’t see yourself in the same industry, in the same relationship, or spending money in a similar way in three years, now’s the time to make those changes.

What’s working well in your life? Invest more there. For Zuckerberg it’s Facebook Groups and Instagram. For you, perhaps it’s the company you work for or your newfound love of biking. Take note of the aspects of your life that you want to cultivate long-term and focus your efforts there.

5-Year Goals

For Zuckerberg’s five-year plan he said,

“Over the next five years, our goals are around taking our next generation of services–Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Search–and helping them connect billions of people and become important businesses in their own right.” Zuckerberg continually uses the language “our goals are around.”

That begs the question—do you know what ideas your goals are around? What do you value most? This may not be your primary focus right now, but it will be in five years. Maybe in five years your goals are around getting a book published or starting a family. What can you do now to make solid investments toward that future?

Zuckerberg also mentioned plans to continue building on what the company is currently doing. He mentioned that just last month they finally completed the acquisition of Whatsapp. Facebook’s five-year plan has a lot to do with what’s happening at Facebook right now. The same is true for your life.

10-Year Goals

It’s pretty impressive that Facebook even has a ten-year plan. Ten years ago when Zuckerberg was a 20-year-old, could he have possibly “planned” where Facebook would be now? No matter how much the technology landscape can and will change, he can’t simply throw up his hands and say “well, there’s no way to plan for or predict the future that far down the road!” That’s business suicide. The same goes for you. You need to start dreaming and envisioning who you want to be in ten years today. It’s OK to be somewhat general and to center your vision on certain ideas you value. That’s kind of what Facebook is doing.

This is what Zuckerberg said:

“For the next 10 years our focus is on driving the fundamental changes in the world that we need to achieve our mission, connecting the whole world, understanding a world with big leaps in AIs, and developing the next generation of platforms, especially in computing.”

Facebook’s ten-year plan is focused on values-based decisions and “fundamental changes.” Zuckerberg envisions putting a lot of focus on one of his projects that will have a lasting legacy: internet.org. According to Zuckerberg, the internet.org app “provides free data access to a set of basic internet services for health, education, employment, and communication.” What will your legacy be? Begin thinking about this now.

Your goals and priorities probably looks pretty different than Zuckerberg's.  But approaching your career, personal life, and life’s purpose in a similar way will help you make decisions today that put you closer to the life you want to be living in the future.

Can you envision where you want to be in five years? What could you do today to contribute to that future? 

A version of this article first appeared on Levo League

10 Ways to Kick This Year in the Pants

Are you one of those mega motivated people who geek out on resolutions? Or maybe you're more of the skeptical, I-don't-want-to-disappoint-myself types who opts out—or maybe you like goals but aren’t into New Year’s resolutions because the date feels arbitrary. Either way, today I want to challenge you with ten ways you can start the year off with a BANG! If you could really do something about it, would you want this year to look different than last year? I have good news for you. YOU CAN!

You have 50 weeks left of this year. What will you do with them?

10 Ways to Kick Your Year in the Pants

1. Establish a Brain Trust. The truth is--you probably already have one. A Brain Trust is that go to personal board of directors who you seek out for advice when you're making big decisions, whose opinions you  weigh heavier than all the rest. Feel like your Brain Trust is a little too small? Seek out building relationships with people who you highly respect and value. You can also read all about the original Brain Trust in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

2. Make a list of things you want to learn this year. You've always wanted to _________. What just popped in your mind? Why not go for it this year? What's stopping you? Ok, at least search for Youtube videos about it, ok?

3. Use this epic process by Christine Hassler to get clear on what you want to co-create this year. There are the goals that you may have already penned (after all we're a solid two weeks into 2015) but then there are deeper hopes and values that you have for this year that you may not have fully articulated yet. I encourage you to walk through Christine's process of what you want to leave in 2014 and what you want to manifest in 2015. This exercise can bring a ton of clarity.

4. Make a list of books you want to read this year. If you're like me your stack of books to read seems like a never-ending tower. This year, make a list--that you can review regularly--of the books that you will read. Plug it in to your calendar like any other activity you highly value. I was so sad when I realized how few books I read last year. I so value reading and have a bookshelf full of books to conquer this year. I know myself. The way to make that happen is to get specific on my to do list. It will happen if I plug this goal into my calendar.

5. Follow 5 inspiring people on Twitter that you aren't already following. Use these incredible tools called social networks to grow your experience. Not sure who to follow? How bout Billy Porter, Greg McKeown, Tanner Christensen, Maria Popova, or C.S. Lewis?

6. Make a vision board on Pinterest. Hat tip to Camryn for making this great suggestion! Take your 2015 goals and find visuals for them on Pinterest. I just did this (after spending Saturday going through #3 on this) and the visual representation of my plans and hopes for the year is pretty exhilarating.

7. Reach out to someone you've admired from afar (whether acquaintance, stranger or other) and ask them to grab coffee or lunch. Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you've begun to establish a personal relationship with someone that you would like to know better.

8.Track your social media ROI. Every day take into account how your time on social media was spent, what the payoff was and what might have made you feel not so good. **Adjust accordingly.**

9. Get a pedometer of some kind and track your exercise. It's  so easy to *literally* hibernate in the winter. How bout you use this time where things are quiet and you're not pulled in a million directions to up your health and fitness game?

10. Commit to writing until you fill three pages each morning for 21 days. See how you feel about it afterward. I started doing this last fall when I journeyed through The Artist's Way. Guess what happened? I began to come up with idea after idea. One developed into a series of blogging workshops, and the other resulted in a side hustle that recouped its initial investment in three months. I'm not sure how to better convince you to write every morning.

What are you doing differently in 2015? What is your one big message for the world this year? What do you hope people remember about you?

Hilary is passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives. And if that happens through a performance on stage or through something she wrote, well then, she couldn't be happier.

8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me about Goal-Setting

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I've never been a runner. In fact some of my earliest memories are of being a 4-year-old on a soccer team at the Y and strongly wanting to just skip to the post-game reward of a Capri Sun and a snack cake.

I have no memory of running an entire mile until I was at least 26. Ironically, my dad was a collegiate track runner. I've always just firmly believed I didn't get that gene.

Last year I stood at the finish line and celebrated my dad and husband when they finished the Virginia 10-Miler. It was so exciting! Over the summer I got the idea that I wanted to run the Virginia 4-Miler, an abbreviated version of the 10-miler course. It would be no easy task as on the same day I'd also be doing two performances of The Little Mermaid. But I knew with months of preparation and planning, I could do it.  I modified a running plan so I'd have no problem with the 4 mile race on a two-show day--even though, at the start, running a mile without stopping was a real challenge.

My training was empowering, thought-provoking and hard. I was away from a screen for at least an hour in the middle of my morning--a big deal for this writer/social media manager. I was forced to unplug regularly. And that time on the trail got me thinking. Over the course of the ten weeks I learned some really valuable lessons.

8 Lessons I Learned on Goal-Setting By Training for the Virginia 4-Miler

1. If you have a goal that only takes you to achieve, the odds are very much in your favor. This goal wasn't up to anyone but me. Sure, things like injuries could have prevented my goal from coming to fruition. But a goal like this one was mainly in my control. It was just me and the road.

2. A big goal broken down bit by bit is not overwhelming. Check off what you need to do that day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Every week I simply had three days of running I had to accomplish. Whatever the plan said, I did. I just. kept. running.

3. To accomplish any goal you have to intrinsically desire to accomplish it. You can't be motivated by others. If your mom wants you to accomplish it or your boss wants you to accomplish it, that may be some incentive, but it's not going to get you across the finish line. You have to want it.

4. It's necessary to take into account other commitments and who else is affected by your goal. I knew I had to be serious about my training in order to be in good enough shape to run my race and then perform two shows in the same day. If I hadn't trained properly I might have injured myself or exhausted myself--affecting the entire performance. Remember that multiple aspects of your life are impacted by your goals.

5. When mental toughness and discipline are achieved in one area of life, it bleeds into other areas. Studies have proven that committed, disciplined runners also become disciplined in other areas of life. They eat more healthy and spend less. When you start to view yourself as someone you respect, you treat yourself better in other areas.

6. If you run in the morning you face the rest of your day already feeling like a winner. Accomplishing something right away in the morning empowers me to attack the rest of my day and expect great things to happen. I know that on days that I run I am more fully present with others  and invigorated to work with excellence.

7. It is empowering to choose your own label. I was never referred to as a "runner." Nobody ever told me I had my dad's "runner's build." But I trained and I ran a further distance than I ever anticipated that I could. In fact, I ran further. (The week before my race I ran 5 miles.) Deciding to become a runner and then doing it was pretty encouraging. What else could I decide to be or do?

8. A goal needs a specific "end by" date in order to be a goal and not just a dream. Hopes are great, but without a plan and a deadline they don't become a reality. I had to face the music on September 27, the day of the Virginia 4-Miler.

Doing anything challenging can be rewarding. C.S. Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." What lessons have you learned when you've set a goal and accomplished it?

Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.
Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.

My Top 12 Posts in Honor of HSL Creative's First Birthday

My 2nd birthday.
My 2nd birthday.

I’ve had a stunning revelation: HSL Creative, in its most recent incarnation, is officially ONE year old!

Cue the streamers, candles, and of course cake (my favorite.) In honor of our first birthday I thought I would share a countdown of the 12 most popular blog posts from the last year. (Get it? 1 for each month?)

Over the past year I’ve shared observations on social media trends, productivity hacks, career advice, information about our services, and even personal reflections about not living in a major city or overextending myself. So I give you the top 12 posts of our first year as voted by your clicks. So take a look, check out the ones you may have missed. And thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the journey.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ALL AROUND, I SAY!

Here’s to year 2. Cheers.

12. Finding Margin: Confessions of a Wayward Blogger Whether you're an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or an employee of a giant corporation, there are always priorities and choices to make. And sometimes we have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to great things.

11. 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation I have a war within me: lazy person vs. driven person. That conflict can easily manifest itself in procrastination. Here's some ways I combat it.

10. How to Launch Dual Careers I'm a passionate advocate of kicking the status quo in the face. If you are a soon to be college graduate, an early career professional, or just know in your gut it's time for a change, this post gives you the first steps to making the move to dual careers.

9. 10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing If you've wanted to get started freelance writing but you're not sure where to begin, this post gives you tips on how to get paid to write.

8. 6 Reasons Someone You know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge Why the heck did the Ice Bucket Challenge raise over $100 million? How did that happen? Here's some reasons it worked amazingly well.

7. 10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year Need a cheat sheet for social media etiquette and smart habits (like knowing your privacy settings)? Here ya go.

6. 10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too Don't really know what all we do here? Here are some of the most practical ways that organizations and individuals have used HSL Creative services in recent months.

5. 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client in Person Bottom line: in this incredible digital age where I (and many other people!) make a living by never seeing anyone in person--the face-to-face communication remains irreplaceable.

4. The #1 Reason I Feel Ok Even Though I Don't Live in a Major City My industries are media and the arts. Of COURSE, I have a desire to be in a major city where patrons and potential clients flock. But here's why I think this small city life has been GREAT for me and my career.

3. 6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams Grad school gets a lot of flack in creative fields. "It's not worth the money," they say. "You're avoiding the real world," they say. Well, I say it was the exact right move for me. Here's why.

2. Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year? Do you ever feel like you've become a little too attached to your technology? Do you twitch when you accidentally leave your phone in your car? Have you never left your phone in your car because you always make certain it's on your person? This one's for you.

And drumroll please...the most popular post of the last year is....

1. 5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time Did you retweet it? Do you know exactly which one I'm talking about? What makes us take part in viral activity online? These are a few of my observations from both academically and professionally studying people and their social media habits.

There ya have it! My 12 most read posts of the 1st year of HSL Creative. Do me a huge favor and comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with some feedback on what kind of posts you'd like to see more of in the future. I'm listening!

10 Quick Tips to Increase Productivity

Increasing productivity is beneficial to any worker. Maybe it means you get to leave right at 5 pm, maybe it means you add more value to your company, maybe it means you get a 4-day work week instead of a 5. (Wouldn't that be nice!)  As a freelancer who only gets paid when I complete a project, productivity is everything for me. So today I'm sharing 10 ways to boost your productivity to get more done.

1. Minimize alerts. Put your phone on sleep mode and close out unnecessary tabs on your browser. The fewer alerts you receive the less likely you are to get sidetracked onto social media, an email or a text message. 

2. Batch similar tasks. Don't try to do three or four items on your to do list at once. Group similar tasks and knock em out together.

3. Have set days for lunches and meetings with colleagues and friends. It's easy for me to accidentally zap the productivity out of my day by scheduling an off site meeting or lunch several days out of the week. Instead, identify certain days for these meetings. This is a huge time saver.

4. Set certain times to check email throughout the day. Instead of stopping every 5 to 10 minutes to read a new email keep your email browser closed and check it at certain times of the day. This is a guaranteed way to minimize distractions. 

5. Plot out 3 or less important tasks to get done each day at the end of the day before. Keep this list ambitious but practical.This gives you a game plan at the start of each day. You know what's most important and it's plausible to get it done. 

6. After a phone call or a meeting with a manager or client shoot them a quick summary email to make sure you’re both on the same page regarding action items, next steps and deadlines. It can be very frustrating to have stalled progress because team members are not on the same page. Keep the momentum moving forward by creating an action list. 

7. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work in 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Use a physical timer, stopwatch or even the digital version on your smartphone or computer.

8. Don’t go to inbox zero just for the sake of being at inbox zero. This can be a real time waster.

9. Live and die on deadlines. Take a cue from the efficient world of journalism. Assign deadlines to everything. An item without a deadline becomes a zombie project--a project that's not exactly dead but not exactly alive. Keep that ball rolling by giving yourself a deadline. 

10. Keep a birds eye view 3 week calendar accessible and a 7-day detailed calendar accessible on your desktop. This shows you what's coming down the pipe so you're not surprised by any deadlines in a week or two while simultaneously showing you how you're going to execute your work over the next week. I've found this to be the most productive calendar views.

If you like this kind of post you may also like a previous post I wrote: 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation.

7 Hacks for Shaking Off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation

We’ve all been residents of ProcrastiNation at one point or another.

You know that place--the comfortable land that assures us it’s better to enjoy a Scandal marathon on Netflix than to prepare for that big presentation we’re giving on Friday or begin working toward that impending deadline.

So how do you snap out of it? Here are a few techniques that I’ve employed to help me get stuff done as a solopreneur.

1. Break big projects up into multiple small projects and assign mini deadlines. A large project becomes much more doable when it’s broken up into chunks.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work. Don’t check email. Don’t answer a text. Just work for 25 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break. Repeat. I use this technique to make myself focus when it is near impossible. This helps me pump out work for at least 25 minutes. Because I know there is a break in sight I can focus and be productive.

3. Batch similar tasks. I first heard of this technique in The 4-Hour Work Week. Multitasking is a myth. It is difficult for your brain to switch between different tasks so get more done by doing similar tasks at the same time regularly. For example: I do 90% of my social media work for a certain client on Fridays. Every Friday I just knock it out.

4. Color code that calendar. Make deadlines pop. You don’t want to be surprised by a deadline because you overlooked it. I keep my calendar on a 3-week view which is really helpful for knowing what’s coming up beyond the immediate.

5. Get up and move at least once every two hours. Since I work from home I check the mail around noon. Even just this small task lets me change my focus briefly and stretch my legs. When I come back to my desk I have a renewed focus. Plus they say sitting kills you.

6. Meditate and/or pray. One prayer that I review every day is “Lord, help me to wisely use my resources of money, time and hard work.”

7. Exercise regularly (5 days a week is a great goal). I had pretty much fallen off the exercise bandwagon late last year and I came back to it in January with gusto. It has been amazing how many great ideas have come to me when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical machine. I don’t exactly know the science behind it but it really works for me.

What do you do to snap out of procrastination? And how GREAT does it feel when you’ve accomplished something significant?