My Quick Affairs with Productivity Apps

In the ever-growing technological environment of our world, or rather, my corner of the world, I have been mostly welcoming when it comes to new advances and programs that are designed to make our lives easier. I mean this in terms of organization and planning, and not in terms of being able to keep tabs on someone at all hours of the day or having a refrigerator that opens by itself, among many other uses of course.

When I’m feeling scatterbrained or unorganized (usually both), I venture out to blogs and articles from experts to peruse “must have” apps for getting one’s life together, and most of the time head to my phone or tablet’s app store with high hopes. After weeding out the expensive (not free) apps, I settle on downloading maybe one or two and then think: Wow! This is great – I’ll never be unorganized again!

Social Media Apps - Flickr User Jason HowieIt’s thrilling to find an app (remember, I’m talking about organizational and related apps, not your typical social media, Snapchat apps)  that does exactly what you want it to do, and even more thrilling (for me) when it’s free. This does impose a limit on some programs (is that an outdated word?), and rightly so I suppose as those developer geniuses are definitely worth more than *free*, but for the most part, the primary functions are accessible even if you opt out of paying for upgrades and more involved versions.

From the existence of this post, you may infer that I have done this more than once, and you would most certainly be correct. No matter how rigid I am with myself about getting in a routine and using the new platforms I have set up for myself, I can never seem to really stick with anything new. And if you’re thinking I spend too much time doing this, I’ll let you in on something: this never lasts for more than two days. By the time I remember to plan with the app I downloaded three days ago, two weeks, six blog posts and many Twitter and Instagram posts have been published. So here is a list of those apps I was really invested in for five minutes, and which I still think have excellent potential for keeping one’s life together, just not mine. Maybe they will help you, or maybe you will take comfort in the fact that there are people out there who also just stick to basic strategies.

Trello
Oh beautiful Trello, you were just what I needed until I forgot you were there. With your color coding, list making, easy to use organizer, and other functions, you are what planning dreams are made of. I made categories for each social media account and each blog section for post reminders and planning ahead purposes. With handy To Do, Doing, and Done lists, I could attach the photo or photos I used, a due date and a summary of what the post would be, as well as keep track of myself throughout the weeks, but alas, you were forgotten even though I placed you on the first page of apps on my phone. I do wish to pick you back up again, but don’t want to raise your hopes too high.

Evernote
I’m not sure why an elephant is the chosen image for you, although now I’m thinking about the saying “An elephant never forgets,” so maybe that’s it? Either way, it drew me in among your productivity tools for about one day of classes in college. I just couldn’t understand the difference between you and my love OneNote which came with the Microsoft Word programs on my tablet – unnecessary duplication of programs does not lead me on the path of organization and productivity, it just leaves me more scrambled and in need for more organization, so Evernote, you had to go.

Flipboard
I didn’t have any say in your existence on my devices, and although I gave you a try, you are more of a time waster for me, especially since I am obviously interested in all of the categories of news and articles you offer and can’t just pick two or three; I already look at too many BuzzFeed and news announcements on my social timelines, I can’t go looking for more elsewhere. Although you are an excellent aggregator Flipboard, I must leave you to remain unopened and just simply existing.

Hootsuite for Twitter & Social
Perhaps my blog/online persona isn’t large enough to warrant you, Hootsuite, but more than that, I think our online world is moving too fast for the kind of scheduling you assist with. A handful of my blog and social media posts are written and planned ahead of time, but are usually revised or heavily edited at the time of publishing, and sometimes the information is no longer relevant enough to be put out in the world wide web. I cannot deny your success with others, however, and your social media tips are appreciated by me, but I cannot get on board with using your app and tools, no matter how darling your owl is.

 

There are others in my failed-use repertoire, like Google Calendar (ugh, your synchronization and switching between calendars takes up way too much of my time), Any.do: TO-Do List & Task List, and Sticky Note (so many beautiful colors, so much visual chaos), although I should mention successful trials of apps, like Snapseed for photos: dreamy, beautiful filters, photo editing tools, and most importantly ease of use; Goodreads, which I gush about every chance I get (I am talking about the app, although the website is brilliant too) because of its bookish organization; and the simple Memo pad on my phone which allows me to simply write down thoughts and forget about them or use them in the future, no bells and whistles about it.

img_20151006_101357.jpgSo what do I primarily use to keep organized? My good old planner, people. No, not a digital one. A beautiful, customized version, currently from Plum Paper, for which I purchased colorful pens and markers to color code and organize my life in the one place I actually look. I won’t ever underestimate the value of a paper planner; I don’t know why I have such a hard time using digital organizational tools – it seems harder to me, almost. And it probably has a lot to do with customization. While flexible, apps have their limits, and with my physical planner, limits hardly exist. As for to-do lists, I opted for a planner with space for these, complete with check mark boxes, note pages, and sections for goal making and things to remember. It’s absolute bliss.

I hope that even if you can’t stand to think of using a paper planner (I’ll always recommend this first), I at least gave you a couple of app ideas you may not have heard of, although if you are more about the app organization world you probably know way more than I do. No matter how you do it, stay organized, my friends!Apps

Sunday Morning Thoughts: A Most Heinous Act

For too short a time – a little less than one full semester – I worked at the most beautiful library in Maine. Actually, it’s the largest research library in the state, and is always a place I return to when I visit my alma mater. I worked in the reference section; some may know it as the room with all the computers on the first floor. At the start of every shift, I got to see what people had been researching in the hours between my last and current shifts, and then return the materials to their corresponding shelves, tables, or find someone to correctly put back a map.

Also on my to-do list was to take a trip to Acquisitions, and this was my favorite task. I would employ a rattly metal cart and ride an elevator up to the mystical land of Acquisitions; past shelves of materials being preserved (some looked like they were being put back together) and through a door to the quiet cubicled area of materials’ origins. There, I collected the book jackets of newly acquired novels, biographies, reference materials, and foreign language texts. Sometimes I needed three or four boxes, sometimes they wouldn’t fill half a box. But I would bring them back down to the reference desk where they were to be transformed for their next purpose.

My first time doing this, I was unaware of the heinous act I would afterwards be inclined to carry out. Since the hardcover books on the shelves of this historic haven are displayed in all of their hardcover glory, the book jackets are put on display in glass cabinets, as a “see what’s new” or a historical anniversary promotional tool for those interested patrons. To get the little coats on their stands, the face has to be removed from the spine and the back with scissors. I stared in horror as my supervisor – the sweetest woman in the world – showed me exactly how to execute the dismemberment, trying to comfort me with “I know it seems horrible, but you’ll come to terms with it.” I felt the first slow slice in my heart, but with each cut thereafter, felt less and less remorse by forming the following logic.

I’m actually preserving the artwork, imagery, obvious title and author reference, and pristine (kind of) state of these jackets, because if they were left on, they would most likely get stolen, ripped, or hurt beyond belief. And honestly, this just prevents any biased judgments that stem from a first glance at the cover, possibly preventing a book from being read. Yes, this is the worse injustice.

So while I have gotten in the habit of removing the book jackets from my own hardcover tomes as I’m reading, I do place them back on. Perhaps if there’s ever a day I settle in one place with a majestic library, I’ll permanently remove them to maintain a look of character and primitivity, although I’ll just keep the jackets in a box or in a display case – fully intact.

 

Forest Safety

Not to save money, not because they were scarce, and not just as a fun activity; but for preparation. If you have never made anything that you either used right away or saved for later, you’re truly missing out. On what, you ask? You’ll know once the “thing” is made – but it includes patience and determination of the most rewarding kind.

In this case, I’m talking about matches. No, I didn’t make the matches; those were purchased. I, along with my dad and mom, enhanced them; took moisture-beckoning, undependable matches and turned them into water resistant lifesavers. The special ingredient? Wax.

Although my parents had this knowledge tucked away already, waiting to release it onto me, I first learned this trick in my Hunter’s Safety Course. I also learned that the matches would fit in an old shell casing (cool!) or an empty square Altoids tin (this was how I stored mine). In that Altoids tin I added my tinfoil – saving space was key. This was one of my favorite parts: strategically packing the necessities into something smaller than the smallest purse I use now, and still being able to zip it shut without a struggle. Ah, the satisfaction.


I used to wish that we would get lost in the woods. I know, I know, that sounds dark but it truly isn’t – and if Donn Fendler happens to be reading this, I mean no disrespect. Let me start again…

My imaginative, exploratory childhood brain use to wish that we would get lost in the woods. I would finally be able to use what was in my pack, and of course I would know what to do right away – thanks imagination. I could build a shelter (I already had done this out of sticks and spruce tree bows at home for the past couple of winters), and clear a spot in the snow and build a fire with my matches, and I think I had flint too. Oh, don’t worry dad, my 10 year old self can handle this, you just write a journal entry in the back of my Safety Guide and ration out our chocolate, water, and granola. If we were out there for more than a couple of days, I would start looking for squirrels – yes, to eat – to keep up our stamina. Eventually, when we ran out of fun, I would use the compass my grandfather gave me along with my dad’s knowledge of the land and we would walk back to camp.

I’ve known since I have known things that it would be difficult for me to get lost in the woods [at camp]. I’ve been in them so much, and my grandfather and dad and uncles and cousins longer; and as you can imagine from my carefully thought out scenario above this was a little disappointing to me. Although I also know that if we had gotten lost in the woods I would have been terrified. I would be the one writing an end-of-the-world journal entry in the back of my Safety Guide while my dad did everything necessary.

I still have everything that I put into that pack, and most if it may even still be inside; my dad’s childhood handwriting on the side of the fluorescent orange exterior, stating his name and address. I haven’t strapped it to my side over my camo and orange fleece vest in quite some time, but the imagination I carried is still with me, although it’s a little more work to summon these days.

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Sunday Morning Thoughts – Creativity and the Workplace

Another week of the good ‘ol 9-5 is set to begin, or in my case, some 7-4’s, 8:00-4:30s, and maybe even a 7:30-6:30. My position as a copywriter is one I am proud of; my creative aspirations are paying off and I get to tap into the exuberant parts of my mind that I cherish so much. I won’t lie and say everyday is like peaches and cream – sometimes I encounter dull tasks, or things I really hate doing, but that’s life right? Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how writers and others in creative fields sometimes have difficulty adjusting to that “9 to 5” office life. There are a few articles out in the world that discuss this. There’s one I don’t wholly agree with (I know a lot of people who lean far from the creative side who would like to work less and get paid more), one that talks about how to manage your creativity in order to be successful, and another that I particularly enjoy reading, usually just for reassurance that I’m not alone (thanks, Bustle).

I was always pretty free in regards to working on schoolwork in college. There were, of course, deadlines I had to meet and material I had to study, but outside of that one or two hours of class time (per course) I could manage my time any way I wanted over a number of days or even weeks. Some of this has stayed the same, but some has changed, and I’m still adjusting to the world of set work hours during the day, and how my own mind and soul is reacting to this. Here are some examples of what I mean:

I am a morning person. And not just a “I like waking up in the morning to enjoy an hour of two in my own company” type of morning person. That part of me is usually reserved for weekends or days off. I’m talking about being a morning person in the sense that I like getting everything done in the morning. My work, any appointments, exercise, apartment cleaning, and anything else I need to accomplish for the day. The “cleaning” item usually gets moved to the evenings on weekdays, which I don’t mind so much. The first two, however, tend to contradict each other in disastrous ways. I like getting to work early because those are the hours I am most motivated and most productive. Lunch always interrupts this; it takes time for me to mentally come back from lunch to take on the afternoon. When my mornings are full of appointments and meetings, I always dread the afternoon, sure to be void of any creative thoughts – especially when I have a lot of work to do.

It’s difficult for me to walk away and then come back from a troubling or stumping task, because my “effective walk a way” time is a day, or days. This hasn’t been a real problem in my most recent professional life, but it can be if [read: when] I procrastinate. This was true for many college assignments, as in many cases I only had less than 24 hours to finish a paper or piece of writing, and didn’t have time to waste in deliberating for a day or two about the content.

Sometimes I need to get an idea out immediately. An idea for this blog or for a story, and I can’t take three hours out of the work day to do this. I quickly jot it down in my notebook and try to focus on anything but that idea. This is grueling.

The fourth biggest trial I face is getting ideas for work after hours, when I’ve left for the day and have been home for an extended period of time. I’ll get bursts of inspiration and have to settle with writing them down in my work notebook in hopes I’ll remember what on earth I was thinking about the next day when I return. My mind is constantly reeling, but it’s not always in the bounds of a “standard” work day or week.

My ideal job set up would be a few set hours during the week, and then being able to cherry pick which days I’m there for longer and which days I’m there for only a few hours, or not at all, but with a little more structure than some freelance positions set up (I’m not picky, I’m particular). I wonder if there will ever come  a time when the employees’ working needs will be thought of when in that interview the employer tells the prospective employee what the working hours will be; “let’s do a trial run to see how you work and during which hours you are most productive, and then we can go from there.” This may sound flighty or flaky to those not in a primarily creative field or those used to or those who love the “9 to 5,” but I promise I only have the productiveness of the place I enjoy going to everyday regardless of how my creative juices are flowing in mind.

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Natural Energy

The fresh blue sky is covered with wispy white clouds, creating a plush and somewhat oceanic covering that could later turn to an angry storm, or just continue being overcast. I can see just the tops of the trees that line the opposite side of the stream bank; a stream I can’t see now but know is there. The green, rounded tops – accented by ragged, leafless branches of one individual tree – appear dark against the light blue and white fluff of the sky . Why is it that these colors are so soothing, so incredibly calming?

A bird is chattering, unseen although very much heard. I know very little, a.k.a. next to nothing about birds and their calls. This one sounds like a squeaky chair; the squeaks are short and come one right after the other. No companion seems to answer, and now the calling has stopped. Unless the bird wasn’t calling in the first place – rather it was just singing, or enjoying the sound of its own voice. Humans are not so different  in this respect, you know. Ah, the birdcall continues.

These sights and sounds are more precious in the morning hours; they have been nearly untouched and unaltered by the furthering of the day. Of course, I’m mainly talking about humankind here, but this also involves wildlife not yet out of their slumber. What may have been gaunt and indistinguishable in the nighttime hours is now fully presented to the eye and ear, and can be comprehended by the brain. What may not be fully noticed during the chaos of the day can be fully taken in over a cup of coffee and makes a wondrous distraction from a book or piece of writing. That glowing yellow orb is doing its best to appear through the milky sky, perhaps it feels that everything below needs to be a little more warm and bright today, but of course it may not feel that at all – can a massive star feel and act upon feelings? No, most likely not.

As the sun gets brighter and more distinguished among the opaque sky above, I get restless and feel a tugging at my body to get up and do something. The sun is funny that way. I’m perfectly content to be calm and still while the clouds cast a still and sometimes dreary sensation down onto the earth, but the sun’s energy inspires that within my body, and so I must find something to do. Even if it’s just looking back down at the pages of my book and pouring another cup of coffee; that bird has stopped calling, perhaps it’s preoccupied with the tasks of the day.

 

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Resolutions/Happy New Year

*This post appeared on my original blog on January 4th, 2015 – It has been edited slightly and includes an addendum

I cannot believe it’s already the beginning of a new year. I am excited for what 2015 will bring me, and I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving 2014 behind.

2014 was by far one of the most challenging, life changing, happiest, saddest, reflective, adult-like years of my life. From dealing with heartbreak and new romance; getting rejected from my two top Grad programs and then getting accepted into my third; graduating from UMaine and realizing just how much I am going to miss the college of my heart always;

finding an apartment on Long Island and realizing Orono is a bubble in which rent is very cheap; moving hundreds of miles away to a place where I knew only one person; starting Grad school with brand new professors and taking on a subject I hadn’t fully realized I knew very little about; meeting new and amazing people (I can’t stress the importance of this one enough); seeing places I can’t wait to go back and see again;

turning 22; having a pre-quarter life crisis and becoming overwhelmed with making decisions; finally deciding that journalism is not what I want to pursue, and then freaking out in a “then what the hell am I doing here” kind of fashion;

losing Madelyn; gaining Marley; wishing I wasn’t so broke so I could hold off moving back to Maine and continue living close to a city I’ve been in love with my entire life; starting to feel happy to be geographically closer to my family and friends when moving back to Maine;

losing my grandmother (I’ve written about this, and although those three words don’t do my feelings and her memory justice, my other posts and discussions do);

moving back to Maine, trying to find a job and then finding one I am qualified for; getting to spend the holidays with my family and seeing friends I haven’t seen in a long time; and truly realizing how fortunate and happy I am with how my life is turning out. This year has been trying, uplifting, off-putting, and most importantly: enlightening.

I do have two primary resolutions in mind: stay fit and eat healthier/cleaner foods. But there are other parts of my life I want to improve upon, so here they are.

~ Spend way more time with my sister.
~ Save my money for the future, because although I would love to have that handbag right now, I want to be able to live and play without worrying about running out of money.
~ Be honest about my feelings and desires, and not afraid to say what’s on my mind.
~ Submit my writing for publication. I will make 2015 the year I get up the courage to submit my writing in a large scale, not just every now and then.
~ Read before bed. I would say “read as much as possible,” but resolutions usually stick better when they include specific instructions.
~ Drop the habit of falling asleep with the television/Netflix on. I developed this habit in college, and believe it contributes to my poor sleeping patterns. Also, the above resolution provides me with a positive alternative for pre-sleep activity.
~ Spend way more time with my friends and family. Whether we go out or stay in, that time spent is so valuable to me and keeps me sane.
~ Take more pictures. An annoying amount. I have fallen out of this habit, and would like to fall back in.

I hope you have made some serious resolutions, and wish you the best of luck in keeping them through the end of the year and beyond. Here’s to a new year, new adventures and new revelations that I hope bring you happiness. Happy New Year!

Addendum:
I had forgotten about these resolutions, or that I had made them. Since the year is more than halfway over, I thought this was a good post to return to as I browsed my old blog. I have been able to stick to these resolutions, some more intensely than others, and I am happy about that. Although I still need to improve greatly in some areas (I still fall asleep with the TV on most nights), I am okay with the progress I have made with others. Okay? Hmmm, this bothers me. This has bothered me for some time, “okay.” My more-than-halfway-through-the-year resolution: don’t settle for okay.