How To // Be a Productivity Ninja

Back by popular demand, this article was originally posted in August 2014. #throwback

At my day job, my number one responsibility is to take care of my sales team. I am blessed to work with one of the most energetic, hungry, happy & most awesome group of people I can imagine, most of whom happen to be in college. My role as the mama bear (mAMaBEaR) of the pack means that I not only coach them through the day-to-day administrative challenges we face, but to help develop them into better humans. I am there to set them up to win. At work & in life.

So when I can show them what a mail merge is, how to sort a table on Excel or how to properly shake hands, I know I'm bettering them for the future & that makes me feel good.

This world moves faster than ever before. If you want to run with the big dogs, you have to learn to work smarter, so you can utilize your brain power towards BIG WINS as opposed to getting dragged down by the minutia of rewriting to-do lists. With the technology we all have access to, there is no excuse for inefficiency.

Whether you're on my sales team, starting your own business, or want to improve the day-to-day management of your life, use these tools to better yourself now.

Gmail // If you have an AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo email address, I judge you. Sorry about it.

Google Calendar & Week Cal // More & more often, when I see people writing- with a pen- into a daily planner- in a book- I want to take it out of their hands & smack them upside the head with it. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! When you set up your Gmail account, you get an extra treat- Google Calendar. If you have a work email account through Outlook, use it. Start scheduling yourself, please. Scheduling means you can't forget. Invite your friends & co-workers to drinks, dinners, vacations & meetings by sending them calendar reminders. Set yourself alarms before your highlight & haircut instead of having 13 appointment cards in your wallet. When you manage your time well, you have a better chance of showing up on time to your appointments, which is the only acceptable way to live. You'll stop forgetting birthdays, since you'll set your BFF's birthday on a yearly repeat with a 7 day alarm reminder, which means you'll be a better friend. Use the Week Cal app to seamlessly merge all of your calendars into one. I've tried all of the calendar apps, and trust me- Week Cal is the best one. I use this so my work & personal life can be viewed on one screen & I like mine to default to the month at a glance page and I input when my paydays are, when bills are due, when I get my period- everything.

Look at that- download one app & your friends will love you more, you'll improve your credit score & never miss a mani-pedi appointment again. I'm already changing your life. Read on, young grasshoppers.

Lift or Streaks // If you are trying to change your life, you do so by taking small steps & mini actions in the right direction. A repeated mini action becomes a habit. Habits become your identity. Pick a small, easy to accomplish task that you need to get done each day. Maybe it's 50 kettle bell swings or a 20 minute run or submitting a report to your boss. Or maybe it's remembering to tell your girlfriend she's beautiful. Whatever it is, this will remind you to do it everyday, and just get it done. The thing that is awesome about this method is that over time, seeing all of the days in a row you've done your habit start to serve as a motivation.. you want to keep your streak going! Don't get caught up in lofty goals, just set small, achievable action items for each day. And use these apps to motivate you to keep going. Good habits help you be a bad ass automatically, so start them today.

The Skimm // Most news is NOISE. Nancy Grace is NOISE. Dr. Drew is NOISE. News channels are NOISE. There is a lot of gnarly stuff going on in the world. Things we should be aware of. Do not live in a bubble, but don't overwhelm yourself by trying to filter through the bullshit to get to the meat of the issues. I LOVE The Skimm for giving me a tongue-in-cheek peek out of my La Jolla bubble, delivering the news in a fairly unbiased, easy to digest format. You'll get an email every morning that highlights what's happening out there. And it's a good ego check. Oh, bad hair day? ISIS has driven a group of Iraqi's out of their towns to the edge of a cliff. Put on a hat, stay informed & be humbled. 

Feedly // To expand on managing the news you are exposed to, follow blogs in your industry or your interest base to get better at your job & at life. Organize the blogs that actually matter to you by managing them in Feedly. When Google Reader was laid to rest I literally tried EVERY news aggregator & this was by far the best one. Bloggers hold a hold a huge amount of power in their ability to post rapidly & give feedback in real time; never be late on a trend again & keep yourself up to date.

Evernote // If you use Evernote I automatically like you 10% more. This cloud-based software is designed for note-taking, list-making & world domination. Access your lists/notes from any computer or your smart phone. I jot down my dreams, take secret notes of things my friends say they like so Christmas shopping is easier, record the maintenance I've done on my car, inspirational quotes, what my next blog post will be, etc. Instead of post-its & miscellaneous notebooks, archive your brain in a more organized fashion. 

PassDiary // If you're like me, your biggest nightmare is the password requirement that looks like this: Your password must have 4 upper-case letters, 3 symbols, 18 numbers & the letter q. With the 10 million online accounts we all have to manage, keep all of your login information, passwords, account numbers & access codes in one safe/secure place. 

Power Hours // Magic happens when you give all of your attention to one task for a set period of time. We can't sustain 8 hours of laser-like focus, our brains would explode. So in my office, when deadlines are tight & we need to #dowork, we have power hours. One hour a day where the 80s pop music gets turned UP & we JAM & focus & POWER through. We give it our all. And at the end of that hour, we stretch, jump, lunge, get silly, or just leave for the day. Or if we can't 'power hour' as a group, one team member will sit away from the phones, in a secluded spot & jam HIIT style. 20 minutes of focus, 5 min break, 20 minutes of focus, 5 min break, repeat until complete. (This is called the Pomodoro Method.) Ask any one of my team members- our productivity is insane during power hour & the music is always the best. 

Prioritize // You need to make a list of what needs to get done. Just do it. If you don't you'll be floundering all day. Then you need to rank the items on your list from most important & most urgent to least important & least urgent. Use the Covey Quadrants. You need to consider that big projects often need to be broken down into smaller chunks that can be delegated or focused on later. 

Take care of yourself // Here I am-standing on my soapbox. I truly believe that I would not be as productive or happy or energetic without eating really well, working our HARD & getting enough sleep. Honestly, don't underestimate the power of good food, especially during the work day. Healthy food with adequate protein & fats will keep your brain functioning at an optimal level. Staying hydrated is going to help your eyeballs from drying out and will keep the functions of your body operating efficiently. Exercise is going to burn off excess movement energy & will exhaust your body physically so you can sleep more soundly at night.  And I don't have to tell you about the difference you feel on a Monday morning after a 48 hour bender vs 2 restful nights of sleep. If you're a boozehound but need to be productive cool it for a month & let me know how good you feel after. I'm serious.

Chill // Working in the red zone all the time is awesome if you want to die of a heart attack at 33. Work hard so you can live hard, and don't live to work. The thing that's great about working hard is you really appreciate time you have to relax SO MUCH MORE. It feels better when it's earned. Your cocktails taste better when they're a treat, not a staple in your diet. We're on this earth for a short time & get one crack at this life. So use the time you have wisely. Working is necessary for most of us in order to support our lifestyles, dreams, aspirations. So leverage the time you have to get the most out of what you put in by working smarter. You won't need to work longer hours if you spend the 8 you have in the office wisely. 

And honestly, in comparison to most people, if you're following these tactics & continue to pursue optimal efficiently, your productivity output will be far and above your co-workers & competitors... so while I'm all for improving all humans, it's up to you if you chose to share these tips with a friend or if you decide to keep them for yourself. Just go be a rockstar.

xoA

Follow Friday // The Skinny Confidental

So last week we talked about being a blog n00b… if you don’t have your Feedly account set up yet, get to it, because this week I have your first blog to follow! This one is going to rock your world.

I’m pumped to introduce you to Lauryn from The Skinny Confidential! Have you heard of her yet? Surely, you have? She’s been a mainstay in the So-Cal Blogging world for a while. Let me tell you why this lady gets my first Follow Friday nomination. Lauryn Keeps. It. Real.

 Lauryn from The Skinny Confidential 

Lauryn from The Skinny Confidential 

The Backstory

So I’m chatting with a friend of mine about bloggers/Instagrammers with super-styled photos, clothing sponsors and more Celine bags than you can shake a stick at, and she drops this bomb on me: 

“I can’t look at their Instagram accounts. They just make me feel bad about myself.”

So here’s the thing. I can totally relate.

I never actually verbalized or even fully formed this thought in my own head, but the truth is, this massive feeling of inadequacy keeps me from fully trusting or aligning myself with women that are writing aspirational blogs featuring super bright shiny photos of their ultra-glam jet setting lives. They make me feel skeptical and envious.

This is not the type of lady I want to be.

And then, the universe drops this blog in my lap.

Lauryn’s article about the “Blogger Façade” was the hockey-style shoulder check that I needed. What the hell am I doing feeling inadequate, hating on women that are doing well? Looking at people thinking “Oh, your life must be so easy, look how many pairs of shoes you have!” Umm... no.  This was just the reminder I needed to remember that we’re all in this together.

 Style and substance on TSC.... There is always more than meets the eye.

Style and substance on TSC.... There is always more than meets the eye.

On the surface, The TSC Blog looks like it could be one of those super-gloss lifestyle blogs but it’s’ really not. It’s about living a healthy, rich and beautiful life. It's honest. It's real. Lauryn writes in a true voice, her tone is light, easy to digest and always informative. Here is a sampling of some of my favorite articles from The TSC:

Supermodel Skinny Secrets, aka A Spoonful of Magic.

Kombucha + Champagne = amazingness. (Since I’m coolin’ it on the booze, I’ve been drinking Kombcha + sparkling water mocktails while watching RHOBH. Still amazing.)

Take a peek into her ultra-chic home & nab some decorating ideas.

Tips for Grabbing Life by The Balls.

Lauryn is the real deal. And she’s someone who is Just Doin’ It, and doing it well! Add her to your Feedly List & subscribe! You’ll thank me later.

 A dog tee-pee? That's my kind of girl. 

A dog tee-pee? That's my kind of girl. 

The spirit of THIS site and my mission in general is to unite fabulous people everywhere, so we can all get better together. So keep checking back every Friday for more recommendations of ladies we can all learn a little somethin-somethin from!

xoA

All photos posted with extreme respect // borrowed from Lauryn's blog, The Skinny Confidential.

Follow Friday // How to Follow Blogs

How to Follow Blogs

Blogs have seriously changed. my. life.

I am better, faster, stronger, funnier, smarter thanks to all of the blogs I’ve read over the past few years. The more I talk about blogs with friends, the more I realize that avid blog readers are few and far between, and that many people seem to have the perception that following blogs means remembering and manually typing in URLs to check and see if someone has updated their page!

That’s not the case, cuties!

Technology has made it so easy for you to keep up with your favorite writers/bloggers by way of RSS.

What is RSS?

Drop this knowledge at work to sound extra impressive: RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” and is a way that blogs can broadcast content to their subscribers. Subscribers usually get their content in an aggregator, which is called a ‘reader.’ That’s what I’m going to set you up with today. In your reader, you’ll have a queue of all the new articles from your favorite bloggers.

Think of different blogs as different channels, RSS as the wavelength on which TV programs are beamed to your screen, the ‘reader’ as your TV and your queue as the world’s best collection of DVR’d shows!

RIP Google Reader, Viva Feedly

Since the death of Google Reader, I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs. It is without question my most used app/Chrome extension/website and my number one recommendation for a blog aggregator. Feedly syncs across all platforms (Mac, PC, iPhone, Andriod, tablet, etc.) and is the most visually organized and easy to use system. I usually manually add blogs I like by copying the root URL into the “Add Content” button and organize them into categories that make sense to me.

What is Bloglovin’?

Bloglovin’ is another place to aggregate your favorite blogs so you can go to one site and browse through all the new posts for blogs you love. Same idea as Feedly and also available across multiple platforms. The one thing about Bloglovin’ that I’m not lovin’ is that you have to click through from the site to each individual blog site to read a posts, instead of reading within the reader. Good for the bloggers, as we get a visit from you to our site, but kind of annoying for readers.

The Old School Option

If you’re already getting 10,000 emails a day like I am, this might be overwhelming, but another option is to subscribe to blogs via email. You can click the RSS Feed Icon on any page and one of the options that will come up is to follow via email. Articles for all the blogs you subscribe to will get sent to your inbox every time there is a new post.

If you’re using Microsoft Outlook like the majority of corporate America, you can have your subscription feed to a separate RSS folder. I suggest using this function to subscribe to industry blogs so you’re always on top of your game and can focus on work when you’re at work. Don’t be a slacker.

Subscriptions are the ultimate Blogger compliment! So if you like what you see here, please subscribe!

While subscription services like Feedly and Bloglovin’ will set you up with recommendations to get started, every Friday I’m going to feature bloggers I can’t live without so you can compile your list too! Get your reader set up and check back next Friday for some sweet blogs to fill it up with!

xoA