This time of year, every venue offers you tips to organize your life, improve your situation, save money, save time, lose weight and be happier. Most advice involves buying more, doing more, or finding time and labor-intensive ways to do more with less. Let me offer another option … LESS.
Period. Own less. Do less. Be responsible for less. Enjoy life more.
Collectors vs. Hoarders
Organizational fanatics usually collect lots of things, but they keep everything organized, so they fool themselves it’s somehow better than hoarding. I still struggle with organizational delusions. That stopped when I started to notice how much of my life was being absorbed by organizing, maintaining, and handling all my many “things.”
Now, I’m taking action.
I’m creating a better 2013 for myself by eliminating things. I’ll always write long-hand in addition to my digital creations. I will always swoon at the smell of ink and paper, run my hand over sheaves of nice stationery, and want to take every writing utensil I see for a test drive. I know this about myself, so I’m learning to work with it instead of against it.
Being a writer and a tech geek means I collect more “stuff” than most. Paper, pens, pencils, desk supplies, cords, chargers, accessories and ways to carry, store, and organize it all thrills me! It is my biggest hurdle. Once I started paying attention, I realized I always reach for the rollerball in my purse when jotting notes and I always reach for my special fountain pen when I’m at my desk. All my other handwriting implements remain untouched.
When on the road, I reach for the best no-tangle charge cord for my phone/tablet and the small, most powerful charger block – so why do I sort through the dozen or so that collect in my computer bag and purse? I always grab one tech bag … so why do I own a slew of them? Some girls have shoe collections; mine are books, writing implements and tech gadgets. I own two laptops and a desktop, but always grab the same light-weight ultrabook, even when I’m working at home.
Rather than having a dozen notebooks and journals, I’ve trimmed it back to a small stock of excellent quality composition books and a luxury leather cover to make using these workhorse notebooks a pure visual and tactile delight.
The more things I have, the less I appreciate each individual thing.
Stuff = Time
Stuff requires time: YOUR time. First you must determine what you want, then locate it, make the money to buy it, mentally justify the purchase, deal with the packaging it comes in, find a place to store it, and begin feeling a grain of guilt when it sits there unused. It’s a huge responsibility. Pretty soon, the grains pile up and you find yourself in a buried.
Purging Toward Freedom
The best part of an elimination purge is tossing projects that have been around, unfinished, for years. I realized the things I wanted to do in my 20s no longer really fit the “me” of today. Give yourself permission to change your mind about projects, hobbies, and pursuits. I don’t feel guilty for old unfinished projects now. I tossed them out. Instant relief.
I’ve discarded books (BOOKS for goodness sake!) in my “to read” pile. If I’ve not read those stacks in the last few years, it’s probably because I really prefer the ones I actually have read. More guilt gone.
Despite my love of the printed word and actual ink on paper, I read ebooks more often, especially those I will only read once. That eliminates physical clutter and I can keep a huge library of books on a variety of topics without dusting, storing, or organizing them. My physical library has been reduced to my leather-bound classics and reference books.
I’ve had art supplies for years that I want to use, but never did because I was busy managing all the other obligations in my life (many of them the result of juggling too much stuff). I’ve sorted and pruned my art implements and now have the time to use them. It’s nice!
Take the plunge!
Life is too short to spend all your time dealing with things that don’t matter, aren’t perfect, or you don’t enjoy. If you decide to take a purging approach to your new year, let me advise you to keep only the best quality of the things you really love. If that means tossing a dozen so-so items and buying one awesome one, do it!
It’s difficult to purge, but you will love the results! I promise. I’m living proof.
Meet the Writer: Angela Allen has been creating online content for small business clients since 1999, when she had to use a painfully slow dial-up connection. Now, she specializes in real estate topics and organic content marketing for entrepreneurs on a gloriously high-speed connection. When she’s not writing for WickedWriter.com clients, she enjoys the discipline of living small in her high-tech cabin deep in the woods of Kentucky, blogging on WickedBlog, and enjoying the pure tactile titillation of going “old-school” and writing with a fountain pen on luxury paper.
We know how hectic the holidays and the New Year can become. Whether you’ve already bought a 2013 planner and aren’t happy with it, you’ve totally forgot to get your 2013 datebook yet (it’s only mid-January, right?), or you’re a planner extraordinaire and love a second or third datebook, have we got a datebook sale for you! All 2013 datebooks and refills have been discounted and prices are marked on the product page.
See the full selection here >> 2013 Datebook Sale
We could all use a bit of a boost this time of the month. Resolutions were made, and perhaps are not as present in your mind as they were right after New Year’s, so take a moment to peruse the links for inspiration, motivation, and a brief moment to relax and read!
Lost Coast Post: How To Complete a 365 Challenge
FastCompany: 11 Productivity Hacks From Super-Productive People
365 Letters: 2013 Letter Writing Topics
Plannerisms: Fitting your Goals into your Schedule
Frugal Guidance: Use Evernote to Remember ANYTHING, Frugally
Recording Thoughts: Super Simple GTD Approach For Traveler’s Notebook
Lifehack: 10 Things You Need to Learn to Live a Super Happy Life (h/t Ms.Logica)
Kaizen Journaling: 45 Things You Can Write In Your Journal
A Penchant for Paper: My Productivity System
I’m always trying to balance the digital part of my life with my penchant for low-tech, traditional paper and pen. As a freelance writer and web content marketer, that means I’ve tried just about every system coming and going – both digital and paper.
No matter what I do, I end up at the end of the year, sorting through receipts, checking all my notebooks for scribbles on mileage and lunch meetings, and scouring my email for automatic payments on business bills. It’s humbling, if not downright depressing. It also takes three or four days and I’m in such a foul mood everyone cuts me a HUGE path. For years, “I’m working on taxes” was the only thing I could say that would actually strike terror into my children and make them quiet and cautious.
For 2013, I’m taking a new path. I’m going to use the 2013 Moleskine Daily Planner Set.
More to Love; Less to Carry
I like keeping a notebook with me all the time to capture ideas, snippets of conversations, and general information I may need to reference later. The problem is, I usually go out without what I need because I don’t like to carry too much when I leave the house. The smaller size of a pocket planner solves that as it is small enough to fit in my purse (so I’ll always have it with me), yet big enough for my ideas to fill it up before returning it to the binder set.
Why This Will Work
The Moleskine Daily Planner Set meets my needs beautifully by giving me a new daily planner each month with a full page per day for jotting down mileage AS it’s HAPPENING in one place, automatic payments that hit my account, automatic withdrawals to pay bills, who I meet for a business lunch and what we discuss, and I can even record those little office supplies I pick up while I’m out doing personal shopping.
I only wish each month had the expandable pocket in the back to hold those pesky little receipts that are so easy to lose. Since they don’t come with one, I’ll be adding them to each volume myself.
Once the month is over, I’ll return the book to the binder and take out a new one. At the end of the year, I’ll have a complete set outlining my year in business in one convenient place. And I’ll have a written record should I ever get audited (without having to scour my computer system and pull together old files).
My income tracking is handled online (I use Cashboard and love it). I can pull a year-end report and have all the invoicing and payment information in a flash because I do all my billing through that one online system and all my clients pay online. It’s the little expenses here and there, the daily stuff, that make me crazy. I’m confident the Moleskine Daily Planner Set should solve the problem.
Why My Other Systems Didn’t Work
I like a paper version of bookkeeping records – it’s faster to jot down expenses than to power up a computer and open a program to do it – but never could remember to carry my record book with me everywhere (and didn’t want to, since it was so big). I’d also forget to log items when I returned to the office, meaning I’d lose business expenses deductions every year to my faulty system. It also means I always felt like I was playing “catch up.”
I’ve tried phone apps and tablet apps and computer apps. They were always too time-intensive to set up, too awkward to use on the run, or too focused in their application (meaning they would only track mileage and I’d have to open another app to do meals and another to do miscellaneous business expenses like office supplies, professional subscriptions and equipment). The few that showed promise invariably crashed and lost several months worth of data that cost me more time to recover and/or research all over again than they were worth. It also made my language get a little too colorful for comfort. Granted, today’s digital systems and “cloud” backups mean this happens less, but I’ve been burned too many times, now. No thank you.
What I need is a single, portable place to dump and store all my information. I love the fact that this page-a-day format will eliminate my need to write the date of each purchase. I know that’s a little thing, but it irks me. With these monthly volumes, I’ll jot down what it was, how much it was, and where I bought it – and list the project if it’s for a specific client – then slip the receipt in the (soon to be) homemade back pocket.
I Want a SIMPLE System
I can’t wait to get my set to begin my new system. It’s currently on order so I can start the year right – and of course the planner set will be the first items listed in my business expenses for January! I’m going to be so organized and efficient this year! (And I won’t have to lug around a huge book to accomplish it – just a single slender monthly volume.)
The ONLY thing that could make it better would be a built-in back pocket per notebook and access to a set that was varying shades of purple instead of rainbow colors … but that’s just me.
Meet the Writer: Angela Allen has been creating online content for small business clients since 1999, when she had to use a painfully slow dial-up connection. Now, she specializes in real estate topics and organic content marketing for entrepreneurs on a gloriously high speed connection. When she’s not writing for WickedWriter.com clients, she enjoys the discipline of living small in her high-tech cabin deep in the woods of Kentucky, blogging on WickedBlog, and enjoying the pure tactile titillation of going “old-school” and writing with a fountain pen on luxury paper.
Editor’s Note: Shopping for a 2013 Daily Planner? Discover all available 2013 day-per-page datebooks here. Prefer weekly or monthly formats? We’ve got those too for 2013: All Weekly 2013 Planners and All 2013 Monthly Planners.
- Resigning from something – whether it’s a job or a volunteer position with a local non-profit – is an occasion that should be given some care and attention. In most cases, your letter of resignation will be kept on file permanently and is something that could potentially resurface in the future. Here are a few essential components to any good resignation letter and a few best practices as well.
- Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. A sympathy note is a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot. There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.
- No matter what fountain pen you have; whether it’s a $2 drugstore find or a $1,000 special edition, it’s important to understand what the tool was designed for so you use it properly. It’s also useful to find other people who use fountain pens and ask them for their tips and advice. That said, here are my tips for how to write with fountain pens.
- Cursive is a word that basically just means the letters are joined. So, whether your cursive is bubbly and wide or teeny and scratchy; as long as those letters are connected, you, my friend, are writing in cursive. Here are my best tips for improving your cursive.
- Friendship and Appreciation notes are a special kind of personal correspondence and are always treasured by the recipient. They can be a challenge to write because they require the expression of honest, heartfelt emotion and sentiment when we, at least Americans, don’t normally do that. Start to change that with this post!
- Thank you notes do not serve the purpose of simply naming (and sometimes also describing) a gift someone sent you. This post in the How To Write series is meant to help you write thank you notes well. And we begin by understanding one subtle difference: a thank you note is different from just a thank you. They are not one and the same.
Have you ever been writing in your journal or notebook and noticed the disturbance of the lines? One of the biggest downfalls of customary paper is that the lines on the paper are simply too prominent. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way lessening the importance of the lines, as I am a huge neat freak when it comes to writing. I like everything clean and readable and straight. However, when looking at writings and drawings on traditional paper, the text looks anything but clean. After putting things down on paper, the lines’ assistance completely goes away and they become more of a limitation than an asset. Enter Whitelines.
For so long we have simply accepted traditional writing paper without questioning the fact that the lines of the paper, created to provide a foundation for your writing and drawings, acts as an interference forcing your thoughts and ideas to compete with the lines of the paper for attention.
Years ago Olof Hansson, the founder of Whitelines, was doing sketches of a new invention of his. Annoyed by the dark lines disturbing his creation, Olof became astutely aware of the hindrance of customary writing paper. He set out on a mission to create paper that did not impose limitations.
The obvious solution to this problem was to take the dark element out of writing paper. Still desiring the support and functionality of lines, Olof turned to a slightly colored paper with white lines. Quickly Olof found that not only did these two light elements provide a solid foundation for both note-taking and drawing and provide a strong contrast between the paper and the writing, but the paper also gave an enhanced reading and writing experience. The eye and the brain, without having to decipher between the writing and the lines of the paper, can process the information more effortlessly, making it easier on the eyes. Additionally, the gray tone of the paper delivers less glare. Whitelines was born in January of 2006.
Whitelines paper is for all those that want a supportive writing paper. The reason Whitelines is so popular among so many groups of people is because the paper makes the writing and reading process more pleasant for everyone. Students find note-taking and organization much more agreeable. People in the office place enjoy the ability to scan and fax the paper with the lines disappearing leaving only their writing. And the creative folks – they just get it. No longer do their drawings and creations have to fight with the constraints of traditional writing paper.
So go ahead and give it a try. Test out the paper for yourself to experience a writing experience without limitations. A bit of a forewarning: once you start using Whitelines paper, it’s difficult to go back to the distracting lines of traditional writing paper. With so many options to choose from (Hard Covers, Soft Covers, Wire-O), we don’t think you’ll have a problem finding a notebook for each need of yours.
Meet the Writer: An avid list-maker and moderate risk taker, Kaylee Bergstrom handles all of the logistics for Whitelines North America and, having never heard of Whitelines prior to her current position, has become hooked on the unique design of the notebooks. Rarely spotted without a good tube of mascara, an A5 or pocket notebook and her Jack Russell / Shih Tzu puppy Russell, Kaylee enjoys spending her free time with friends and family, getting hooked on a good book series or catching a mind-bending thriller.
The most important thing to keep in mind when writing a letter of recommendation is that you are writing to present new information; not to confirm information that is already available. Let’s go through some scenarios:
Recommendation Letters for Students
Many graduate-level education programs don’t highly consider recommendation letters that simply confirm information available in a student’s transcript. This means information like grades and test scores.
If your student has an A in your class, it’s best not to write something like:
“Student is very conscientious, arrives to class on time, has never missed a lesson and is 3 out of 67 students academically. He would be an excellent addition to your program.”
The above example is simply confirming what’s in the student’s transcript. One can easily tell this student is really good at being a student. But is that all they can do? Are they able to be anything else? The emphasis should be on their ability to apply their knowledge in the real world, and it should reference their enthusiasm and interest in whatever their course of study is.
Recommendation Letters for Employees & Interns
Your first step is to ask what the letter is for. Is this for another internship? If so, where? Or is this for admission into some sort of educational program? Your letter of recommendation will be more valuable if you are able to write it with an understanding of what its purpose is for.
Your letter should be concise and thorough. It’s actually OK to mention a weakness as long as you are emphasizing the positive. When mentioning a weakness like “She/he doesn’t always know when to ask for help,” be sure to end with a positive solution like “She/he doesn’t always know when to ask for help, but after we paired her/him with a senior-level manager to mentor them, we saw immense development of skills and ability. Their leadership skills grew as a result and their contribution to the team multiplied tenfold.”
A letter of recommendation for an employee is not a request to state that the employee showed up on time or did their job. It’s a request to understand more about the character and ability of the person. They want to know if this person is likely to persevere through difficulty, or give up. If they’re able to adjust to changes and adapt to new situations. If they can work with a wide range of personality types and still keep projects moving forward. They don’t want to hear that they took no sick days in 2012. They want to hear that the applicant is not only capable of working independently, but also able to ask if they’re unsure of something.
Recommendation Letters for Volunteers
A volunteer is special. They are giving up their most precious resource—time—to your cause or organization. Keeping that volunteer volunteering is vastly important. If they’re ready to move on from your organization, it’s your job to make sure they continue giving their time somewhere else. Volunteers are precious resources!
Writing letters of recommendation for volunteers should involve two things: statements about the volunteer’s character and information about your organization. Each organization or group that utilizes volunteer time is built differently. How your group is structured may not align with how another’s is. It’s important for the person reading the letters of recommendation to not only get a feel for the volunteer’s character, but also to understand the inner workings of your organization.
Recommendation Letters Are Not About You
It’s generally useful to provide a paragraph’s worth of information about yourself. How you know the person you are recommending and a little about how you interacted/worked with them. But that’s it. No need to get into specifics. The letter is about them, not about you.
How to Structure a Letter of Recommendation
Be formally concise. Your first paragraph is the statement of recommendation. Your second paragraph covers who you are and how you worked with the person being recommended. The next 1-3 paragraphs should each detail a specific example (all positive) of situations or events that clearly demonstrate certain aspects of the character of the person being recommended. Your final paragraph should serve to summarize: restate your strong recommendation on the basis of the person’s demonstrated strong character and positive attitude.
When NOT to Write a Letter of Recommendation
Simply, don’t write a recommendation letter for someone if you don’t mean it. You will waste their time and yours. If you need a way to decline writing a letter of recommendation, you can simply say that you do not have enough time to write an adequate letter.
Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:
A favorite of our CEO, Creative Designer, and Lead Programmer, among others, the Moleskine Messenger Bag brings the personality of the legendary notebook to the classic over-the-shoulder urban carryall. Robust and flexible piece to accompany your travels, whether near or far, the interior is lined in ivory faux-suede with a soft, luxurious feel, and also includes an “In case of loss” label sewn inside. A rear divider creates a separate back section; the front of the divider is covered in black terry fabric that attaches to Moleskine multi-purpose cases (sold separately). It can be used to carry any laptop computer with a screen size of up to 15-inch.
What’s your favorite carryall?
We’ve fallen head over heels for the new Palomino Luxury Medium Sketchbook & Folio Cover (5 x 8.25). It’s a fantastic, luxurious, and hip Folio Cover for Palomino sketchbooks that can be bought separate and inserted in the cover. The high quality, super soft faux leather cover also offers a place to store your writing tools, has a magnetic closure, and brings a strong presence to your office desk, in your briefcase or backpack, and at home.
- Features holders for eight pencils (the Palomino Mixed Grade Graphite Set fits perfectly!), one eraser, and one sharpener.
- Comes in a Palomino embossed gift box.
- Easy to travel with to keep your essentials nearby.
- Replaceable sketchbook has 96 acid-free pages of 120 gsm weight.