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My Favorite Productivity Apps

| On
February 28, 2014
Guys, I love my iPhone. I really, really do. AND I love a good app. There are so many great apps out there for literally anything you want to do and "getting stuff done" is no exception. I use a variety of apps on a daily basis to help get things done faster + more efficiently. Hustle and 30/30 are by far my favorites

Hustle


I wanted to share this app because it's a lot like a website I shared awhile ago called Liltup, but in app form. Hustle (and Liltup) are super awesome because they're to-do lists with one simple-but-genius twist: a timer. Clearly, I only get things done with a timer going. This app is great for when I get back home from classes in the afternoon and I want to organize my crazy life + make sure I get everything done, from my design to blogging to classwork. And it's so easy! All I do is input all my to-do's into the app, add a time estimate/goal for each task + voila! I have a clear picture of my afternoon + how much work I have on my hands.

Once I get started, I use the timer to push myself to finish everything faster. When I finish something a few minutes early, I treat myself to a little blog reading, a little TV or something else fun. As an added plus, I can see everything I got done at the end of the day. So I get to give myself a little metaphorical pat on the back before bed!

My favorite part about Hustle is that it helps me think realistically about how much I can get done in a day. If I get home at 4 pm and try to get in bed at 9:30 pm, I can't plan six hours of work to do. I just can't. In my head, I might. But when I plan it out like this, I have no choice but to be realist about my time.


30/30


I love 30/30 because it helps me get through the menial routines of my daily life. I use the app on weekday mornings to help me get ready for my day quickly + efficiently. I'm a quasi-morning person. I like being up early because I'm productive + I get stuff done, but I also don't like getting up too early. I leave for class at 7:15 in the morning, but (herein lies my predicament) I also exercise best in the mornings. But homegirl also loves her sleep. Sooo I have my morning scheduled out down to the minute (literally) so I can sleep in as late as possible + meanwhile still get everything done before school. I'm pretty proud of this actually.

I use 30/30 to help me stay on task in the mornings so that I can be on a tight time schedule but so that I'm never late. Like Hustle, you put in all your tasks + a time limit. But unlike Hustle, 30/30 is really well suited for routines. I find myself trying to beat the clock + often times I'm able to finish my routine up to ten minutes early!

My favorite part of 30/30 is that, unlike Hustle, it runs continuously. Meaning that if I take too long on one thing, I have to make it up by speeding up on the next thing. It's impossible to ignore if I'm way off track! So I end up on time for class, exercised + prepared for the day. Win-win-win!

Here's the thing about productivity: I had someone in a comment on an old post ask me why I'm always rushing to finish things. Why I always want to "get stuff done" (which is literally my favorite phrase ever). And I thought about her question for a really long time--it's really a good one! 

As I thought about that, I kept coming back to a quote that I remember from Cheaper By the Dozen. For those of you that have only seen the Steve Martin movie (which is nothing like the actual book), it's the biography of two time and motion experts, which is old timey language for professional productivity nerds. And near the end of the book, someone asks Frank why he's always rushing, why he wants to save time as much as possible. And he responds with this:

“For work, if you love that best…For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure…For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

And I just wanted to leave you with that today as a reason for posts like this. I believe in working productively so that I can have time for play, for designing for fun, for laying in my ENO doing nothing, for watching Law and Order. 

Do you use any apps to help you get things done? Share them, share them! Really. I want to know your favorites.

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

| On
February 26, 2014
Hey guys! Boy, are you lucky today--I've got the lovely Kenzie taking over with this stellar post about figuring out your blogger type. Enjoy + go check out her equally-lovely blog! (also, she's expecting! Go congratulate her!)

Hello lovelies! I'm Kenzie, and I blog over at Chasing Happy. I was super excited when Allie asked me to join you guys today--I dig meeting new people in blogland, and Allie rocks. That means you guys must rock, too! Obviously. 

I know a lot of people who read blogs are also bloggers themselves. It's what makes this community so awesome--we're all learning from and supporting each other. We're more engaged than many communities because we're all contributing consistently. Yay us! That being said, not every blog--and not every blogger--is created equal. We work hard to make our blogs the best they can be. But, unfortunately, we don't always work smart.

Blogging takes a lot of work--anyone who's been at it for more than a week could tell you that. It's important to approach it intelligently, so our work is never wasted and we get the best results. In his book The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry talks about three different "modes of focus." (I love reading about creativity... I'm currently about halfway through Henry's book and it's great! I definitely recommend picking it up yourself if you're at all interested in improving your own creativity or productivity.) Those modes can also represent three different approaches to blogging--exploring them can help us identify where we might be falling short in our efforts and how we can achieve a better balance.


Drifter

Drifters bounce from task to task at the speed of light. They might get a lot done, but they often still feel as though their blog isn't making the kind of progress they hope for. This is because they're missing an overarching strategy--the big picture. 

You have to know where your blog is headed, what you want it to be. Without this long-term strategic perspective, your approach isn't cohesive. You cross things off your to-do list like the best of them, but you're not thinking far enough ahead to be doing much more than treading water. 

Driver

Drivers, on the other hand, know exactly where they're headed. They have a very clear picture of their end goal, and they won't let anything stand in the way of achieving it. Every task contributes in some way to their objective, and they work with intense focus. 

This might sound pretty good to you, but the truth is it's not an ideal situation. The driver is so focused on her end goal that she often overlooks opportunities that pop up unexpectedly. And there are a lot of those in blogland! But the driver doesn't accept anything that doesn't fit into her plan, even though the new opportunities are often the ones that help us the most. 

Developer

The happy medium is the developer. This blogger has a clear understanding of her overall strategy and end goal. She knows where she's going and has a plan for how she'll get there. At the same time, she remains open to opportunities. As Henry puts it, the developer "purposefully approach(es) each task or element of a project as an opportunity to develop new connections or potential ideas." She keeps her head up and her eyes open. As new opportunities present themselves, she evaluates them one by one and decides if they're worth pursuing. The ones that aren't get discarded, but the ones that are get incorporated into her activities. 

A developer's blog is practically a living organism--it's continually growing and evolving. The developer herself feels good about her work and can see the positive returns of her efforts. This sounds much better, doesn't it? 

Every blogger falls into at least one of these categories. In fact, a single blogger could take all three approaches in one week! It's perfectly OK to be wherever you are right now--we've all been through each stage at one point or another. What's important is being able to recognize where you are and take steps to correct your course (or stay on it, if you're in developer mode).

If you're feeling as though you're getting a lot done but lack direction, revisit your blog's overall strategy. If you don't have one, it's time to create one! Make updates where needed and see if there are any current opportunities that could help you move your blog forward.

If you've been extra focused on your end goal lately, make sure you're also taking time to evaluate opportunities as they arise. Don't pass over good things simply because they aren't in your original plan--instead, evolve your plan. 

If you've been striking a good balance between pursuing your overall strategy and accepting the right opportunities, good for you! Keep it up, girl. Periodically review your position and look for ways to keep moving forward.

There you have it! Keep an eye on yourself and readjust when necessary--your blog will thank you for it. 

Thanks for hanging out with me here today, friends. I hope you'll come visit me over at Chasing Happy sometime. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook--I'd love it if you came to say hello!

Weekly Goals #28

| On
February 24, 2014
(Yay Images)
Hey hey hey nuggets! As we speak (aka I write, you read), I'm in a hotel room in sunny Denver, getting ready to leave for Breckenridge! I'm so excited to spend the week with H and friends skiing it up + being cute little snow bunnies! H would like to make it known though that he will never be a "cute little snow bunny," but I think we all know the truth. 

Even though I'm on vacation + not working this week, I think it's really important to focus on goals + living focused. So let's recap goals!

How did I do last week?

Pretty dang good, if I do say so myself! Starting on Monday, I forced myself to wake up at 5:20 (ughhh) before classes and do my Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred workout. Obviously, that's super early, but it's actually forcing me to go to bed earlier, which I love. And the workout (though I'm still on level one) is getting way easier than it was when I started. I consider myself in decent shape but I actually had to take a rest + modify some of the moves the first few times around (because I can't do pushups for a whole minute). But I'm proud of myself for making it a priority + working out four times this week even though I really, really didn't want to some days.

I also got completely ready for Breckenridge! I've got some great posts planned for you this week, some of which are guest posts from fabulous people and some of which are my own. I hope you really enjoy them! And I managed to pack all my stuff and get on my flight early Saturday morning. And I didn't forget anything except my sleep mask, which is totally fine because I'm always the person who forgets absolutely everything. Like on a recent trip, I forgot my iPhone in the car, my keys on the plane and then my toothbrush at home. So I'm doing alright! Go Allie.

What are my goals for this week?

Obviously, I'm on vacation so I'm taking it pretty easy this week. The one thing I will say is that I want to make sure to exercise this week. I will be skiing + I'm not sure how much that will wear me out though. So if I'm just exhausted on ski days, it's fine if I don't work out, but I'm still making it a goal to pay the fitness room at our lodge a few visits, even if it's just for a short jog. 

I'm also going to be reevaluating some things about my blog in the coming week, so be on the lookout for another survey coming up, even though I just had one in January. It's not out yet, but just a heads up. And again, it will include a giveaway (for something good!) so be sure to take part. Plus, I'll love you forever if you do. 

That's all lovebugs! Talk to me--what are your goals? Do you exercise on vacation?

Creating Productive Habits

| On
February 23, 2014
Hey loves! Another one of my all-time favorite bloggers is here to blog about creating meaningful and productive habits in your life. I absolutely loved her advice + I hope you do too!



Hello Call Me Sassafras Readers! I’m so happy to have the chance to fill in for Allie today. My name is Amber and I blog over at And Yes To Joy. Over there, I blog about designing a positive life filled with intention. Like many of you, I aim to have as many productive days as possible. Balancing running a blog and being a full time student with a list of other activities, I survive by making the most of the time I have to get things done. The fact of the matter is, I’m big on setting goals, and it takes a lot of focus to stay on track to achieve them.

I've blogged about useful tools to help keep you organized and productive, like creating effective to-do lists and staying organized during crunch time. But no matter how many tools you try to utilize to boost your productivity, nothing is more effective than creating effective habits. Humans, after all, are creatures of habit.

A few elements are key when you’re working towards creating new, productive habits:

Create an intention
The first step to implementing any new habit is to first create an intention. If your mind and heart aren’t really in a place to form a new habit, the rest is a waste of time. If you’re ready to really focus on the task as hand, create a powerful intention to live your most productive life by focusing on what you hope to accomplish and why forming this new habit matters to you.

Create a routine
The key to true productivity is consistency. Keeping yourself on a schedule of some sort is essential. Opting the “go with the flow” route could easily lead to days spent on the couch. Start by implementing small tasks like waking up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time every night. Knowing that certain things should take place during certain times of the day helps you to make better use of your time.

Organize and Plan
Take some time at the end of each day to organize and plan the next day. Write important meetings and pressing items in your planner – include times and locations to help keep you in sync. If the traditional to-do list isn’t your think, organize a “Daily Game Plan” where you break down the day into blocks and assign tasks to each time block.

Give it some time
It takes about a month to successfully initiate any habit. Be sure to practice the same routine for at least 21 days, to give it time to take. This time of repetition will give you time to strengthen your will power, and overtime the amount of will power you need to get things done becomes less and less.

Evaluate
After your 21 days are up, sit back and evaluate how things have gone. Did you find yourself less overwhelmed and pressed for time than usual? Did you get more done, and feel less stressed?

It may take some time for you to tweak your new habit to make it really work for you and your lifestyle. Remember, while staying at it is important, stressing yourself out to the point of overwhelm is never a good idea. If something doesn't feel right, change it up. Productivity should decrease your stress levels, not increase it.

10 Prompts for Gratitude Journaling

| On
February 21, 2014
Over the last couple months (though I'm totally not a huge 'journaler'), I've gotten into an oh-so-fulfilling habit of gratitude journaling. If you've never taken time to keep a gratitude journal, it's exactly what it sounds like--journaling about things you feel grateful for. The first few times I g-journaled (hah "g-journal"...sounds totally street, right?), I literally just made a list of things I was grateful for, kindergartener-at-thanksgiving style. And it got boring. I mean, how fulfilling is it really to write out that I'm thankful for my friends and family (duh)?

It was just not the way to do it. Since then, I've come up with more thorough, more specific, more creative prompts that I use when I g-journal. Varying what I write about + learning to write more precisely has done wonders for the practice. I love going back and reading my favorite bits of my days from months ago! Because I want to share that lovely-happy-fuzzy feeling, here are ten of my favorite prompts for gratitude journaling.

1. Take a walk outside for ten minutes of so. Just walk to the end of your street and back. Take in the beauty around you + appreciate the feeling of being outside, from nature to the fresh air you're breathing. Take note of three beautiful things you noticed. When you get home, journal about those things, why you appreciate them + how they made you feel.

2. At the end of the day, review your day + what you did. Think of at least two or three things that you did today that you're proud of--even if it's small. Did you ace that research paper? Or did you exercise even though you didn't want to? Write that down, as well as why it happened. This can help remind you what behaviors make you feel good + encourage you to do those more often!

3. Write a thank you note to someone--no one said gratitude was meant to stay private! Be thorough + specific, reminding that person of how much you need + appreciate them in your life. Bonus points if it's for someone unexpected, like a cafeteria server or assistant. Now go deliver that little envelope of love!

4. Take stock of all the various spheres of your life + spend a day being grateful for them. Take one day to be thankful for...your school/work, your family, your friends, your home, your lifestyle, your own body (yes!) or things that you read or heard during the day. As always, get specific! What do your friends do exactly that makes you so grateful? Is it that they are always happy to eat ice cream with you late at night after a bad day? Or they always make you laugh? 

5. Think of some of your favorite memories with friends, with family, as a child, or while traveling. Write down as much as you remember about that time, down to the thoughts in your head and the sights and smells around you.

6. If you've had a bad day, take time to nurture ideas about how you can turn the bad things into good things. If you got in a fight with your best friend for example, reflect on it + yourself, looking to see if you can apologize for something or communicate your feelings more calmly and clearly. 

7. Pick one person, just one person, that you're thankful for. The person who helped you out on that big project? The stranger who smiled at your in the grocery store when you looked upset? Someone who chose to celebrate with you? If you can't write them a thank you note, write a thank you note to God/the world/their momma for putting them into your life today.

8. Draw a picture of something that made you happy today, whatever that may be. When you're done, write a little blurb about the emotions that the picture could not express.

9. Write about your greatest achievements in your life. Then write about your smallest, but most cherished achievements.

10. This one's less a prompt but more something not to write about. Be careful not to write about something because you think you should be grateful for it. Some days, you may be grateful for your family. Some days, you may not be. That's okay. Embrace the things you're grateful for, not the things you think you should be grateful for.

I hope you put time into this awesome practice! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments--how do you write in your gratitude journal?

How to Create Patterned Text in Photoshop

| On
February 19, 2014
Things have gotten a bit calmer around these parts + I've had some oh-so-appreciated time to sit down + design, just for fun. I'm always a fan of word art + I've been combining that with my major inspiration as of late: patterns. 

I really fell in love with bright, vibrant patterns about a year ago, when I bought this beautiful skirt from the Liberty London line at J.Crew in Boston. Lately, I've been especially inspired by these bright patterns + using photoshop to create patterned text quotes (which I'll teach you how to do below!)

And with one really simple tool in Photoshop, you can make one of those patterns into this:

Isn't that cool? And it's really, really easy. Open up a new Photoshop file, with the dimensions that you want. I set 760 as the width (because that's the width of my blog) and 300 pixels as the height. You can always crop it down later! Press 'T' or the Text Button on the left hand command dock (it's a capital letter T). Click anywhere on your page and type out your quote, fixing the size to look all nice. Then, go to your 'layers' panel, click the little arrow at the top right and click "New Layer". In this layer, insert your pattern and click the little check at the top if it pops up. Then, all you have left to do is right-click on that layer with the pattern in it + click 'create clipping mask'.

That's all there is to it! I hope you have fun with this tutorial! If you make anything using this tutorial, I'd love if you'd send me a link, either in the comments or via email.

What inspires you to make art?

Weekly Goals #27

| On
February 17, 2014
(Death to the Stock Photo)

What. a. week. Let me tell you, this has been one of those weeks that I'm just ready to be done with + forget about. As someone who occasionally-borderline-obsesses over getting things done, it's hard for me to acknowledge that sometimes there are weeks when things just don't come together. But I'm learning to accept that + it's okay. 

I'm committing myself to making this week the exact opposite. I'm gonna get stuff done + I'm gonna be ready for my trip to Breckenridge, CO (!!) + I'm going to be happy + calm + all sorts of good things.

How did I do last week?


Sucky. I'll just say it. I mean, I could totally get out here and make all sorts of excuses why I basically did nothing all week, but I'm not even going to. I didn't run. Not even once. I think I need to admit to myself that I can choose not to run + still exercise. I have this thing where I don't accept a workout unless it includes running. But I hate running. So I just don't work out at all. But I actually like doing other workout-y things, it's just running that psychs me out. So whatever. I've got that to work on.

BUTTTTTTT I did manage to finish my website for a drunk driving prevention campaign. It's not public but I just needed to tell y'all that I finished it because that's some exciting stuff.

My goals for this week:


Get all ready for my trip to Breckenridge! I think I've all but forgotten to mention my trip but I'm leaving on Saturday for Colorado to get me some mountain air! I'll have posts planned out + I'll be responding to comments + emails (a little more slowly), but I don't plan on writing any posts while I'm there. I've got a few more posts to write and my bag to pack but then I'm ready to go!

Try a few new ways to exercise. Maybe not "new" exactly, but not running. I'm thinking about at-home conditioning, maybe a Jillian Michaels DVD, a bike ride if the ice all melts, and kickboxing if I can get someone to go with me. I'd love your input on this--how do you workout, especially outside of a traditional gym? 

Aaaaand, I've got a science bit for today!! Yay! I don't know how many of you actually read/like this section, but I know I really enjoy sharing the bits with you + hopefully you find yourself learning new things along with me, even if you're not a "science person". This one is totally cool + even you non-science people might find it interesting! 

What does sand look like when you magnify it 250x? This magical picture. 


Isn't that the coolest? Just consider this the next time you're walking on a beach...you're walking on billions of teeny-tiny gems just like these!! Please tell me someone else thinks this is cool. Anyways, if you're interested, you can see the whole collection of images of sand under a microscope. It makes me wonder what other cool things there are in the world that we're totally unaware of!

Alright, that's it. Take care, polar bears!

Easy Peasy SEO (for Blogger!)

| On
February 15, 2014
seo tips for bloggers
Alright, today's one of those days when if you're not a blogger, just come back tomorrow. In general, I try not to write just for the blogging community, but today I just want to share some stuff for bloggers. 

Okay, I'll be honest. SEO (search-engine optimization) is scary stuff. There are books bigger than my head about how to optimize your blog or website to get the most attention from search engines. But the nice part is, there are a couple super easy things that you can do that will help boost how high your blog is shown on search engines + get you more traffic!

Customize your Permalinks

When you're writing your post, there's a spot on the right-hand column where you can do a bunch of things to help your SEO. Hopefully, you're already adding keywords under the label category for your readers to look through all your awesome posts! Anyways, if you double-check that your permalink has your complete post title, that'll help search engines find the keywords for that post. Like instead of yourwebsite.com/2014/2/10, change it to something with the title of your post in it.

Add a search description to every post.

This is what'll pop up on Google when someone searches for your blog/blog post! Go into Settings > Search Preferences and click yes next to enable search description. Now, every time you write a post, go to that same right hand column in the post editor and write a sentence or two about your post.

Remember to add no-follow tags on links.

Anytime you link to another site that's significantly less popular/lower ranked than yours, check the box that says Add 'rel=nofollow' attribute. This'll make sure that it doesn't lower your ranking on a search page.

Title your images effectively.

I'll admit, I kind of suck at this one. Whenever you're making images for your blog, title them with a keyword or your post title. I tend to just save mine with a letter or number because I'm lazy like that. But if I call the above image 'seo-tips-for-blogger' instead of 'asdf', my post is more likely to show up on an image search engine.

Anchor your links wisely

Yeah, I also suck at this one. 'Anchor text' is simply the text that a link is attached to. You can easily improve your SEO by changing your anchor text to something descriptive instead of 'click here' or something like that. For example, saying 'my blog is Call Me Sassafras' is better than 'here's my blog'.

Interlink.

Part of your ranking on search engine comes from how many times your blog is linked to. Thankfully, when you link to yourself, it still counts! In your posts, look for ways to link to other posts. This will not only raise your ranking, but your readers may start poking about! I know that when I'm reading blogs and they keep interlinking/linking to themselves, I find myself getting sucked into the good-blog-black-hole!

Resize images before putting them in Blogger

Yeah, I know it's tempting to resize your images in Blogger if you know any html (or want one of their automatic small/medium/large/xl sizes). But huge images resized still take just as long to load on your page, which may drive away readers! It's easy enough to resize your images in Photoshop or on Picmonkey.

Write at least 300 words. 

Short posts and super super long posts don't rank as well on search engines. Not to mention, readers like having a bit of substance to read but not a week's worth of reading in one post. I aim to write between 500-700 words in each post. You can use an online word count tool to check (did you catch my good anchor text there?!), just by copying and pasting! And this post is 661 so it's about time to sign off ;)

Do you focus on SEO? What are your tips for having an SEO-friendly blog?

How to Make a Super Effective To-Do List

| On
February 14, 2014
Sup guys. Happy Valentine's Day!! If you're a lover, I hope you're having a lovely day/night. If you're single, do not watch any Nicholas Sparks movies. Trust me. It's a mistake. 

Anyways, let's get going. In case you haven't noticed, I'm obsessed with planning and organizing and making lists and scheduling and planning. I'm very analytical minded. I'm also a student, I have a job + a blog (surprise!). And of course, what happens when you mix that? An insatiable lust for to-do lists. Yes. I make about six a day on average. So basically, I'm an expert.

You might make to-do lists + hopefully, they help you get stuff done. BUT, I thought I'd share a couple of the things I've learned that can help you karate chop your way through that list.

Write out everything.

Some people definitely disagree with this one, so feel free to ignore it. But when I make my to-do list every day, I write down absolutely everything I have to do. That includes brushing my teeth (or at least 'morning routine'), eating lunch, and exercising. Just because it's on the to-do list doesn't mean it's work, it just means I'm planning time for it in my day. BUT notice I said write down the things you have to do. Not everything you 'could do.' Keep it simple so that you don't get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things on your to-do list. 


Choose concrete tasks.

Okay, you've heard this. Don't say 'work on design project'. Try writing 'insert picture from email + design border for the hello blurb' or something applicable to what you do. Make your tasks small + manageable too. Instead of 'clean the house', try 'take out the trash, wipe down kitchen counters + pick up clothes on bedroom floor.' Cleaning the house sounds scary but anyone can do those three little tasks!


Prioritize your tasks.

The second thing I do is prioritize all of my tasks by how important they are. The things with the soonest deadline are first and the last things are the items that I want to work on + should work on but that there will be no tangible consequence if I don't (i.e. I won't get fired). I just write a circled number next to each task; it only takes a minute. This helps me make sure that my most important tasks (sometimes called MITs or MVTs if you read productivity blogs) get done before the marginal things.


Set time goals.

Look at each item. If it's something you're going to want to do for awhile or might get caught up in (aka catch up on blog reading or emailing), set a time limit for, say, 30 minutes. You can even plan to have two chunks of 30 minutes at different times of the day. 

Then, see if you have any items that are time-based that you need a goal length of time. For me, that might be reading for a class. I don't technically have to do it, so if I don't have a goal, yeah I'm stopping after fifteen minutes so I can retreat to Netflix. For items like this, set a goal time (such as 30 minutes). For every other item, just write an estimated amount of time. This will help you be realistic about how much time you have in a day + how much you can get done. 


Plan out your day.

Our your afternoon or lunch break or whatever. Think about how much time you have and how much of that time you can actually work. Pick items, based on your priorities, until you have enough goal tasks to fill up your day. I like to start with something productive but relatively quick. If I have just a small piece of a design left for a client, I'll do it right off the bat. By starting off my day getting something done, I've set my pace for the rest of the day. When I'm planning out my day, I like to write out each of my tasks in order + create a loose time schedule to my day. My schedules are fluid (which is why I change them about six times a day haha) but they can still keep me on track.


Plan space into your day.

I've been working with this system for maybe a year now, so I know pretty well how long everything takes me. I cushion 5-10 minutes in between every task in case is takes longer than I expect or I run into some other roadblock. Also, every few hours, I plan 20-30 minutes that is meant for a real break. Walking around, talking to people, and getting outside are all great ways to take a mini-break + refresh yourself for finishing your to-do list. 

To-do lists: love 'em or leave 'em? Do you have a method for getting things done?

What's On My iPod: Rachel

| On
February 12, 2014
Sup guys! New feature here! Whenever I meet new people, I'm always curious about what kind of music they listen to + I'm always the person to pick up your iPod and mess through it if I'm at your house. But I obviously can't do that with all the lovely people online, so this new feature is all about recreating my iPod stalking online. 


Introduce yourself + your blog.

Hola! I'm Rachel and I blog over at Sunshine and Sinatra. I don't always (ever really) blog about sunshine or sinatra, but just know that those two things make me the happiest!

Describe your music tastes in five words (hard, I know!)

Anything.I.Can.Sing.To

What are your favorite times to listen to music?

I love love love listening to music when I blog (for background noise, in the shower (I promise I won't quit my day job...) and of course in the car...even for a short car ride!

Share a song that holds a memory and share a little bit of that memory.

A song that holds a memory for me would be anything by Frank Sinatra (OH HEY PART OF BLOG NAME). When I was younger my parents would always play the songs "Fly Me to the Moon", "Witchcraft", and "Young at Heart" so now I listen to those songs when I want to relive my childhood a bit and it honestly puts me in the best mood instantly.

Shuffle your iPod--what are the first five songs that show up?

Uh oh.....I hope nothing embarrassing shows up...
Bugatti - Ace Hood (TOTALLY GUILTY OF LOVING THIS SONG.)
A Million Hearts - Adrien Reju (Folk singer...HIGHLY recommend looking her up!...She taught me in art classes when I was younger!)
Cry Freedom - Dave Matthews Band (I LOVE DAVE MATTHEWS)
What Dreams Are Made Of - Hilary Duff (Because I'm the biggest Lizzie McGuire fan there ever is)
On the Other Side - Augustana (SO AMAZING LIVE)

You know how you love some songs just because the lyrics are beautiful? Share one of those!

Ok, so that new song "Let Her Go" by Passenger:
"Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go"
..Truer lyrics have NEVER been spoken.

What song/genre would your friends/people be most surprised that you listen to?

Well whenever I tell people I listen to smooth jazz (blame my parents), and other jazz (Frank, etc.). I think my friends pretty much understand my weird obsession by now but I love to blast Sinatra on really nice weather with the windows down and I do definitely get weird looks from older people because I am singing stuff they love.

What are your three most-played songs in your iTunes library? 


Well, heres another embarrassing one I'm sure...
"Baby It's You" by The Beatles (I can't even say I listen to this song anymore. It's because of a stupid guy I was in love with for so long. Ya know what I'm saying?)
"How to Love" by Lil Wayne (MY GUILTY PLEASURE I'M SORRY)
"Cookie Jar" by Jack Johnson (I'm actually confused by this one lol)

What's the most embarrassing song on your iPod?

ANYTHING SMOOTH JAZZ. I hate when it comes on in the car when I have friends in the car and I'm like uhhh I swear I don't listen to this....I know your parents and I have a lot in common...

Thanks for sharing, Rachel! Guys, what music do you listen to? Let me know if you want to be featured in a future installment of What's On My iPod!

Weekly Goals #26

| On
February 10, 2014

Hey loves! I hope you had a fantastic, utterly stellar weekend! I had a pretty great one myself. Saturday, I woke up early, on my own (which is the greatest feeling ever) and got right to work. I've really grown into my Saturday morning routine (which I described in a recent productivity post) + I'm actually getting stuff done on the weekend! It's so lovely.

Saturday night, I went out with H on our quasi-Valentine's Day date. We made yummy pancakes, and he indulged me by making mine super underdone, just the way I like them. Then we headed off to a concert for some local bands. We had a great night!

Last week, in my weekly goals post, I really enjoyed sharing some of the things that made me laugh that week + a lot of you did too! Let's be honest, Monday's just need more laughter. Here's some more silly things to get you through today!

Smooth Poor phteven. Literally laughed for 5 minutes

Me everyday.

How did I do last week?


Last week was just crazy. Classes were pretty much insane and my computer just decided to be a douche on me, basically all week. Not cool. Point is, my wishes didn't go all that great + I'm just trying to make excuses. I made a goal to go running and ended up just going once. But ya know, I didn't specify how much sooo I was sort of successful? 

My goals for this week:


But I finally found a plan that I think should be good for me. I'm past a couch to 5K plan, but a 10K is a wee bit ambitious these days. In my previous/better running days, I was using Hal Higdon's 1/2 marathon plan. Obviously, that's not a good choice for me either, but I did find a couch to 8K plan that I'll use. Because I'm not training for any specific race, I'm definitely not exercising six days a week, because that's just unrealistic and I'll get frustrated with myself if I set the bar that high. My goal is to run two miles on Monday and two miles on Wednesday. I definitely hope to step that up in the coming weeks but, this week is pretty busy, plus from Thursday on, I'll be in Michigan and there's no way I'm running outside there. 

My second goal is to actually finish that nonprofit website, you know, the one I meant to finish like three weeks ago? To be fair, I don't actually have a deadline until the end of February, but I want to finish it as soon as possible. 

That's about it! What are your goals for the week?


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Free Printable Love Notes

| On
February 08, 2014
Hey lovebirds! It’s about to get reeeeeal mushy in here…I hope you’re as excited as I am for Valentine’s Day! Unless you’re single. In which case, you do have a guaranteed right to eat a lot of ice cream and watch copious amounts of netflix…so you’ve got that going for ya. H + I actually are celebrating our Valentine’s Day tonight with pancakes (I LOVE PANCAKES) and a concert because I’ll be out of town next weekend. This actually is part of his present so I’ve told him not to look at the blog today, but that little booger probably will.

Today, I wanted to share a quick little printable that you can use for your beau (or your cat would probably appreciate it too, you single ladies. Or for reals, you mom or dad or best friend.)




This style comes in a couple phrases (click link>right-click>save as):




This style can be downloaded with the phrases (click link>right-click>save as...):
I hope you use these often + remind your loved ones how much you appreciate + care for them!

Okay the mushiness is done. Byeeeeeee!

Catching My Eye

| On
February 07, 2014
Catching My Eye is a feature I used to do weekly a looongg time ago with my blog and slowly started to just drop it off. Basically, it's just a huge, big, super awesome link love-fest. And while I don't want to make this a weekly feature (because let's be honest, it's not like you can't find cool things on the internet yourself), I do want to bring these back every few weeks. What do you guys think? Do you like reading link posts?

Anyways, let's get started!

+Improve your vocab (how else are you gonna write like my fave copywriter Sarah Von?) with the Top 250 Most Difficult SAT Words.


+50 ways to say "you're awesome" [Alexandra Franzen]--I love using this to give H compliments. My favorite? "Do they sell you in bulk? Can I pre-order?"

+"But Women Don't Rape"--a very real + honest look at female-on-male assault.

+Exquisite-Planet--the most gorgeous travel tumblr I've ever seen.


+33 Hilarious Schmidt Quotes That Will Brighten Your Day. "I can do anything I put my mind to. I once figured out Alyssa Milano’s phone number just by randomly choosing numbers."

That's all I got for y'all today! Now you join in! Share your favorite post from the week (yours or someone else's!) in the comments so I can read 'em. :)

Playlist #21

| On
February 05, 2014
The worst thing happened to me the other day. Like, the worst possible thing EVER. So remember how I said my computer just up and died on me last Thursday, only to go all Lazarus + come back the next day? And of course, I was pumped! I still had all my designs, all my schoolwork, all my blog notes. But you know what I lost? MY ITUNES LIBRARY. (Sorry, but caps lock was definitely necessary right there.) I know. I might actually be dying, thankyouverymuch. 

So I tried to reinstall it but I'm a little bit computer-impaired + I still haven't figured it out. Sigh. But I refuse to believe that I won't get my music back. That'd just be too much to handle. 

Anywayyys, here are a few songs that I've been listening to lately, though I confess I'm still very much in my Elvis phase. These songs are just chill + non-distracting kind of songs that would be great for laying outside in a hammock (unless you live in the north, #suckstosuck) or reading.



Today, we're talking about sexual selection (yay). So you've all heard of natural selection right? It's a mechanism of evolution where only the strongest animals (or insects or plants or whatever) survive to mate + have babies + their strength gets passed on. Sexual selection is one kind of natural selection. Sexual selection means that an organism is more likely to survive because of some characteristic that makes it more likely to find a mate. This is why male frigatebirds have that huge icky red pouch under their beaks (hey...the ladies like it) and male peacocks have all their fancy plumage. Somehow, those features help those males out-seduce the other males, meaning they get to have sexy-time and have more red-pouched/plumed babies.

However, I think it's kind of funny what great lengths even animals will go to in order to have sex. With some animals, especially birds, the elaborate features they have to attract a mate can also attract predators, which obviously aren't too helpful in getting the animal to survive.


What have you been listening to lately?

January in Favorites

| On
February 04, 2014


Let me tell you, January has been pretty calm around here! I expected the transition back to school to be stressful, but between lots of days off (including snow days) + working a little less lately, everything has been peachy keen! I finished four new designs in January + started a fifth (my fave this month was for Hannah//The Homesteady). Plus, I totally rebranded my own blog and I'm so in love with the rad, but clean feel + the general Allie-ness that is oozing out of my computer screen (sorry, oozing's kinda a gross word #sorrynotsorry) every time I pull up my homepage. I feel like I'm really coming into my own as to having skills and a distinct style as a designer, which is just a super awesome feeling. :)

So I know I haven't done one of these monthly recaps in awhile (I think not since September!), but I'm switching things up around here + bringing some old stuff back!


So I've mentioned before that I totally go through phases of music? Where I'll have a week where I just want to listen to folk and then the next week I only want celtic rock or something equally awesome-weird? Yeah, this whole month was a giant phase dedicated to Elvis. Somehow, even though I feel like I know a ton of music, I had never really listened to anything Elvis before this month, which is just craziness. But relax guys, I've seen the light. I'm officially obsessed. So a few weeks ago, I shared some of my favorite Elvis songs and the story behind the first time I really sat down + listened to Elvis.


I'm so sorry, reading gods, I didn't read a single. book. this month. Not one. Believe me, I'm well aware of how pathetic that is. But I'll be getting back on that real soon, I promise! Every time I'm in the airport, I look at all those lovely books + I take pictures of all the ones I want to read. Needless to say, all those pictures are taking up way too much room in my iPhone camera roll. I've specifically had a hankering for some good, unconventional fiction books (like Where'd You Go, Bernadette). Any recommendations?

But as for non-book reading, I've done quite a bit (as in blog-reading). I'm still absolutely awful about commenting because I like tor read straight from the Bloglovin' app + it's a nightmare to try to leave comments on a phone. Is there a better way to comment on iPhones? Anyways, I loved Crystal's post on 3 Simple Stretches to a Calmer You, Bethany's Ultimate Email Tips and Sarah Von's post on the super easy, low-tech thing she does every night to stay happy + productive.


I'm really proud of my writing lately, I'll be honest. I absolutely love blogging, but I've never considered myself a genius writer. (To prove it, I just accidentally typed 'righter' instead of 'writer').  But I've been working on really developing core ideas about my blog + for the most part, I'll be sticking to writing about design, positivity + productivity. There will be music + science + randomness thrown in, but that's my plan.

This month, I was particularly proud of my post on my Word of the Year: 'Open'. I also really connected with a few other posts of mine: 4 Ways to Have a Productive Day Off, which has tips that I use every. single. Saturday so that I don't lay in my hammock and watch SVU all day + also, How to Create the Perfect iTunes Playlist, in which I show my method for creating a balanced, continuous playlist that I like to have on in the background while I design, blog + do schoolwork.


Oh man, do I love a good (preferably online) shopping day. If I had more money, this blog would be alll about fashion, makeup + good ol' home decor. But alas, I don't. But just for fun, I thought I'd share just a couple things on my wishlist lately.



Clockwise from top-left: Modern Wood Burned Sign // B+W Polka Dot Raincoat // Red Rope Knot Necklace // Mini Faux Taxidermy Elephant

If you have a month recap post, please share the link! I love reading a good recap! Now you help me--what books should I read in February?

Weekly Goals #25

| On
February 03, 2014
Heyyyy nuggets! Happy Monday. Yeah right. Actually, I had a pretty good weekend so I'm not too stressed going into Monday. On Thursday, my computer just decided to peace out on me + wouldn't turn on or cooperate with me. Let me tell you, I spend a whole lot of time on the computer and that was super stressful. I was panic-emailing all my clients telling them I'd be back as soon as possible + I'd try to make sure I didn't lose their designs and in general, trying to stay sane. Thankfully, all my clients are lovely + rational people + no one got mad at me :) On Saturday I got my computer up-and-running so I worked through the weekend to catch up on lost time. 

Despite all that, my weekend was really nice. I had a lovely date with H that involved watching SVU (fact: I'm actually addicted to watching SVU) + eating a whole lot of Qdoba. So duh, that was good. And that put together with the fact that I got some nice sleep + eno (hammock) time, I'm one happy girl! 

In my effort to keep things that way for the rest of today, I've decided to share some sort of funny things along with my weekly goals on Mondays. Guys, I'm telling you straight: the humor section on Pinterest = GOLD. I'll tell you a thousand more times; it's just beyond great. Please tell me someone else thinks this is as hilarious as I do: 

Hahaha, this made me laugh!

This is how I felt every. single. moment of the Superbowl.

...yes

Funny Picture

Guys, I'm just sitting at home alone, laughing out loud. I feel like a weirdo.

Okay, let's be serious. Back to the actual point of this post now. Since it's Monday, it's time to set my goals for the week and recap how I did on my goals from last week

How did I do last week?


Last week, I made three goals: to continue writing posts ahead of time/stick to my editorial calendar, be at least 80% done with my drunk driving awareness campaign site for a local law firm + to continue practicing journaling. 

Number one? Booyah. I'm not as far ahead as I would like to be, but I'm currently about five posts ahead of schedule, which I have to say, feels AWESOME. I never really understood the point of writing ahead of time before I tried it, but I'll admit that I'm officially a believer. Now, whenever I'm in the mood to write, I'll sit down for a few hours and crank out 2-3 posts, just like that!

Goal number two (making progress on my charity site) was pas bon this week. I only finished two pages out of ten for the entire site. But I'm okay with that. My "due date" that I've made for myself is still more than a week away + with all my computer issues, my design time had to be focused on my more immediate clients. 

Goal number three was also a success! I'm really not a big fan of journaling, but I'm learning to like it. I journaled three times this week + I'm really proud of myself!

My goals for this week:


A few days ago, I shared my goals for all of February. The hardest of those goals for me will be to continue building a habit of running, so I'm going to focus on that this week. I really have a love-hate relationship with running. I hate the actual act of running, but I love the pride that comes with running further than I have before, the strength I feel in my body + the endorphins. This week, I'm going to run three times, even if it's a short, mini, 15 minute jog. Whatever gets me outside + moving.

I'm just gonna stick with that for the week! That'll be tough enough.

What are your goals for the week? Do you run (help!)?


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