I’ve been busy reflecting on the fact that my next birthday is just a few days away, and only just realized that yesterday was the two year anniversary of my blog and website! I spent much of yesterday working at our co-working space at ThincSavannah, strategic planning with our executive assistant Sera Bishop and conducting a pitch for new business in California. In between meetings, a colleague and friend from the Department of Education called to tell me that she still missed me (thanks, girl) and I realized that yes, it’s been two years. Two. Freaking. Years. As much as I talk about the deliberate decision-making and planning that went into launching a successful business, it always truly felt like a leap of faith. Where I am right now is never where I imagined it would be. Luckily, it’s been much better .
Last year, I wrote about 7 lessons in entrepreneurship that I learned from my first year. My biggest takeaway on the second year… where has it gone? Much of the past year has been a whirlwind of serving clients, hiring up, and travel. These days, I am more interested in getting my business to be super galactic efficient so I can stay in the present and enjoy the life changes I made in 2012.
Let me take a break from hacking my own life and share 7 tools I’ve used in the last year that have helped me to live the life I’m inventing for myself.
1. Stuck by Anneli Rufus. I first read this book in 2009 after my maternal grandmother passed away, and it changed my life. Full stop. I realized all the simple ways I abdicated responsibility for my path and have picked it up many times to remind myself. The book is a hell of a lot of tough love and you can see that in the Amazon reviewers who hate on it. Someday, I will write the book review it deserves, but in the meantime, if you feel like you’re always making excuses for outcomes in your life, I can’t recommend this book enough.
2. Accompl.sh. This goal management and declaration site was created by one of my favorite scrappy female entrepreneurs, Jenn Vargas. I use the site to manage my yearly SMART goals and make them public to add a further push for accountability. So far, I have completed two (including paying off my undergraduate loans!) and made significant progress on a number of others. Some that I had scheduled for April or May just have less importance for me and I need to go in and edit and adjust so I do what’s right by me and not just because it’s on a “list.” That is the ultimate life hack.
3. Audacity. A few times a year, I write out the “vision” for my life (my entire life, not just my business), record it on a happy day using Audacity, and import it into my iTunes library to listen and affirm to myself where I am going at least once a week. Not to go all The Secret and Self Help Guru on you, but this big picture reminder keeps me grounded. Audacity is super simple to use.
4. MorningCoach. One thing that can be hard when you start something new is maintaining routines and practice. Morning Coach is a daily 15 minute podcast produced by JB Glossinger that provides that for me. I’ve been subscribing for 18 months and his 15 minutes of daily talk on different aspects of life design keeps me motivated and like I’m not alone in this idea that if I am strategic, I can actually achieve what I want. Morning Coach is about $20 a month, but it’s worth the cost to keep me on the inspiration track in a left-brained way that I appreciate.
5. grateful160. This is a new tool for me but it’s making a huge impact. grateful160 sends you a daily email that asks you list one thing you’re grateful for, something you could summarize in 160 characters or less. I have talked about the importance of journaling and using the tool OhLife.com so I was reluctant to add a smilar tool, but I felt the focus on gratitude was too critical for me. I know I struggle with expressing simple gratitude in the face of difficulty and can turn negative too quickly. For example, I have a number of clients who like to email in the middle of the night and weekend and waking up to a full box often makes me overwhelmed and behind before the day starts, no matter what morning routines I have to make me feel calmer. I am hoping this singular focus on gratitude helps me hack my emotions so I can focus on what matters. For example, it’s better to have lots of client emails than none, right? Today, my gratitude will be that I made the decision to shut off my phone and email and write because I enjoy it. I need to remember the rest (returning to a full inbox) doesn’t impact the joy I get when I write.
I am not including OhLife as a tool here since I’ve already talked about it obsessively, but I can’t express how awesome that has been to my personal and professional development. I recently had my entry for May 20, 2011 come back and I had no idea what a momentous day that was for me. I don’t know how I would have otherwise. On that one day, I was featured on Mashable.com for the first time (which I didn’t know was going to bring me tons of clients for over a year), I found out I had been awarded the Teach Newark contract, and I went to see Midnight in Paris with a childhood friend where after listening to Owen Wilson whine for two hours about how he wished he could up and move out of the big city of LA, the first possibility of spending more time in Savannah first popped in my head. In retrospect, those all seem like disparate events, but OhLife showed me it was all on one life altering day and gives me daily perspective now that I know.
6. SaneBox. SaneBox has helped me manage the influx of email like no tool has, making me a nicer person (I think). Think of it as intelligent Gmail filters that don’t require as much work. Any email from someone who is not already in my contacts or sent items goes to a folder called @SaneLater, allowing me to focus on the people I already know. I can also move an email to @SaneBlackHole which then assures that senders who abuse my mailbox don’t get access to my eyeballs any longer. They also have some handy tools for sending you reminders when someone needs to get back to you. This saves me 2-3 hours a week on email, very good for $5 a month!
7. Pinterest. I was one of the first people on Pinterest, but I don’t have that many Pins because I am more of an auditory learner- that’s why Morning Coach and Audacity are such great tools for me. However, I’ve begun using Pinterest to be more playful about some goals I really want to achieve, but have conflicting emotions about. For example, I have a lot of anxiety about driving and owning my first car in my late 30s, after 15 years in NYC. I’ve been managing some of my anxiety by creating a fun Vroom, Vroom board of car pictures that appeal to me, as well as local places I want to go in with the car. My coach, the awesome Thekla Richter, put the idea in my head and it’s really helped. Definitely try it if there is something you’ve always wanted to do but is hard to think of as enjoyable.
Hope you find these tips helpful! Before you share your favorite lifehacking tools in the comments (which I really hope you do), I have two other announcements. One, I’ll be doing some work on the website design and it will be a slow project so things will be looking weird for a bit. Second, I am doing a special offer for my birthday to my newsletter subscribers so if you’re not on the list, get on ASAP.