Create a Reading Ritual

“I want to read more this year.”

How many times have we made that a goal, but watched instead as it got swallowed up by holidays, work, and the busyness of day-to-day life?
Create a Reading Ritual

Not everyone inherently loves reading and even those that do sometimes struggle to find the time. If you keep looking for the time, however, you won’t find it; unless you make the time to read, a book won’t magically appear in your hands, your eyes soaking up the ink printed on each page.

I’m no psychologist, but changing your attitude towards reading and carving out the time to sit down with a book is something that can be done. Just like you can create habits of healthy eating and exercise, you can also create a habit of reading. A reading ritual, if you will. Because let’s face it: if you don’t enjoy doing something, you’re not going to want to do it at all.

Here are my tips for creating a reading ritual that makes you want to pick up a book and read!

  1. Make time for reading. Reading time will never magically present itself to you; you have to seek it out. You don’t need to set aside an astronomically large portion of time to read, especially right off the bat, but choose a time and place to read and stick with it. Set aside 10 minutes before bed or with your morning coffee to shut everything else off and spend some quality time with a book.
  2. Associate it with something you enjoy. If you’re not someone who naturally enjoys reading, link it to something that you do love. Give yourself a small square of chocolate when you sit down to read a book. Light a candle with a particularly pleasant smell. Make that thing The Reading Thing. No book, no nice-smelling candle. No extra chocolate piece. Personally, I love hot beverages, so sitting down with a cup of hot tea or coffee and a book is something I look forward to. (I’d argue that making reading enjoyable and making reading special are two different things. Think about elementary school reading time: the kids all know where to go, what to do. There’s an air of magic that’s exciting, that gets them eager to read. The lights are out. Some lanterns or candles are lit. They get to sit on the floor!)
  3. Pick a book you like. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re dreading the book you’re reading. Don’t be afraid to swap out a book you’re not feeling for a different one. Maybe the put-down is temporary (I’m all for reading what I’m in the mood for that particular day!) or maybe it’s permanent. Whatever it is, if it’s not a book you want to read, you won’t want to read. Pretty simple, no?

How do you keep yourself accountable to your books and make reading a little more enjoyable?

*Again, I’m no psychologist or the like. I’m fairly confident, however, that opening up a book in a comfortable chair won’t cause you any negative ailments.

How to Organize Your Content with an Editorial Calendar

How to create an awesome editorial calendar for your blog with Trello | My Life as a Teacup #blogging

Editorial calendars are a necessary evil, but little did I know just how much organizing content plagues bloggers until it was the topic of Kayla Hollatz’s #createlounge just a few weeks ago!

Editorial calendars can range from a pen-and-paper planner to a color-coded Google calendar (and even a plain ol’ Excel spreadsheet, which I used back in the early days of My Life as a Teacup!) These methods all have their merits, but finding the system that helps you to plan, schedule, and organize all of your content outlets in one place can be a nightmare of a process.

Enter Trello.

Trello is a visual-based project management tool that lets you organize large projects in a number of ways. I initially dismissed it as an app geared toward collaboration (a feature of Trello I’ve grown to incorporate), but have since embraced it as my go-to editorial calendar.

My setup still isn’t perfect, but utilizing Trello has been the best thing for my blog! Here’s a peek at how I use it to manage my content across all of My Life as a Teacup’s channels.

An Overview of Your Media Channels

Setting up Trello “categories” will set the foundation for how you use your editorial calendar. There’s no right or wrong way to list these; it simply depends on what content you want to organize. My current categories are based on my main content outlets, and look a little something like this:

Create an Editorial Calendar That Works for You

Think about how you would divide up your content. What kinds of content do you create? A blogger might include a ‘blog post’ stack, as well as a ‘newsletter’ stack to plan how content will be divvied up between the two. If you create video tutorials or content, a ‘Youtube’ stack might be fitting. Youtube has been a big area for me; I pencil in what reviews I have in my queue, as well as that month’s 5 Fandom Friday topics (but obviously if you don’t use Youtube you can skip this stack altogether.)

If you record podcasts, you could start a stack for your planned episodes. Create a list for Instagram content you want to publish, if that’s a key component of your brand. The possibilities are endless.

Micromanaging Your Content

Each of the white squares you see in the stacks above are referred to as ‘cards’ in Trello. But organizing a card into a themed stack isn’t super helpful on its own. Trello lets you go further by integrating individualized management features into each card.

Manage blog posts and content with Trello

Due date — Exactly as it sounds.

Description — Add reminders and notes to yourself or even use the space to draft your post.

Subtasks — You all know this is my favorite part! Trello lets you create a checklist so that you can break down each card into smaller subtasks and check them off as you complete them.

Labels — My second favorite feature; you can set up a series of color-coded labels to mark each card. Currently, I use them to indicate what stage my content is in, from draft to scheduled. You have full customization over what your labels say and how you use them.

Activity — This is a great feature if you’re collaborating with another blogger or are part of a larger group. I don’t personally use this status update-like feature much, but it’s been helpful when Marissa of Ampersand Creative and I are working on a project together.

When you’ve done all you want to do with your post, or ‘card’, simply hit ‘archive’ and Trello will clear the completed task from your busy blog calendar.

With so many customization options, this is the part of Trello that really lets you configure your calendar in a way that suits your needs.

Social Media Scheduling

One common worry many #createlounge-goers expressed is the difficulty of incorporating social media planning into their content calendars. Some bloggers are adamantly against planning social media, usually because it can feel contrived or is too hard to organize, but I’m going to argue for creating an editorial calendar for your social media just like you would for your blog posts.

On one hand, some social media can’t be scheduled. Take reader interactions and Twitter, for instance. It’s impossible to know to whom and about what you’ll want to respond, so that form of social media isn’t conducive to being scheduled. You’ll just have to reply on the fly.

But there is plenty of social media that you can schedule to maximize your readers’ interactions and free up your time, all without feeling disingenuous.

Personally, I identify the types of social media I want to engage in each week, which typically includes at least one of each of the following: retweet, share someone’s link, promote a new post, recycle an old post, engage a follower, ask a question, etc.

From that list, I’ll simply add each task to Wunderlist so that I can check off each as I complete it. For the new content that I plan to promote, I’ll include a subtask in that post’s Trello card that outlines how and where I want to promote it, like so:

Use Trello as a social media calendar

It’s easier for me to associate the promotion of the new post with the post itself, while for other social media I prefer to set a recurring task reminder through something like Wunderlist. You could easily plan your social media endeavors differently, either through Trello (e.g. set up a separate column just for ‘Instagram’ plans) or another service, but I’m fond of my current method.

Month At a Glance

Trello's calendar view helps you schedule blog content

My favorite feature, by far, is Trello’s calendar view. Enabling just a few settings allows you to see your content in a true schedule-like format, which is great for visually seeing how your posts are organized over time. It’s easy to drag and drop cards to different dates on your calendar, making this a valuable feature for planning posts and making sure that you’re not leaving your readers in a content drought.

Whether you’re a pen-and-paper planner (byRegina’s Epic Blog planner is incredible!) or prefer organizing your content calendar digitally, there are virtually endless options out there for creating and maintaining an editorial calendar. And even within each type — take Trello, for instance — there are a variety of configurations you can use to set up your calendar in a way that’s best for you and your content. Test out some different systems and see what works for you!

Consider your own editorial calendar. If you don’t currently use one, why not? If you do, can you think of one thing you can do to improve your content organization or plan your social media?

How to Boost Your Productivity with Wunderlist

Wunderlist in Action

Many of you have asked how I stay organized and productive through all of the chaos of running a blog and editing business. I’ll admit — it’s not easy, but with the help of some apps, I’ve mastered a system of to-do lists that works perfectly for me. You’ve already met one of my favorite apps, Evernote, but now it’s time to meet the other: Wunderlist (the basic version, which I use, is free!).

Wunderlist is simply a digital to-do list, and that’s precisely what I like best about it — it’s simple.

Features

Like any good app, Wunderlist is accessible on all of your devices, meaning your tasks sync instantly to your phone even when you’ve been working on the computer.

There is an option to upgrade to Pro and Business-level versions, but the basic free version has served me well for going on 3 years now.

You can:

  • Set due dates
  • Set reminders
  • Schedule recurring tasks
  • Break to-dos down into subtasks
  • Add notes
  • Create multiple lists
  • Organize lists into folders
  • Sort by hashtags
  • Turn your background into an adorable sleeping kitten (I never kid about kittens)

Though it can do quite a lot in terms of organizing and categorizing, the interface isn’t overcomplicated and is intuitive if you already spend a lot of time playing around with technology in general.

What’s the Difference?

You might find yourself wondering why I split my project management between two tools. There are a lot of apps out there, and surely it’s more convenient to keep everything in one place? But all apps are not created equal. The difference is in the type of brain clutter you want to store and how you want to display it.

While Evernote is perfect for capturing ideas and brainstorming sessions, it’s easy to get lost in the magnitude of it all. After all, it is more like one giant notebook.

Wunderlist is more useful when it comes to managing tasks, both on a short-term and long-term level. Schedule it, complete it, check it off.

Recipe for Success

Sure, Wunderlist does all this cool stuff, but where do you even start? Forming a habit with a new app or productivity system is hard work, I know. Depending on what other systems you have in place, discovering where Wunderlist fits into your life may take some getting used to. I tend to use it primarily for personal tasks as well as day-to-day scheduling, but there are loads of other ways you could incorporate Wunderlist into your personal life, or even into your business.

Let me give you an idea of my system…

Inbox & Daily To-Do

Subtasks let you manage to-dos

For me, Wunderlist is first and foremost a personal to-do list. When I wake up, I’ll tap open the app, add tasks that I need to complete that day — from picking up groceries to booking a vacation — and get to it. I can break tasks down further if I need. For example, ‘buy plane tickets’, ‘book hotel’, and ‘dust off suitcase’ can all go under ‘Book Vacation’ so that I can make sure to do everything on my list.

Often I’ll schedule my whole week in this way, which is easy to do from my phone while on the go. I can move things around if they’re more the tentative task type, or set a deadline for specific to-dos.

I tend to work from my ‘Today’ tab, as I know those tasks are the most urgent. That also means limiting my to-dos for the day so that I don’t go overboard and lose my sanity. Some tasks are things I would like to get to, but aren’t imperative for that day’s schedule, hence…

Specialty Folders

List Organization in Wunderlist

Some tasks are simply longer-term “goals”, if you will. Rather than have that miscellany scattered around my daily dashboard, I file them into looser lists in separate folders for easy organization and less clutter. Unless they’re time sensitive, I don’t schedule a due date.

For instance, this winter I’ve got a few things on my “OMG so excited to do these!” list, like go ice skating and take a glass-blowing class. I don’t have exact dates for them just yet, and so until I sign up for said glass-blowing class there’s no need for it to show up on my daily task list.

Other Specialty Lists I Currently Have: TBR list, a checklist of video games I keep meaning to finish

Business & Blogging

Organize it All with Folders

Of course, just scheduling posts on my editorial calendar doesn’t mean that I’ll remember to do what’s necessary to publish them. I use Wunderlist to turn My Life as a Teacup-related plans into actionable tasks.

I created a separate folder called ‘My Life as a Teacup’ in which to organize my blog items. Within that folder, there is one list for the blog itself and another for Youtube.

The ‘Youtube’ list is a way for me to set recording reminders; I’ll start by listing all of the videos I plan to record, add them as subtasks with their own checklist, and then change the due date as I record each one. This way, the overarching task of ‘record Booktube video’ shows up on my daily dashboard when I have a video to record, and I can cross off the videos as I film each one.

The ‘Blog’ list houses long-term blog tasks which I can further break down into subtasks, set up recurring instances of (like “write newsletter”), and schedule as I decide to take on the bigger projects.


There’s no one correct way to use Wunderlist, but it’s a powerful task management tool when you can incorporate it into your productivity system. For me, that means combining its to-do list power with my Evernote Notebook of Everything, a combo that works wonders for me.

Share your Wunderlist tips + tricks in the comments or on Twitter and lets maximize our productivity together!

A Step-By-Step Guide to Transforming Your Day from Chaotic to Productive

Make Your Day More Productive | My Life as a Teacup
Last Wednesday I sat in front of my computer from 9am-2pm with absolutely nothing to show for it*. Despite waking up early, drinking 4 a few cups of coffee, and making a list of things I wanted to accomplish that day, I felt unproductive. Negatively productive, in fact (if there is such a thing.) I felt like I was drowning in a goopy quagmire of coffee-scented chaos.

As much as I wanted to start ticking off the things on my list, as focused as I thought I was, I wasn’t putting my energy to work for me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t doing anything; I was doing lots of things! But being “unproductive” doesn’t mean doing nothing.

Even the most productive intentions can get sidetracked by too many tasks & unfocused energy. (Tweet this!)

It’s wonderful to have lots of goals you want to accomplish. What’s not wonderful — and probably just as detrimental as doing nothing at all — is trying to take on too much at one time. How many times have you sat down with a project at your fingertips only to be overwhelmed with just where to start? What began as something you were excited about quickly turns to a cacophony of unbearable tasks.

Getting back on track to productivity isn’t impossible, though!

Luckily for me, I noticed how flawed my day’s work system was early enough to call myself on my b.s. and change it (and you can too!)

Let me show you, step-by-step, how I made a few little changes to make my day more efficient and productive, and how you can do the same.

Can you find all the unproductive things in the picture below that are making me scream internally?

Before - Messy Workspace

BEFORE:

Before - What NOT to Do
Did you find them all? Good!

As you can see, these are all habits that are pretty inconspicuous and even okay on their own time. But when you’re trying to accomplish your goals, having Lumberjanes as entertainment (as wonderful as it is!) won’t help much. So how do you make it better?

AFTER:

Anatomy of a Productive Workspace
Step 1. Find a dedicated workspace – Believe it or not, I did have one thing going for me in that first hot mess above: I made a workspace. Personally, I don’t work well in a place where I am comfortable and that’s full of familiar distractions, so I always make it a point to go to Starbucks or the kitchen counter to signal to my brain that it’s Work Time.

Do This: Get off of the couch or out of bed and move to your office or a clean, clear table where you can sit up straight. Organize the things you’re working on in front of you, but don’t let them clutter your workspace.

Step 2. Put distractions away – Anything that’s not part of what you are currently working on should be put away. Even your to do list. Why? Because you’ll spend half of your time looking at the things that are coming up next on your list. And yes, this means your phone too. When did having it at your side ever help you get more done? I thought so. It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore something when it’s in a completely different room, so go ahead and do what it takes to make those distractions harder to access.

Do This: I don’t care if you say you’ll only check on your Neko Atsume cats when you take a five-minute break or that you need your phone to Instagram your work space; put your phone in the other room. Clear any other distractions from your workspace and physically put them somewhere else.

Step 3. Write a task list – This is where it gets hard. If you’re like me, you’ll want to list anything and everything that you want to do in the next three weeks on your list. No. Don’t. Stop. Only list the things that you must do today. As much as it may pain us to say, we have limited time. Focus on one or two projects that you want to work on, list them, and then break down those tasks into smaller sub-tasks.

For example, today I want to work on revamping my website. That’s a pretty big goal with a lot of components. When I break it down into one particular area I want to focus on in my work session today, being as detailed as possible, it may look something like this: revamp website > update media kit > redesign cover page > add testimonials > update statistics > export to pdf and compile

Do This: List 1-2 things that you want to accomplish in your work period. Be realistic with the time that you have. Then, break down those larger tasks into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. The more specific you can be, the better.

Step 4. Create a place to put ideas “for later” – As you’re working, you’ll inevitably be struck with inspiration for other things. Probably everything but what you’re currently working on. You certainly don’t want to let those ideas float away, but you also don’t want to get sidetracked with starting another project while waist-deep in the one you’re already working on. Whether you use a digital system like Evernote or keep a pad of sticky notes on your desk, find a place to quickly jot down those strokes of genius so you can come back to them later.

Do This: Make a landing zone for ideas you want to come back to. It should be a system that allows you to quickly jot down the idea and get back to what you were working on. You can work out the details of the new idea later.

Once you’ve set yourself up for success, get to it! From here, you can dive right in and get to work or use a time management system like Pomodoro to keep you on task.

I made a few tweaks, as per the “after” picture, and guess what? The next day was loads more productive! Not only did I actually finish my media kit, but I actually managed to free up some extra time to start on one of my “for later” ideas. And I still had time to go to catch a movie that evening, too.

What’s one actionable thing you can do to minimize distractions and make your day more productive?
*I also immediately realized that I lied on the survey I took the other day that asked how much time I spend in front of a computer screen daily. Three hours is a joke.

The Only Productivity Tip You’ll Ever Need

the only productivity tip you'll ever need

April is synonymous with new beginnings and spring cleaning, so what better time to share with you all my favorite trick for keeping your life free of clutter and chaos.

The best thing of all? It’s the simplest little trick, and its effects require no upkeep.

If it takes less than two minutes, do it now.

The dirty pan that’s been sitting in the sink? Just clean it now. Setting out your clothes for tomorrow? Do it now. That email reply you’ve been meaning to send for three weeks now? (I’d be willing to bet it would take you less than two minutes, honest) — Do it now.

I’m the first person to toss my lunchbox on the counter after a long day at work and promptly forget about it. I’m the first to throw a pile of clean clothes on the floor instead of put them in my closet that is two feet away. My motto has always been “I’ll get to it later”, when it takes just as much time and energy — if not less — to hang my pants on their hanger instead of folding them and stuffing them on the shelf below.

Why waste your time worrying about all of the stuff you have to do later when you can just get it done now?