Yes to One Thing, No to Ten

Yes to one thing, no to ten.

In April, when I spoke at the Women in Tech Summit, the panel moderator asked us all what we’d do if we weren’t afraid. The first thing that came to my mind was that I’d say no more. At the time, it seemed like such a novel and revolutionary and original idea. I said something like, “This may sound weird, but…” and then someone in the crowd shouted back “NO! Not weird at all!”

After a total glut of overcommitment this summer, I’m really trying to examine how I’m spending my time and why. I want to make sure I’m leaving time to take care of myself, which includes spending time with loved ones, traveling, writing, and reading books. Leaving time to be spontaneous. Leaving time to learn new skills and get better at what I do.

A few months ago, I saw brilliant and dear Erin Anacker mention that every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to ten other things. It’s stuck with me.

What’s the one thing that sounds fun today, or that I’m committing to just to fill my time, that will inherently prevent me from doing ten other things? What if one of those ten other opportunities was a better fit?

The goal is not to second guess ourselves at every turn, rather to flesh out how to ensure that the ways we’re spending our time align with our goals. It’s to make sure we’re actually doing those things we say we want to be doing, but often get lost in a sea of self-imposed obligations.

What’s worth saying yes to if it means you’re saying no to ten other opportunities?


A Girl’s Best Friend is Her Chrome Extensions

Chrome Extensions to make life easierIf you’re like me (and most people), you’re into ways to make life easier. These Chrome extensions have individually and collectively improved the quality of my life significantly, and I’ve been recommending them to people in Girl Develop It classes, so I thought it’d be good to compile them all here. Without further ado:

Pocket — I used to scroll through Twitter and email tweets to myself if I didn’t have time to read the fascinating content they linked to. This did not lead to a stress-free inbox. Enter Pocket. Now when I find something I want to read later, I just save it to my Pocket via the Chrome Extension or through Twitter. I like to save articles to read during flights or while waiting for appointments.

WhatFont — Ever fall in love with a font but not know what it is? No more! WhatFont tells you what font (duh) a site uses, along with font-size, line-height, color, and other such useful CSS values.

Eyedropper | Colorpicker — I used to wish that there was a Photoshop eyedropper tool for the browser. There is! Of the two, I prefer Eyedropper. Colorpicker is a little too robust for my needs. Both provide hex codes and rgb values for colors on a website.

Feedly — I recommended Feedly to everyone who was traumatized by the death of Google Reader. I never liked the Google Reader interface, so I’ve used Feedly instead since 2009. I enjoy categorizing all the feeds I read regularly, and I still like the interface better than anything else I’ve seen.

WebPage Screenshot — I’d been trying to figure out how to get full-page screenshots of projects I’ve worked on to use in my portfolio. I’m not sure how I found this one — I probably just got frustrated one day and started searching — but it is really handy. It’s also integrated with Google Drive and Dropbox, if that’s your jam.

Dayboard — I installed Dayboard literally yesterday, and its high level of awesome is what inspired this entire post. Credit goes to Roz Duffy for sharing this one. I routinely have multiple windows with multiple tabs open, and it is far too easy to get distracted and forget what I’m doing when I’m working online. Dayboard doesn’t let that happen. Every day, it asks you what five things you want to accomplish. Every time you open a new tab, you’re faced with that list of five things. It’s constantly bringing me back to what I should be focusing on.

Are there any I’ve missed? What are your favorites?


We Do Not Have as Much Time in the Day as Beyonce

You do not have as many hours in the day as Beyonce. As one might expect of a fashion company, other people in my office have expertly decorated desk spaces. I love looking at everyone’s little tchotchkes on my way to fill up my water bottle, all the while trying not to look like a creeper while getting distracted and walking past my own desk because I’m staring at everyone’s decor.

Somewhere between the office kitchen and my desk, there’s a sign above someone’s desk, proclaiming, “YOU HAVE AS MANY HOURS IN THE DAY AS BEYONCE.”

It’s been bothering me for awhile, but it’s taken weeks for me to nail down exactly why.

Yes, we all have 24 hours each day. That’s true.

The idea that we all have enough time to look phenomenal, work our asses off, exercise regularly, cook decent food, spend quality time with loved ones, experiment and try new creative endeavors, be recognized as leaders in our industries, and still have time to sleep enough to not be an ogre is misleading, and dare I say, damaging.

Beyonce has someone telling her how to work out, and probably spends hours doing so each day. I bet she has excellent childcare. My guess is that someone probably cooks, cleans, and does her laundry for her. The list goes on. The point is, she’s got lots of help. And all of that is wonderful! I wish I had all of those things (except childcare  — that’s unnecessary at this point in my life), and I certainly don’t begrudge her that. I think it’s great. Good for her.

It’s very Lean-In-esque: Tell women they’re just not working hard enough. If we just lean in, surely we can be as powerful and dynamic in all spheres of life as Bey. Work harder! Lean in! You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce!

Well, I call bullshit. Maybe it’s just that I’ve had a difficult few months and a chronic overcommital problem, but this sentiment is kind of insulting and breeds 1950s-housewife levels of feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and shame.

Let’s please be kinder to ourselves. Give ourselves a little grace. Unload just one responsibility that doesn’t bring us joy or rest. Really examine how we want to spend our time and what is a healthy way to harmonize the disparate pieces of our lives. Let’s believe that we really can do all the things, maybe just not all at once. And that is totally ok.


What I’m Looking Forward to About My New Schedule

Green Lantern at Terrain

Earlier this week I shared what I’ll miss most about making my own schedule. So it only seems fair to also talk a little bit about why I’ve decided to return to the 9 to 5 world. This whole freelancing topic has gotten out-of-hand trendy and super glorified in certain blog circles, with everyone and their mother suddenly being a budding “expert” on how to be an independent worker. So I also hope to bring some balance to that conversation.

When I first left my proofreading job to go on this sabbatical, there was nothing but a but the fog of possibility before me. The plan was to learn as much as I could and then hope that the road would take shape. I thought I’d likely either work towards a full-time independent business or try to get a full-time job that would be a good fit and help me learn even faster.

Though I definitely plan to keep taking independent contract work, there are many reasons why I decided to rejoin the ranks of the employed-by-others.

  • I’ll be surrounded by a team of people I can learn from on a daily basis.
  • I’m more productive and organized when I have an externally structured schedule. I wish this weren’t true about me, but it is.
  • There’s no clock to stop. When freelancing, I stop my clock when I get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom. When working for someone else, I get paid even when taking a bathroom break.
  • Snow days are snow days again. (This is no small thing right now.) And if I choose to work on a snow day, it’ll be to get ahead on freelance work. (Or maybe I’ll get a work laptop? It will be a necessity if this slop keeps up much longer…)
  • I’ll get to have a hand in things that a ton (thousands? millions?) of people will see.
  • I can learn so much faster if there’s external pressure to pick up a new technology or skill for a pending project.
  • I’m unequivocally introverted, but human interaction is healthy. I tend to work like a hermit, even with access to excellent coworking communities. It’ll be good for me have friendly work acquaintances I’ll (be forced to) see every day.
  • My version control workflow skills will improve greatly by working with a team and having to merge and resolve conflicts and with others, rather than being the only one committing to a code repository.
  • Javascript. It’s time. Time to be a ninja/rockstar/whatever dumb name the ridiculous start up scene uses in job postings these days.
  • I won’t be the one having to chase someone down to get assets or information I need.
  • It’ll be easier for me to take on passion projects or non-paying creative endeavors when I know I’ll have a baseline of regular income.
  • It’s a huge confidence boost to know that a place I wanted to work at wanted me to work for them. If I succeed, it’ll be a testament to the value of the time I put in to learning and growing over the past year and a half.

I’m super grateful for this past season, but I’m equally excited for the one ahead. Like I’ve said, I’ll still be taking select independent projects, so I’ll get to keep some of the perks of that while also benefiting from all of the above.

Have you ever returned to a regular full time job after freelancing? Any favorite pros/cons of either set up? Tips on managing both?

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Lunchtime Reads 12.23.13

Taste of the Valley Latte

Are you working the Monday before Christmas, which awkwardly falls in the middle of the week this year? I’m sure your mind is wandering from work anyway, so here’s some lunch break goodness to help you take your mind off the hustle & bustle.

Ever feel like the really successful artists, writers, & hyper creative people have some hard mental ish going on? Scientific American takes up that common misconception & shares the  real link between mental illness & creativity: “It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”

This is a really great reminder, especially during this season when baked goods & other deliciousness abounds: What People Really Look Like

Soon after I signed up for a Skillshare calligraphy class, I found this. What a rad idea. Plus her lettering style is brilliant. I’m super tempted to try this in the new year: Modern Day Snail Mail

I don’t have a daughter (yet?), but if I did, I’d want to teach her all of these things, too. Except the bit about Springsteen, maybe: 34 Things I’ve Learned in Life That I Want to Tell My Daughter

Elizabeth Gilbert had a significant writing life before Eat, Pray, Love. This interview makes me want her to adopt me as a mentee. She’s got so much wisdom regarding working cycles, creative blocks, and straight up hard work: Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert Writes

And, perhaps my favorite of the bunch, Erin Loechner kills it yet again. This one writes in such a way that I feel she’s crawled inside my soul & spent some time there before coming back out and addressing what ails me. This time, it boils down to the fact that we are all so much more than who we are online. We are complex souls with stories, and we choose to share or not share certain pieces of our lives in a very public sphere. I’m not even on the radar compared to the audience Erin has, but these are questions I ponder daily and I’m so grateful she shared this: Life as a Blogger