Don’t Be a Slob: Organization, Part 1

(As previously see on the HelaWrite blog.)

It’s the last quarter of the year, and most of us can’t even remember the great resolutions we made at the beginning of the year. Though you may know how I feel about resolutions (I prefer setting goals instead), being in a mind-frame of wanting to change habits is a good thing. Why? Because this post is about changing the habit of being messy (or a clutter-bug). 

Spring isn’t the only time to clean out your attic (etc.), so don’t put off a good thing until later. NOW is the time to make a change, specifically with your office.

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Let’s get physical. And by physical, I mean: Let’s explore some ways to physically de-clutter your work life, step-by-step.

     1. Make a list of essentials.

  • What/how many office supplies do you need? Do you need 15 Sharpies, or 5?
  • Do you need a new chair or desk? Is it time to say goodbye to furniture on the cusp of death?
  • Do you need a smaller/larger bookshelf? Do you even need one at all?

     2. Make the switch to digital filing.

  • Trust me: you do NOT need a ginormous, physical file in this day and age. Scanners and even cameras on our smartphones have made life so much easier. Scan and upload important documents, then shred the physical copy. Make sure you have 2-3 backups!
  • Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive are some great places to use for digital storage.

3. Speaking of digital filing: Purge old files.

  • I try to purge my files at least 2-3 times per year. It makes a huge difference, since I only keep a small file container.
  • You should keep your tax returns and old pay stubs for at least 3-7 years, depending on how you filed. (I personally keep all my records for 7 years, just in case.) After that, shred them.
  • Archive prior years’ files (that are still important) by either making them digital OR physically file them in a secondary storage container. I keep both my current and archived storage containers up-to-date.
  • Shred junk. You know what I’m talking about: Those old papers you thought were super important (like those notes from college Statistics that you swore you’d need 10 years later) and recycle them, or shred them if they contain sensitive and private information.
  • Shred old bank/account statements and credit/insurance/school/etc. cards. Statements from years prior can now be downloaded in seconds from most financial institutions, so stop hoarding them!

      4. Make your space presentable.

  • Sure, some of us thrive in chaos and we like a little “creative clutter.” But what about all those times you couldn’t find your favorite container of glitter paper clips? Or that time you spilled your third cup of coffee all over your client’s contract? Find what works for you, but don’t be a slob and keep things tidy.
  • Make your space your own. Make it a functioning, feng shui space in which you actually like to work. Chances are, you’ll increase your productivity.

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     5. Donate anything useable that you don’t need.

  • I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

     6. Update your resources.

  • Do you have important reference books that are out of date? Donate/sell your old ones and buy the latest edition as needed.
  • Make sure your reference charts are up-to-date as well. An example that comes to mind is a chart/poster that serves as a quick reference for formatting (i.e. MLA, Chicago/Turabian, APA, etc.).

Tomorrow, we’ll look at digital organizing–FUN! Be sure to come back for that topic.

Are there other organizing/purging tips you have that I didn’t cover in this post? Feel free to leave a comment!

Monday Motivation: Read This Cool Stuff VI

Well, I’m not gonna lie: this Monday is particularly rough since I’m working early and got just a few hours of restless sleep last night. But sometimes, that’s how it goes. I could definitely use some motivation today to get me through the week, and I’m sure you’re in a similar boat. Therefore, I bring you three great articles to check out:

1. How to Write Better: 7 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Writing by Jodie Renner on The Write Life

This is a GREAT article. It explains how to simplify your writing in order to have a greater impact on readers. All the tips given are ones I stand by, especially as an editor. In fact, most, if not all, of the tips sound exactly like what I would tell my own clients. Even if you don’t think you’re struggling with consolidating your writing, give it a read. How to declutter your writing is never a bad thing to study, no matter your level of expertise on the matter.

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2. 45 Tweetable Quotes About Creativity to Inspire Your Next Big Idea by Lindsay Kolowich at HubSpot

The title says it all: quotes that will help inspire your next big idea. I often write down quotes I find inspirating in my journal, and when I have a blah kind of day, I look back over the quotes and feel much better after. Check out these quotes and see if you can find a few that speak to you.

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3. 5 Top Social Media Dashboard Tools to Manage Your Social Accounts by Pooja Lohana on JeffBullas.com

Again, it’s all in the title for this article. Not only does this post provide a list of the top 5 tools, but it also gives readers a breakdown of the benefits of using such tools. As your small business, freelancing gig, or author platform grows, I guarantee that you will get to a point where you need such tools. Social Media is everything nowadays, whether we like it or not. So, I highly recommend you checking out this article to see if any of these tools will work for you. 

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That’s all for now, folks. Hope you have a great week. And, remember: if you’re in need of an editor, make sure you contact me! :)

Self-Editing in 9 Easy Steps

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

I write EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even if it’s texting, I consider that a form of writing. Most of the time, however, I write at least an e-mail and blog post each day. Culturally, many of us have become lazy in regards to self-editing/proofreading what we write. In a world where our version of shorthand is “TTYL” or “U” for “You,” abbreviations are the gateway to lazy writing and lazy editing.

Let’s change that.

Since the age of 12, I’ve taken self-editing very seriously. I’m nowhere near perfect, but my “editing detective eyes” have become better and better as time has progressed. Taking your own communications seriously will prompt others to take you seriously, too. Trust me on this one.

I’ve created some resources to help you out with self-editing. These resources don’t replace another set of eyes (or a professional editor), but they will help immensely, especially if you’re helter skelter when it comes to your own writing.

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This checklist is simple and straightforward:

1. Check spelling—don’t rely on spell check for everything, either!

2. Check grammar—ditto to the above ^

3. Proofread your article, e-mail, blog, etc. at least 3xs—don’t be lazy!

4. Review the context/meaning of your wording
-Did you use the right words? (See the common grammar mistakes info graphic below)
-Do you have misplaced/dangling modifiers? http://www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/msplmod.html
-Is your message clear and concise?
-Did you cut/edit unnecessary wording?

5. Check your dates & times (if applicable)

6. Check your sources (if applicable)

7. Check your links (if applicable) NO ONE appreciates a broken/incorrect link

8. If you are sending an e-mail, double check your recipient list (and if it’s not an inter-office communication, best practice is to BCC recipients to protect privacy)

9. If working in a Word/Pages document, save often

You can find my checklist on Evernote (I’ve shared it publicly) by clicking HERE. Feel free to copy it to your own Evernote notebook so you can actually use the check boxes that are not shown in this post.

I’ve also made an infographic (my first!) about common grammar mistakes. Check it out by clicking HERE.

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There are, of course, so many more elements to editing, but this is a great start. The resources here can definitely get you through your next e-mail or blog post. However, if you find yourself in need of a professional editor, well…you know where to find me. Happy editing!

Make It Work: Approaching a Problem with Multiple Solutions

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

"Make it work!" Photo via Jessie Pridemore from Flickr Creative Commons.

Tim Gunn: “Make it work!” Photo via Jessie Pridemore from Flickr Creative Commons.

If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, then you’ve heard the famous “Make it work” motto of fashion genius Tim Gunn. My family and I often use this phrase in a patronizing or humorous way, but Mr. Gunn has a great point. In other words, he’s admonishing the show’s contestants to figure it out–make something happen. And that’s what we need when it’s problem-solving time.

Solving problems can be a daunting task, especially if you only look at the big picture rather than piecing it out in parts. Believing that there’s only one solution to a problem can also stop you dead in your problem-solving-tracks.

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Before I started my business last year, I was a school administrator. The school’s Director of Operations, to be exact. Solving problems was at the top of my job description. I had the support of our leadership team, but at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for all the small- and large-scale events, community gatherings, communication processes, and marketing. Talk about putting out fires.

I knew I had to keep my cool, no matter what the circumstance. The most important part about problem-solving, for me, was to draft out solutions and keep an open mind to the ideas my team members and the school’s parents had. If I had chosen to shut out every opinion, there’s no way I could have accomplished everything I did while in that position.

Solving problems involves efficiency, the ability to move quickly (mentally and sometimes physically), and the desire to involve the appropriate people to get the task done. Being a good leader means that you abandon the temptation to be a “lone wolf” and you get your team involved.

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Needless to say, I learned a lot from that job and was able to apply multiple solutions to the hurdles that came my way. So, just how can you solve a problem by using multiple solutions?

Here’s my process:

1. Brainstorm

Approaching a problem organically is a huge factor. It alleviates the pressure of finding the perfect answer right away (kinda like the stress of huge math problems). Here are some ways to brainstorm:

  • Draw it out: Use a web, diagram, or pictures to generate ideas. Don’t throw out any crazy ideas during this process. Sometimes the crazy ones are the best.

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  • Write it out: Grab a journal and have a dialogue with yourself; walk yourself through the process of solving the problem.

 

  • Talk it out: Call a meeting with those you trust most; those who have the ability to give you varying perspectives. Be open to their ideas and hear what they have to say in regards to finding a solution. This would be a GREAT time to use someone who has strategy as one of their Top Strengths. Since my Top Strength is strategy, I have often been called into various planning meetings to give input during the brainstorming process. Strategists usually have great solutions, but make sure they don’t dominate the entire conversation. :)

2. Narrow It Down

Once you have generated multiple solutions, prioritize the ideas that could actually work. Throw out the ones that are bogus. You can use a criteria list to help with this part of the process. Look at things like: 

  • Efficiency
  • Time it will take to implement a solution
  • Cost of the solution (especially if you have a tight budget)

3. Choose the Best Solution–or a Combination of Some

Again, there is not always ONE right answer. Sometimes, it may take a combination of solutions and ideas to approach a problem and solve it. Keep an open mind while trying to figure out what will work best, and be wary of falling into the trap of over-analyzing.

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4. Set A Timeline

This is one of the most important areas of problem-solving. A solution is only as good as its plan. I know that sounds strange, but planning is so underrated. Once you have an answer, set up the blueprint for execution. Here are some questions you may need to ask yourself:

  • Does this problem/solution have a due date?
  • When will I/we begin working on the problem, using the chosen solution?
  • How long will the problem take to solve?
  • Do I need others to help me solve the problem?

5. Delegate As Appropriate

The key to success begins with delegation. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you’re like me, wavering between perfectionism and creativism (totally made up that word), then you can empathize with the real temptation of doing everything yourself. I had to learn the hard way that it’s a good thing to ask for help, and that I can actually get more done with extra hands. Who knew, right?

Build a team (if applicable) of people who are trustworthy that can get the job done. They may not do things your way, but that’s okay. As long as the outcome is successful, you’ll be grateful for the extra help. And let me be the first to say that my former assistant was a godsend! I wouldn’t have been alive at the end of the school year without her.

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6. Execute

Once you have the pieces in place, it’s time to solve the puzzle. You have your solution, timeline, and team, so get to work! Just picture Tim Gunn looming over your workstation, and ask yourself if he’d be impressed or horrified by your creation.

 

I hope you find yourself using some (or maybe all) of these tips the next time you face a big problem. Nothing (except hangovers and procreation) happens overnight, so take a breath and give yourself a break. Look at the problem as a whole, then break it up into manageable pieces. You’ll be surprised at how much simpler it looks that way. “Make it work!”

The Importance of Brevity (In Exactly 500 Words)

As a writer, it will probably be my life-long struggle to pare down my words and get to the points that really matter. Even in fiction, there’s a line you shouldn’t cross when it comes to the overuse of details. It’s more obvious in non-fiction, especially in journalism-type writings. No matter what the communication avenue, brevity plays a key role in successfully conveying a message.

“Good things, when short, are twice as good.”
—Gracián

As an editor, a key component of my services to my clients includes helping them to develop their projects while getting rid of the chaff. We’re not in high school anymore, so we shouldn’t write bullsh**. If we do, our credibility is apt to go down the toilet. With so much quality content just a Google search away, it is crucial to be clear and concise with our words.

Even editors need editors. My first novel, with notes from my editor. Which is also what I do for my clients.

Even editors need editors. My first novel, with notes from my editor. Which is also what I do for my clients.

Here are 5 simple rules to follow when constructing a communication piece:

  • Write it ALL (Similar to “free writing,” write without abandon, and get all your thoughts out of your brain.)
  • Re-read it while doing a simultaneous edit, at least 3xs (This is where you begin to make sense of everything and weed out the garbage.)
  • Read it aloud (Reading to yourself is one thing; hearing it spoken is a whole different bear.)
  • Ask someone to look over it (If it’s an important piece, another eye is always good. If that’s not an option for you, however, just go over it one more time by yourself; you’ll be surprised to find that it still needs tweaking.)
  • Send it, publish it, deliver it (Release your baby into the world!)

Sometimes, it’s necessary to write something not so brief. However, most of us are guilty of adding in too much fluff. Maybe it’s a culture thing, maybe it’s how we’ve been taught. Either way, in my personal and professional experience, the more clear our communication is, the more beneficial it is.

And, a well-expressed piece of communication is just damn good.

Try the above “rules” when you construct your next e-mail or blog post. You don’t have to be a professional writer; you simply need to take a few extra minutes to do some rewriting and self-editing. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll be with writing and communicating. You can become a better communicator if you put some effort into it.

“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
—William Strunk, Jr.

Do YOU have tips to share about the importance of brevity? Leave a comment!

Click HERE to read an article from WebAIM about writing clearly and simply.

Looking for an editor? Contact me TODAY and get a free quote! Let’s work together.

Monday Motivation: Read This Cool Stuff V

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

Happy Monday, readers! To start off a new week, here are three great articles to get you motivated. Enjoy!

1. Clicks on Pinterest Generate 4X More Revenue Than Twitter [Infographic] by Pamela Vaughn at HubSpot

There’s not a whole lot to read here, which is a good thing. Most of the post includes an infographic that shows just how Pinterest is able to live up to the claim in the title of the blog post. I’ve personally been investigating the power of Pinterest this year and use my account for more than building my never-to-be-bought-dream-wardrobe. (Though, I might need an intervention…)

2. What Works For Me On Twitter by Rochelle Moulton

This was a great find. I can’t remember the exact events that led me to this post, but the destination was gold. Moulton doesn’t divulge every Twitter secret, but she certainly gives some great tips that can help any Twitter novice build their following in no time.

3. 4 Ways to Boost Your Social Media Marketing for Less than $1 Per Day by Jason Parks on JeffBullas.com

Before I read this, I was extremely skeptical of spending ANY money to boost tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook. But the way the article breaks it up into small amounts of change–well, now I’m thinking I may try it out this year to see what happens. The other platforms mentioned–YouTube and Instagram–are not my main methods of marketing myself as an author and/or business person. But, if that’s “your thing,” the article provides some great tips.

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Wishing you all a very happy and productive week. And remember: if you’re in need of an editor/writer, send me a message!

A New Decade: Welcome to 30

Today is my 30th birthday, and I’m actually pretty stoked.

Me on my 23rd birthday, 7 years ago!

Me on my 23rd birthday, 7 years ago!

During the past few months, I’ve read EVERY “30 Things By 30″ kinds of articles on Buzzfeed, HuffingtonPost, blogs…you name it, I’ve read it. And funnily enough, I have been able to relate to almost every article.

23rd birthday. Feels like eons ago!

23rd birthday. Feels like eons ago!

Just what is it about not only adding another year to your existence, but transitioning to a new decade?

26th birthday...always classy!

26th birthday…always classy!

Well, for one, I think that it’s easier to quantify your life experiences, ups and downs, and major milestones in larger chunks as opposed to individual years. For example, if you asked me: Tamar, what was going on in your life around age 22? My response would be: Like I know…

Vacation in Hawaii. I *think* this was around age 22... Who. Knows. Ha!

Vacation in Hawaii. I *think* this was around age 22… Who. Knows. Ha!

But when I think back on the past decade of my life, I see a cumulative existence. I see a girl who became a woman (who still feels like a kid at times). I see a young woman who overcame many years of weird and bizarre illnesses, who now has a better appreciation for good health and a greater understanding for those who suffer from chronic sickness/pain. I see a young woman who fought hard to successfully earn her college degree while working full time. I see a young woman who learned how to speak up for herself while still being diplomatic and graceful (even when I wanted to punch someone’s throat).

I see a young woman who learned (and is still learning) how to forgive those who wronged her, and learned how to ask for forgiveness when she was wrong. And I see a young woman who began to accept herself–her WHOLE self–for who she was and who she is. I still have a ways to go with that one (among many other things), but don’t we all?

My first tattoo, age 20. (I've added 4 more since then.)

My first tattoo, age 20…or maybe 21… (I’ve added 4 more since then.)

I am not perfect, nor do I think I will ever reach perfection in this lifetime. However, I am wiser, stronger, and more capable because of the past decade. And, thankfully, though I had many rough patches in my 20’s, I am all the more resilient–I still believe in miracles and magic, which is an absolute requirement if you’re a writer. I am always learning something new, continually fascinated by the discoveries I make.

My very first book signing, age 27.

My very first book signing, age 27.

I am blessed.

Wandering around El Dorado Forest, age 29. (Photo cred: Robin M.)

Wandering around El Dorado Forest, age 29. (Photo cred: Robin M.)

How many people can say that they wrote 2 books before hitting 30? How many can say that they were able to travel halfway around the world and live there for a while? I’m constantly awed when I reflect on the out-of-this-world opportunities that I have been given.

Age 27, right after a book signing at Barnes & Noble. Wow, what a moment!

Age 27, right after a book signing at Barnes & Noble. Wow, what a moment!

I don’t think I’m some super special snowflake or anything, but the past decade has definitely taught me about the power of yes and no–saying yes to the things that light up your world, and turning down other things (even great ones) that don’t. And because of that, especially the past few years, I have been living a very rich life.

My mom and me in NY, 2012 (age 28).

My mom and me in Times Square, NY, 2012 (age 28).

As I jump forward into a new year–a new decade–of life, I will keep saying yes to the things that stir excitement and ignite my passions within. Because the past 10…20…29 years of my life have taught me that when I do what I was made to do, I can actually help the world become a better place.

I don’t know all that is in store for me, but I am excited for what is to come–all the good, and even the not-so-good. Every new experience will teach me something, and in turn, I can teach others. I hope that my life will serve as an inspiration to others. Even if I can positively affect just one person’s life, I will be content. Also, I’m glad that I care less about the little things that I don’t need to waste my time worrying about–especially the opinions of others. There is so much freedom in just being me and being okay with that. 

Me with one of the most important people in my life: my nephew. (Age 28 here.)

Me with one of the most important people in my life: my nephew. (Age 28 here.)

Now…for the moment you’re really here and reading this: MY SPECIAL GIVEAWAY! I have 2 presents to give away today. The first is for everyone: My first book, Feast Island, is FREE today, in celebration of my birthday (Kindle version only). Yay! Click HERE to get it.

AND…if you are among the first 5 people to comment on this blog post, you get a FREE Kindle version of my latest release, The Wrong Fairy Tale! Woohoo!

Here’s your prompt: What is an important thing you’ve learned as you’ve grown older?

Share in the comments below!

WFT final cover onlyjpegThanks for being here and for reading this post. Without you, this would be a diary instead of a blog! xoxo

-Tamar