Kill your to-do list

I have 3 apps on my phone that all essentially have the same function, to make to-do lists. I recently heard Jim Collins speak and he suggests killing your to-do list and instead, creating a “not to-do list”. At first, that seemed crazy to me. I live and die by my to-do list, which is a problem. My to-do list now runs my life. It controls what I do at work, at home, in the car, my workouts and creeps into my relaxation time. Even without any alerts turned on, I know it exists, and that there’s shit to be done.

 

After listening to Mr. Collins speak, I kind of love the idea of scraping the concept of a to-do list all together. Doesn’t that sounds amazing? Just living and working in the moment. Being more present? I recently turned off my email badge for my email icon on my phone and IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE. Who knew that a stupid red circle with a number in it could hinder the ability of an individual to relax, engage with friends, and just live…phone free? I decided checking my work email at home on my “off” hours wasn’t worth my sanity anymore. I found myself cracking open my laptop and doing work that could easily be done the next morning, at 9 or 10 at night, to just make the task that that stupid red badge represented to disappear. That little red badge would trigger several little red badges in my brain, making it impossible to eat or sleep until those little shits were thought about to no end and completed. I worry about enough, I decided that I didn’t need my email dictating new to-do items to me at bedtime (which it around 9PM. I’m old).

 

This no to-do list concept really stuck with me. I didn’t realize that people even lived this way. Just doing things, and getting shit done, without checking things off and qualifying yourself as a real go getter only bogs down the process of getting shit done. And I LOVE getting shit done.

 

I’ll still scribble things on post-its and typing up reminders on my phone to run by the store for milk (my memory is horrible, and I need milk for my cereal), but I’ll do my best to rely less on a to-do list to run my existence. The more I think about this, my to-do list is my security blanket. 80% of the tasks I archive on my 3 list making apps, I am going to do regardless of writing them down because they’re important. Think about it! I bet you’re in the same boat as me.

 

I haven’t started my “not to-do list”, but it will be extensive…and I won’t be putting the “not to-do list” on my dwindling to-do list (ouch, that hurt my brain).

Plan your Responsive Emails!

Recently, I was tasked with taking an existing client email and making it responsive. Since this was my first foray into the hardcore responsive realm, I jumped all over this like an eager little squirrel. Many cups of coffee, gray hairs and tears later, I realized this task was fruitless and called Time of Death on the project. With many hours already sunk into this project and a deadline well in the past, it was the general consensus that starting this bad boy from scratch was the right way to go, so we carried on in this direction. Luckily, the client was receptive to this, understanding that we could provide a better solution with this approach.

 

I’m currently taking charge on this project and it’s going 150% better than the first go around. Why? PLANNING FOR RESPONSIVE DESIGN. Taking an old email with fixed widths, random images and multiple columns and making it responsive is HARD. Plain and simple. I didn’t have a ton of time to sink into the all important planning stage, but the fact that there is any time for this at all is crucial. I sketched, I took notes (that resemble the ramblings of a mental patient) and consulted the expertise of colleagues who are far more experienced than me with responsive email design.

 

So what the hell is responsive design? Here are some resources that will help:

http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/email-design-4/email-design-for-all-the-mobile-inbox

http://www.campaignmonitor.com/guides/mobile/targeting/

http://blog.lyris.com/us/email-inspiration-six-great-responsive-email-designs/

 

Bottomline kids, plan your responsive email designs. You’ll save yourself a ton of heartache and time. You’re welcome.

I Love Fall

This is a post I started while the summer heat was still murdering the Midwest so it might sound a little dated, but it still applies.

 

Fall, or autumn if you will, is my season. Summer is a close second, but this summer has been brutal this year with its 100 plus degree temps and humidity. Just take a look at my garden, it’s struggled all summer, it’s time for a change. I have a closet full of jackets screaming for air.

 

I find myself sitting outside on my porch swing a lot more in fall. I feel compelled to doodle and capture the scenery and the feel of fall through my scribbles. Yes, I know how pretentious that sounds, but still, fall is when I feel most creative and when I’m ready for change. Change like the leaves…okay enough of that.

 

In the spirit of fall, I always make a list of activities I HAVE to accomplish during the season. A crispy leaf landed on my windshield yesterday while I was driving and I took that as a sign (perhaps misguided) to start compiling my list. Yes, I’m aware we’re still in the beginning of August (yeah, this is how long ago I started this).

 

The List (in no particular order):

  1. Brew an autumn inspired beer (already started).
  2. Go on a hayride, haunted or otherwise.
  3. Freak out my neighbors by decorating the house with fake cobwebs, dollar store skeletons and poorly carved pumpkins.
  4. Drink cider, lots and lots of cider.
  5. Drink/make pumpkin spiced lattes.
  6. Make many batches of chili.
  7. Watch lots of football (already started, Go Colts).
  8. Watch The Shining and Pieces (look it up, people).
  9. Fall crafts, fall crafts, fall crafts.
  10. Dress up my dogs and post copious amounts of photos online (yeah, I’m one of those people).

Personal Projects are Fun!

A few years ago, a couple of friends and myself were dead set on starting a small web & graphic design studio. Like so many in this industry, the urge to be free, wild stallions of creativity was strong. However, due to lack of funds and time to dedicate to the cause, our little pipe dream still remains in dream land as we all continue to work our respective 9-5 gigs. It’s always been my goal to work in a design studio environment so when we first started cooking up this idea I jumped in head first and started doing what I love, designing a website. After many revisions and months of work, I quickly knew this website would never see the light of day as our humble dream sauntered back into dream land and out of our current realities. I refused to leave my website baby out in the cold to suffer from neglect, because I’d grown to love it, so years later, I’m finally getting my bundle of joy coded. For what? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try to sell the design on Graphic River, maybe I’ll try to create a WordPress theme, maybe I’ll just keep it as a portfolio piece. Who knows. One thing I do know is, I LOVE working on it. I love figuring out new things I can do with HTML/CSS. These coding languages are more versatile than I could have imagined when I first started on this project and I’ve relished every hurdle and roadblock I’ve encountered and overcome. I’ve had my first taste of JQuery while tinkering with this site, and it tasted like rainbows.

Here’s a little preview. It’s a snippet of the footer and part of the portfolio section, which was probably the most challenging part of the whole thing so far. Each step of the process and everything I learned felt like a victory, much like a runners high. I know I still have a lot of work to do before it’s ready for the interwebs, but I look forward to every frustrating and rewarding moment. Unlike client work, I can do whatever I want with it. And that’s the sweetest part of all. Who knows, maybe its true destiny is to be the website for my dream design studio someday.

Who do you want to be?

I just read a great blog post by John Nolan about things he’s learned in his life and it made me think. A lot. I love hearing the genuine insights of others and I ask myself, what do I want to be? As a designer? As a person? As a friend? As a partner? All loaded questions with varying answers that seem to change for me daily. Some days I know exactly who I want to be, some days I have no clue. My answer to these questions are shaped by what I’ve been dealing with that day, who I’ve talked to, what I’ve read, but the common thread I use to stitch together all these ideas is that, I want to do something that matters. I want my work to help a cause I care about. I want to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. I want my work and my life to matter. I want to feel good about what I’ve done at the end of the day.

 

I need to chill.

I’m EXTREMELY hard on myself in all aspects of my life. I’m self-conscious that I’m never doing enough to better my life and the lives of those around me. I worry about how people perceive me. Do my friends think I’m successful? Do they think I’m lazy? This is what I put myself through daily because I want to be the best person I can, so far I think I’m succeeding.

 

I’ll never be content, I always have to be changing and learning. I’m always looking for the next thing, I love planning for my future but putting my plans into action is terrifying, but when a plan comes together…it’s amazing. As John Nolan writes, there’s nothing I’m supposed to be doing, I just have to keep doing something. That’s a liberating idea!

 

So what am I getting at?

Basically, don’t sweat stuff that doesn’t matter. Do work you enjoy and if you’re not, take comfort in the fact that you can always change jobs and careers. You can always make changes to better who you are once you figure out who that person is. There isn’t one thing you’re supposed to be doing, always be evolving. I’m at a crossroads in my life where there are changes brewing and I’m figuring out who I want to be. It’s an exciting time. Take comfort in the fact that if you feel like you don’t know where to go next with you career or personal life, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Reading posts like John’s, solidifies that we all share the common bond of trying to figure out who we want to be. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint.