13 Ways to Maintain Personal Infrastructure

We are 37 days in to 2018. Have you been able to keep your New Years Resolutions or goals, that you so keenly set back on Jan 1? Yea, its hard eh? We all have the best of intentions but once reality sets in, its hard to get out of our already-established routines.

I shared my 5 goals for 2018 in my first ever podcast. I'm happy to report that I at least kept the first one - take vitamins for 30 days - which I did successfully in January. Great goal right?! lol I keep telling myself its the small things! ha Now I can focus on my other 4 goals for 2018 :P

A majority of us hop aboard the 'new year, new me' train at the beginning of January. But by the second month in, most of that enthusiasm and willingness to hold ourselves accountable to new goals goes out the window. We tell ourselves, "At least we tried, right?"

One thing I've personally been trying to hold myself too, is a system that holds me accountable to executing both my personal to-do's and professional goals, all in one place, in an organized (less chaotic) way.

Its what I've been calling 'personal infrastructure.' Its what systems, tools, resources, apps, etc I've put in place to help me execute my goals as best as possible. Take a look at the 13 ways I'm trying to maintain this personal infrastructure:

  1. Planner/Organizer - I shared a list of planners to use last year; this is the weekly planner I chose to use for 2018. I am a list-makin' machine, there really is nothing better than crossing off your to-do's once you get them done!
  2. Cozi calendar app - I recently discovered and downloaded this app to help manage one consistent calendar, so both Andrew and I can use and update all of our important dates in one place.
  3. Feedly - there are a lot of well-written and inspiring blogs out there. The Feedly platform allows me to read them all in one organized place.
  4. Pocket - I blame the overabundance of articles that I find on Twitter as to why I always have a million tabs open. I fixed this by downloading this app to easily store and read these articles at a later time.
  5. *To Read* inbox rule - I subscribe to newsletters that can sometimes fill up the ol' inbox. I created a rule within my personal email inbox that automatically puts all of those newsletter subscriptions into a 'To Read' folder when they arrive. You can set up any number of rules so all of your emails come in and are sorted in advance of opening up your inbox #genius
  6. Evernote - I have this on my laptop to help organize random chicken scratch ideas and my writing.
  7. Tweetdeck - this platform is what I use to execute tweets on Twitter if I have planned content to send out in advance.
  8. Planoly-  this monthly subscription app allows me to organize and execute my Instagram feed.
  9. VSCO - the app I use to edit photos for social media.
  10. Canva - I have this website both as an app on my phone and open and readily available on my laptop, which I use to create images for my blog and social media.
  11. Unsplash and Pexels - two great websites to source free stock images when necessary (remember to give credit where credit is due!)
  12. The Bullet - my morning daily eBlast read to keep up-to-date with all the latest news, and all conveniently in one place!
  13. Notes in iphone- if everything else fails, writing down notes on my iphone has been a saving grace.

Hope you find some (or all!) of these ideas and tips valuable in helping to maintain your own personal infrastructure, whatever that may look like!

Taking a {Moment} to Pause

This fall has been one of a kind. Fall in the agriculture world (my daily profession) is always a busy time of year. Harvest, Fall fairs, Ontario Agriculture Week, AGM's and trade shows. Add a baby, some speaking gigs and travel (not to mention life!) into the mix and a whole new meaning to busy comes to mind.

I was on the road earlier this fall travelling here and there to attend events where I had the opportunity to speak and see industry colleagues, friends and even blog readers (hi Mary!).  This is something I have valued so much since becoming a mother - the opportunity to get out of the house and talk with others about things beyond motherhood. Don't get me wrong, I love being a new mom but there is nothing like keeping the brain stimulated beyond the baby talk of goo goo gagas and talking current events, agriculture or anything for that matter.

One thing I've also come to value and be more conscious of this fall is my use of social media.

Because social media is what I do for a living and the means to which I consume most of my news and keep in touch with people, I've wanted to ensure I'm using it with the best of intention. I don't want to find myself aimlessly scrolling through social channels *just because* especially now that Blake is here.

Having a child has also made me question everything I post on social media for fear of the unknown - could/if photos of your baby appear somewhere you (or they) never expected one day? Because we're writing the social media books as we speak (and they're ever-evolving!), its hard to know where pictures of your kids and content could surface. I'll be blogging more about this in coming weeks.

When smartphones were becoming a *thing* only a few short years ago, nothing bothered me more than watching someone at a public event have their face buried in their phone scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram channel. I didn't want to be that person. Heck, I entered the workforce at a time when the etiquette was to not even bring your phone(s) into meetings. That definitely dates me... and that wasn't even a decade ago (face palm)!

I've made two simple changes this fall that have really helped me disconnect when needed and feel like I'm in control of my social media and phone, not the other way around:

  1. I have disconnected my email account from my phone. Every time I want to check my emails now, I have to go to safari and log in to my account which makes it more time consuming to do, hence limiting how many times a day I check my emails. Also, not waking up every morning to that red bubble telling me the number of emails I have waiting for me before the day has even begun has felt transformational.
  2. I downloaded the Moment app to track my screen time usage. I have been able to see how much I use my phone and know which apps are the most time consuming. I have been able to set daily limits on how much I use my phone and it then sends me reminders before it locks me out of my phone if I've went beyond the limits I've set. Wild stat: the average person spends 4 hours a day on their smartphone! I know, crazy right?!

Having the independence away from my phone has been a mind game changer. Social media is an incredible tool if you use it to your advantage, not let it be all consuming.

[Tweet "Social media is an incredible tool if you use it to your advantage, not let it be all consuming."]

As a communications professional, you have to stay on top of the social media game in terms of what's new/trending and actively use platforms to engage. But you can do it in a strategic, manageable, less mind-numbing way. And, your smartphone data bill will thank you, I know mine sure has. Not to mention, a more healthy personal lifestyle will surely follow if your making memories and not documenting *every* personal detail of what you ate, wore, did while showcasing your selfie game for the millionth time. Unless of course, if that's how you making a living or its what you love doing, then social media it up!

5 Things Vacation Will Teach You About A Break From Social Media

Internet Free VacationHow is it the last week of August? I mean, really.... where has summer gone?

Not that I am entirely sad though. I always enjoy the beginning of summer and then eventually want a 'start fresh' with September since fall is my favourite season.

I recently blogged that I enjoyed a week of vacation to Manitoba/Kenora/Lake-of-the-Woods (wish I could go back!) and that due to no internet connection while on holidays, I didn't have access to email or social media.

Considering social media is what I do for a living, having no access to it seemed like a problem .....  or so I thought. 

After a few days of worry and not knowing what to do with my phone (it is normal to have the shakes at first when you're on withdrawl, right?!) I finally adapted to what life felt like without a phone. And man did it ever feel good! So good in fact that I wanted to share with you in this separate post, the reasons why it was so refreshing to step back from social media and take a break from it when its something you do for a living.

Ironically, I read this article before I left about why you shouldn't check email while on vacation and I can honestly say, a week without social media/email was one of the healthiest breaks I've taken in a long time.

When I try and think of when the last time was that I didn't have access to internet on my phone at my fingertips, the last time was 2009 when I travelled to Europe. Yes we had cellphones (flip phones back then.. does that date me or what?!) but you couldn't use them overseas as I suspect you can now with smartphones. I remember leaving my cellphone at home at the time thinking, well, the only way I can communicate to let people still know I was alive was through quick and costly collect calls or my laptop. The only way I could get access to wifi on my laptop while travelling was going to an internet cafe or paying an arm and a leg at the hostels I stayed at to connect to wifi.

My recent vacation made me realize just how dependent we are as social media users, especially since we as Canadians spend the most time on the internet than any other country in the western world.

[Tweet ""Canadians spend the most time on the internet than any other country in the western world.""]

So what were those 5 things vacation taught me about a break from social media?

  1. Social media networks don't justify that you 'lived' through something - Just because you didn't document the moment or snap a photo to share with your network(s) of something you are experiencing that you think is cool, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Savour those moments with those around you and those your spending time with so you can truly be 'in the moment,' rather than thinking about what angle would be best for the best photo op.
  2. Set boundaries to not miss out on life moments -  If it is imperative that you be on social media during say long weekends, camping adventures, holidays, etc.... try and ask yourself if it is really necessary to bring the phone along with you. Set boundaries to your social media use - as an example, only check social media once or twice a day so you feel like you are in control of your social media habits, not the other way around.
  3. Use social media with intention and a purpose - This was probably the biggest lesson I learned while on vacation and then reconnecting after a week away. Was I really using social media for the right reasons before I left and in the most strategic way possible? Was I using it for professional reasons with a hint of 'personal' in there or was I just browsing social media to fill time that I should have otherwise been 'guarding.' Since returning, I've downloaded the app Moments to keep track of how much time I'm spending on my phone and on social media apps so I can cut back intentionally and use social media more purposefully.
  4. Choose to follow social media users and content that will better your life - After returning from holidays and catching up on things I seemed to have 'missed' while I was away, it was interesting to see how others chose to spend their time on a long-weekend in August and not for professional development or purposes that bettered them. It made me take a second look at the people and brands I follow and the type of content I am constantly indulging in to make sure that the people I follow and the content I consumer on social media channels adds value to my day whether it be from a personal standpoint (a funny laugh, a cute outfit, a good read, seeing other's adventures and obviously my friend's) and from a professional development standpoint (articles on social media, millennials, leadership, agriculture/food, business, #girlbosses, etc)
  5. See social media for what it is - likes don't justify the means - My biggest takeaway from a social media free week? That I can still live and exist in a world without social media. While I may have felt like I was missing out at the beginning, the guilt eventually passed and I realized how amazing it felt to really 'live' without having likes justify the means of what I was doing each day. Being in control and having the power to put my phone down was empowering!

I'm proud to say that since returning home from vacation, I've made a more conscious effort throughout August to only post when I felt like I had something to say and not just sit around browsing my social media channels.

This new intention and purpose I'm using with social media has felt so good. Try it with me! 

[Photo Source]