Thursday, May 30, 2013

5 Ways to Declutter Your Life

I often come across articles on how to declutter this or that, but very few actually list how to declutter your life. Most decluttering articles are about individual portions of your home or work area. While decluttering these areas is great, and they will in fact lead to a happier life if you declutter them, decluttering your life is crucial to your overall happiness.

In this article I have listed five areas of your life which you should attempt to declutter. Some of the things involve material things, but others are areas that are of a far more personal level. These five things are by no means the only things you should seek to declutter in your life, but they’re a start.

Begin this by doing one thing at a time. If you try to do all five things at once, you may become overwhelmed. The purpose behind decluttering your life is to help you to lead a happier life. If you try to pack too much decluttering all at once, you will more than likely become overstressed and frustrated, which do not lead to a happier you. Go slow, take baby steps, and remember that your ultimate desire in all of this is happiness.

Clean house: Part ways with unnecessary things.  Sell them, donate them, or just throw them out. If your closet is overflowing with shoes and clothes, cull some of them out. You know those jeans you haven’t been able to wear since your first pregnancy 10 years ago? Get rid of them. And those cute pumps that you can hardly walk in? Get rid of those too.

This rule doesn't just apply to your closet, either. Go through all areas of your house and reduce. Do you really need 50 plates when you’re the only one who lives there? Or do you really need all those wine glasses when you gave up alcohol years ago?

The best way to go about this is to go into each room with three boxes. Label one box for “donate”, one box for “sell”, and another box for “trash”. Sort things throughout the room into those boxes. Once finished,  place the donate box by the front door so you can take it to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army the next time you leave the house. For the things you want to try to sell, go on Craigslist and EBay and try to sell them on those sites. If there are things you are unable to sell, donate them. For the things in the “trash” box, throw them away immediately.

Drive less: Try driving less and walking or biking more. Obviously this option is not acceptable for everyone, but for those who live close to the store or to work, try going without your car. By doing this, you’ll help save the environment and you’ll also get a little exercise in – neither of which are bad things, by the way.

Don’t buy anything new: Many people have taken on projects of going a whole year or more without buying anything new. Of course, they still purchased necessities (food, not lattes), but they chose to not buy anything else new for the amount of time they decided on. For further reading on the topic, read Angela Barton’s blog.

Less social networking: Do you really need to check your tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google +, and any other accounts multiple times a day? Do you even need to check them every day? Try to cut back on the amount of time you spend on social networking. Better yet, set aside a certain amount of time, like 30 minutes, every day for social networking. This does not mean 30 minutes per site. This means 30 minutes for you to check each site. This also means that this is the only time you can log onto those sites. Setting a certain amount of time each day will help you to wean yourself off of the addiction to those sites. You will eventually learn how to spend your time on these sites appropriately.

What does cutting back on social networking have to do with decluttering your life? Think about how much time you spend each and every day on those sites. How could you better utilize that time? Could you be spending it writing? Or perhaps decluttering your house? There are so many things you could be doing instead of worrying about if someone has “Liked” your latest self-portrait in a bathroom mirror.

Reduce negativity: This one will probably be the hardest, as negativity can come in the form of many things – such as family, friends, and coworkers. Negativity can also come with the internet (or your use of it), the lack of time you spend with your kids, or the junk food that’s piled up in your kitchen. Figure out what things cause a negative influence within your life and try to reduce it. If junk food leaves you feeling negative, stop eating it. If spending too much time on the internet leaves you feeling negative, stop logging in or reduce the amount of time you spend online. If it’s people in your life that are causing the negativity, try to limit the amount of socialization you do with them. Clearly this can’t always be done, but try spending less time texting them or Facebooking them. If you think you can help them get past whatever it is that’s causing them to be so negative, try to do so.  

Negativity will prevent you from finding happiness, no matter how spectacular the other aspects of your life may be. Trying to reduce the amount of negativity you are exposed to on a daily basis will help you to find that nice balance you’re seeking.

If you are the source of the negativity, do some serious inward searching. What is causing you to be so negative? Is it because your house is always a mess? Is it because you work so much you rarely get to see your family? Or do you just feel crotchety because you’re not getting enough exercise or eating healthy foods?

If the source of your negativity is lack of good food and exercise, then those two things are easy to fix. Go through your kitchen and throw out all of the junk food you have. Start buying more produce and less processed foods. Try going vegetarian or RAW for a week or more and allow your body to cleanse itself. Start every morning with some light exercise. You can do simple stretches or you could go all out and start jogging regularly.

Do what works best for you, but make sure you’re doing something to involve change. If you need to push yourself to enact change, then do so. You know yourself best, so do what is best for you. Just make sure you are forming good habits that will get the change process rolling. Most important of all, remember that you are doing all of this to find happiness. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Managing Your Email for Writers and Bloggers

First off, clean out your inbox.

Sounds easy, right? Actually for some it can be rather difficult. Take me, for instance. I’m one of those people who allow their inbox to reach ghastly numbers (well into the thousands). However, if I want to simplify my day – and my work load – I really need to manage my email better.

Managing your email may not sound like a big deal or even something of great importance, but the issue for writers and bloggers is that email is a huge part of their daily work routine. Without email, most writers and bloggers cannot keep track of their blog comments, receive guest post requests, receive important payment information, and so much more. If you lose track of your email, you lose precious time; time that could have been spent perfecting your craft.

To begin, go through your inbox and delete everything that is of no value to you. This means things like spam, junk mail, emails that you have already read and no longer need, and random social media email alerts. Save the emails you do need to keep track of, or that you have not read but need to read. If you use Gmail, you can organize your emails into folders or “labels”. Create a few labels and organize away.

After you have done a massive inbox detox, go through your spam folder. I always try to check my spam folder because I do, on occasion, accidentally receive emails through there. Go through your spam folder and make sure you haven’t been missing out on any important emails. If you have, mark the important ones as “not spam” and they’ll shuffle over into your inbox.

Once you have sorted through your spam folder, delete everything in there. Yes, you should be keeping track and cleansing your spam folder as well. No, you do not need to do this every day. I only check my spam folder about twice a week, unless I’m expecting an email that might potentially end up in the spam folder on accident.

When you've cleaned out your inbox and your spam folder, breathe a sigh of relief. You’re almost done! The last thing I recommend is that you go through some of your emails that you have deleted and unsubscribe from them, if possible. Usually at the bottom of an email there will be a link you can follow that allows you to unsubscribe from the continuous email alerts. This last thing is somewhat optional, but I recommend it if you’re getting a bunch of junk mail.

One final tip: Only check and manage your email after you've written for the day. Preferably write in the morning and manage email, social media, and other accounts in the afternoon or evening. Getting the most important thing done during the day (in this case, writing), will help you manage your time better. If you try to deal with social media and email first thing in the morning, you run the risk of getting caught up in all of it and wasting time that could be better spent writing. \

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Write 4,000 Words a Day

Some people see the number 4,000 and panic. Others look at it with a sly grin and begin clicking away at their keyboard. Whether you fall under the first group, or the second, it can be difficult to write 4,000 words a day.

This is not to say it's impossible. No matter what your schedule is, you can almost always find time to write. You might complain about how you have a full time job or you're a stay-at-home parent and cannot possibly find the time to include such a hefty chunk of writing into your schedule. However, I'm here to tell you it is possible.

I'm a stay-at-home mother who works as a freelance writer. I also manage to find time to write 4,000 words a day towards the novels I work on (Note that the 4,000 words a day does not include the amount that I write daily for my freelance contracts.). In no way am I trying to brag. In fact, I wish I could write more. But this seems to be the number that I'm stuck at. It's not a bad number, which is why I'm writing this blog post explaining how to write this much in a single day.

The key thing you have to do to make this work is create a schedule and stick with it. If you are one of those people who admire themselves for their unorganized ways, stop it. Being unorganized really isn't helping you get anywhere and it's kind of silly to brag about something that's not awesome. Brag about your kids or dog instead.

Obviously, you are going to have to make some sacrifices to make this work. Shaving an hour or two off of your sleep schedule is one way to cut corners. Eating while writing is another option. You can even keep a notepad in the bathroom and write when you're on the toilet or taking a bath. Hell, you can even skip shaving for a few months to save a little time while you're in the shower. I'm sure none of these options sound appealing, but if you want to become a writer you're going to have to work hard. Working hard requires sacrifices.

The way I manage to get 4,000 words in every day is pretty simple. I write 2,000 words, take a 1 hour break to surf the web or snack, then I write the remaining 2,000 words. This usually all happens from about 8 pm till around midnight. I write fairly fast, which helps me keep my writing schedule simple. While I'm writing, I avoid distractions. My son is already in bed by the time I work on my novel, so I don't have him to worry about. My husband is usually in bed as well. I also avoid the internet so that I'm not distracted by Facebook or Twitter. I don't have a phone, so that's not a problem. Basically, all I do is have my notes and Microsoft Word up during my writing time.

Make time. Find a time in the day that is best for you and involves the least amount of distraction. If you're kids are old enough to be left on their own for a bit, tell them you need some alone time to work. If you're friends and relatives constantly text you, tell them it will just have to wait until you're done writing. Tell them if it's an emergency  they can call. 
Ask for help. Don't be too afraid to ask for help. This has always been my greatest weakness. For the longest time, I felt like I had to be super mom, super wife, super writer. What I ended up with was being extremely stressed out, accomplishing very little writing, and I was always pissy with my husband and son. I will admit, I'm still not the greatest at this, but I do make a point to ask for help more often than I use to. I now ask my husband to help with chores so that I can write. Or I'll ask him to watch our son for a bit while I take a nap. As shocking as this may sound, he's actually more thrilled with helping me around the house than dealing with me when I'm pissy. Go figure.

Never leave your work hanging. Whatever you do, do not stop writing when the writing gets hard. I don't care if you've met your 4,000 word quote for the day. If the story is hung up, keep writing. Write until you're back on smooth turf. If you leave your writing at a massive road block, it's going to be that much harder to convince yourself to pick it back up the next day.

Have an outline. Before I begin writing, I have every chapter figured out. I have an in-depth outline written up and I try to stick with it. If I feel the story needs to take a different direction half-way in, I'll change things up. But for the most part, I stick with my original plan. This will help you when you're trying to write 4,000 words everyday.

Basically, the best advice I can give you for writing 4,000 words a day is to write and stick with it. Don't just write when you're feeling inspired. Writing is a job, it's a career, it's not something to do only when you feel like it. If you want to be a writer you must stick with it.

I'm not trying to tell you to take the pleasure out of writing. I still enjoy writing and will probably be writing till the day I die, and this is despite the fact that I write a bunch every day. Do I ever get sick of writing and want to take a break? Of course. Do I do what I want? Hell no. Because I know that in the end what I really want is to be a writer. To do this, I have to stick with writing, no matter how tired of it I may get.