I’m the only one I know who’ll impulse adopt a cat.

If you know me, and I know this post will get a menagerie of readers- some who’ve been around my whole life, some who are passerby in certain chapters of my existence, others who know me better than themselves, you’ll know that I’m a planner.
I like lists.
I love bullet points.
I thrive on knowing what I’ll be doing in two hours.
I’m the one who packs those needless “just in case” items on a weekend trip.

“Winging it” gives my brain hives. The only thing I ever impulse buy is tshirts from Target.

And yet, over the past year, I’ve become more accustomed to impulse. Impromptu activities aren’t as stressful. I’ve found a balance between planning and letting go (if any of you starts with Frozen, you’re fired). In fact, last week, I threw caution to the wind, and RSVP’d to a rap music video casting call (which just so happens to be tonight).

I can easily trace these changes back to one instance, or, more accurately, one person.
13900163_10154260010706291_7859489370529882699_nThat one. Right there. It’s his fault.

Timehop- usually a tool of embarrassment used to remind you of haphazard decisions and stances you held 10 years ago- notified me yesterday that was exactly 6 years since the first Western Civ class that threw us into one another’s lives. While our friendship built over the following 5, both of us would have laughed til beer came out our noses if someone would have told us that we’d end up being together. And yet, here we are.

Here I am, impulse adopting a tiny, fluffy, flea-bitten kitten, allowing my friend-turned-boyfriend of 1.5 years to name him, and not batting an eyelash. Here I am signing up for a casting call completely out of my comfort zone. Here I am, writing a letter of resignation to my job, notifying them that my last day will be in December, in 3 months time, when I will be moving to Colorado to finally end this long-distance torture.

Yep.
There it is. I said it.
It’s out in the open. Loud & proud.
I’M MOVING.
Wrapped nice and snug, unassuming, in a warm, fuzzy paragraph about a warm, fuzzy kitten.

I’m moving.

I adore Kansas City- it’s shitty roads, a civil engineer’s nightmare (looking at you, downtown cherry trap), on-again-off-again sports teams (Heyyyyy Chiefs…), newly great sports teams (#rallymantis), and slew of coffee connoisseurs, roasters, and hipster-like shops & bars.
I adore the family I have in the city- by blood, or by choice.
My roller derby warriors, my coaches, my kickass skate fam.
The friends I’ve grown up with, gone to school with, survived puberty and questionable fashion choices with.

But, to throw myself face first into hokey stereotypes and phrases:
Kansas City will always be my hometown, but home is where my heart is, and frankly, it’s not here. 947331_10153748923461291_2816788918412655724_n

So there it is. Most of you have seen it coming, some haven’t. However, now it’s official.

December 9th, I’m saying goodbye to a job that’s taught me so much, and saying hello to a house filled with the one I love, four cats, beer, and more books than either of us will know what to do with.

Here’s to the next chapter, and impulse adopting cats.

A Tail of Two Kitties, pt. 6

Success! 

While not in the timeframe of anticipated, Remus has been introduced and is adapting amazingly well to our household. 

Initially, I was planning on working through the familiarity stages slowly, however Morgana took to him brilliantly after her wariness at the beginning. 

Remus always sleeps in my room with Morgana and I now, and no longer does Morgana wake me up at 5:30/6am with meows and a headbut. Instead, the two wake up and play with each other, or jump up on my bed to make sure I’m there, then go back to sleep on the cat tower. 

The rest of the household- the human occupants, have accepted Remus wholeheartedly, with my mother now being the queen of cat pictures. (You think I’m kidding) 

I’m so excited that everyone is gettingg along, and Morgana’s ire only lasted three days! 

A Tail of Two Kitties, PT 5.

It’s been quiet over the weekend. I was out of town, so the cats were watched by my mom & sister, who dutifully sent updates and photos when my worrisome little heart couldn’t stand it. 

But oh what an eventful weekend! 

Morgana and Remus have become fairly trusting of each other- playing and napping with and around each other with ease! I was able to witness it for the first time this evening, when I re-charged my introvert battery with an evening of writing and cats in my room. 

Last evenings, Morgana spent the night in my room with me and G, to help her get used to him being around. Since she’s skittish around guys, but her last two meetings with him went well, I figured it was time. She did well, eventually settling down in a spot by our heads, keeping watch like the mother hen she is. Remus stayed in his room as usual. 

Tonight, however, the real test begins: I’m going to see how they do overnight. It’s been very quiet so far, and they’ve been in the same room for several hours. Here’s hoping the supervised long visits continue to do well! 

A Tail of Two Kitties, Pt 3

Parts 2 & 3 have been fairly close together, but lots has happened over the last day!

When I got home from work last night, I spent lots of quality time with Morgana. After all, it was Black Cat Appreciation Day, and I had to let her know that she’s still my best girl. While it was just her and me in my room, I gave her some of her favorite wet food (Halo’s Spot’s Stew is fantastic, for anyone looking for a holistic wet food that is grain-free! It’s full of protein and fiber that cats young and old need. Our 17 year old cat loves it, Morgana loves it, and so does Remus! [I gave him a bit this morning.]), and just talked to her while she was sniffing around the room, investigating the lingering scent of Remus from the night before. After about 30 minutes had passed, her yowls and hisses were replaced with my purring, chirruping, sassy girl. Even after I went into Remus’s room to feed him and play with him a bit, she didn’t react to his scent on me (unless you count a glare and a cold shoulder for about 5 minutes, but no hisses or yowling!).

STEP 2 PROGRESS!!!
(remember Step 2 was Scent Familiarization)

The rest of our night was uneventful, with Morgana alternating between my bed and her climbing tree. Remus slept through the night without waking up and crying, finally rid of those pesky fleas we found yesterday! I’ll have to admit, I woke up around 3 in a panic. “I CAN’T HERE HIM. HE’S DEAD. OH HE’S EITHER ASLEEP OR HE’S DEAD.” However, he woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed (seriously. so bushy. so fluffy) around 6:30 this morning when he heard Morgana and me up wandering around.

Morgana’s reactions have lessened around Remus! She wandered over to his room, sniffing the door frame as he mewed and stuck his paws under the door. Although, she wasn’t happy when I shut her in the bathroom with me as I was getting ready. He seemed significantly louder in there, so she couldn’t ignore him. However, she yowled once or twice, but otherwise seemed unfazed, if a bit curious about the noise.

Once I finished getting ready, I went in to Remus’s room to play with him a bit, comb him for fleas, and put the oil on him again.

Side note:
When we discovered fleas on Remus yesterday, sister and my mom went out and got lemongrass oil and eucalyptus oil that they mixed into a spray. We’re putting it on Remus 2-3 times a day. While it doesn’t kill the fleas on him, it acts as a repellent. He’s already a lot more comfortable, and this morning, when I combed him again, I got a few dead ones. Since he’s a kitten, I’m never comfortable putting the flea/tick drops on him. When a $50+ product says that it’s harmful to animals if ingested, and you’re putting it ON an animal…no thanks. (Also, my sister and I get skin reactions to them, so another strike against it.)

When I had to leave the room to grab a broom & litter scoop, I left the door open and carried him with me. Surprisingly, Morgana wasn’t too angry with this. Instead of yowling or hissing, she just glared from the top of the stairs for a while, before approaching the room cautiously and sniffing around, even though Remus was scampering about.

When I was finished in his room, I gave him a bit of the wet food left over in the tin from Morgana’s breakfast, and  shut the door. THAT bit, he didn’t like. The little dude is way too curious. HOWEVER, when I scooped up Morgana a few minutes later to walk downstairs and get coffee (for me) and breakfast (for her), she purred and headbutted my chin like she normally does, even though I probably REEKED of Remus!

Later this morning, while I’m at work, my sister sends me text updates of the shenanigans at home. She’d brought down Remus into the kitchen, and Morgana, having claimed the kitchen as her favorite hang out spot, stayed and sniffed around, observing him from a few feet away! Both my sister and my mom were there, so this was extremely supervised, but knowing that they’ve made this much progress in this short of a time period is exciting! For now, we’re keeping these visits under an hour, and will continue the pattern for about a week, just to be safe.

This evening, both cats will get extra attention AND meet their dad! SUCH an exciting day!!!

A Tail of Two Kitties, PT 2

Night update! 

It’s officially been 24 hours, and so much has changed already! 

We found that Remus had a BAD case of fleas, so after a good brushing with a nit-comb, he was rid of about 11 large adult fleas. Some were smaller, but most were swollen and about as large as a ceramic sewing needle head :( (thank you to my wonderful sis who did the combing while I was at work). Then, we made a mixture of lemongrass and eucalyptus oils to get rid of any we may have missed, and repel other fleas. 

Since the de-fleaing, he’s been much less talkative, and as of right now (about 10 pm) he’s been sound asleep for 3 hours. Compared to last night, when he would wake every hour or so and mew til he fell back asleep, it’s an amazing change. He’s still in the guest room, and loving the space and the toys. 

Morgana, meanwhile, is doing better as well. While still not happy, her demeanor has changed from a wary, spooked out cat, to just a grumpy “why are you here,” so it’s quite possible that we might start doing visual familiarization this weekend! We have a baby gate that Morgana doesn’t jump over, but we would need to make sure Remus doesn’t climb on it. 

Today, once I got off of work, was all about Morgana. I fed her roast chicken when I got home, and held her while I was doing some chores around the house, then I took her upstairs to my room (remember it still smells like Remus), and spent more quality time with her there. I fed her some of her favorite wet food, which, while my room still smelled like Remus, was inching closer to the positive association of his scent (meanwhile, Remus couldn’t care less. It’ll be a lot easier for him to like Morgana than the other way around). After about 45 minutes of staying in our room, Morgana was back to her chirruping, sassy self, and loving in me as if I didn’t Trojan horse another cat into her territory. Yay! 

I foresee a quiet night ahead, so hopefully, my next update will be more progress! ​

A Tail of Two Kitties, Pt 1

According to an article by the Animal Humane Society,

The typical adult household cat will accept a new kitten much more easily than he will accept a new adult cat. Cats are by nature very territorial, and your cat may resent an adult feline intruder, attacking him or retreating under the bed as a result. He may, however, feel less threatened by a relatively helpless 8 week old kitten. Even so, you will want to monitor your cat’s behavior with the newcomer until you’re sure he will not harm the kitten. Follow the introduction protocol below for maximum success.”

Of course, I read this only AFTER introducing Remus Mewpin (Egyptian Mau mix- 2 months- grey) to my household, already occupied by Sissy- dog- 14, JoAnne- cat- 18 (or 16. Idk she’s old and hates everyone ), and Morgana-black cat- 1 yr & some months.

But I digress.
Let’s go back to how I came to bring Remus home.

Early last week, a friend mentioned that her neighbors had a litter of kittens they wanted to adopt out. Having consumed a couple of wines (or beer), I became putty, helpless against the charm that comes with four tiny legs, whiskers, and a tail. After texting my boyfriend (since a new addition would mean a grand total of 4 cats when I move in) and talking with my mom (since it would live with me in our house for a few months til I move), I confirmed the adoption. They say that the waiting game is the hardest. I’ll just confirm that right now. However, then the day came: yesterday, actually, when I could go pick up baby cat and bring him home. (except at the time, I thought he was a girl, so I was all ready to name her Rowena…SURPRISE.)

Once I brought him into the house, his curiosity was piqued. Unfortunately, so was Morgana’s. While she wasn’t aggressive or angry, she’d glare from afar and skulk around, hissing and yowling softly whenever he mewed (which honestly, was a lot. So tiny, so loud…). Since I wasn’t sure of his attitude around people or other cats, I set up temporary housing for baby Remus’ first night. A cat carrier, left from the early days of my childhood, when we had cats that outweighed most small dogs, was outfitted with a fluffy blanket, food, and water, then kept on the floor in my room. The blanket that was used to transport Remus home was set out in the middle of the floor for Morgana to investigate (see step 2 below), although she was more interested in the carrier & Remus himself.

The night was (happily) uneventful, with Remus sleeping away, occasionally waking up and mewing softly a couple of times, then falling back asleep. Morgana, wary of this invader, spent the night skulking around, making unhappy noises. After reading this great article from Modern Cat, I learned that her sounds weren’t out of the ordinary, and didn’t mean the introduction was headed down a bad path. Her hisses were soft and dry: there wasn’t any spitting, and she never bared her fangs, arched her back, or puffed up. She was also making a low, rumbling humming sound, which, turns out, is called a “yowl.” This is much better than a growl for a few reasons:

  1. A yowl (a longer, more drawn-out moan) denotes worry, discomfort, or territorial concern (or also mating issues, but that was obviously not what was happening here), where a growl is usually a sign of fear, anger or territorial threat.
  2. A growl is usually accompanied by defensive behavior in the cat: arched back, twitching tail, ears back, puffed fur. Morgana, on the other hand, was showing the feline signs of fear. Naturally timid, this didn’t surprise me: since Remus is a brand new cat, I was hoping Morgana would tend towards spooked than angry. It’s much easier to calm and comfort a frightened cat than an angry one. The Humane Society says, “If your cat is hiding, but healthy, leave him alone. He’ll come out when he’s ready. Forcing him out of his hiding spot will only make him more fearful. Make sure he has easy access to food, water and a litter box.” (Read this article for more info on stressed or frightened cats)
  3. Morgana didn’t continue to hiss or yowl, but only responded when Remus made noise. This basically means she’s responding to him, letting him know that it’s her turf. Remember that ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ Nike ad from the 90s? It’s sortof like that, but cat speak.

This morning was a bit tense (on me). Morgana yowled softly, glaring at me, and ran downstairs when I opened my door, taking a piece of my heart in her tiny paws. I took Remus out of the carrier and changed the blanket (he’d spilled part of his water all over it. Whoops. baby.), gave him fresh food & water, and followed Morgana down the stairs. After making coffee, I tried to lure her back into loving me, but to no avail. Glaring at me, she hissed and walked away, leaving me to collapse in the middle of the floor like I’d been shot. “PLEASE LOVE ME AGAIN.” My mother, coming upon this scene, me sprawled in the middle of the floor, Morgana shunning me in the other room, lovingly observes “You’re pathetic. She hates you. It’s all your fault.” Thanks mom!

Of course, she’s actually fallen in love with the grey ball of fluff, and I have a feeling that it will be a struggle to get her to part with Remus when I move in a few months.

This is where the step by step begins. While researching (I’ll post the links I found the most helpful below the article), I found that there are several stages of integrating a cat into a household with already established pets. From the cats’ perspective, the newcomer has just been dropped behind enemy lines, while the other cat sees an invader on his/her territory. The most important thing is to go by the pace of the most stressed-out cat. That would be Morgana, in this case.

  1. Isolation: Cats, while they are not solitary animals, are territorial. Bringing a new cat into another cat’s territory spells trouble. This is why you need to make it clear that the newcomer is not invading the entire space. Often times, this is called a “sanctuary room.” Giving the newcomer a separate room will help keep the current cat more comfortable with the other’s existence, as well as a way to keep the cats distanced until the new cat can be examined by a vet.
    Before I left for work, I moved his litter box, toys, food/water, bed, etc. to the guest room across the hall from mine. This sets up the stage for the next three steps of the integration process.
  2. Familiarization-Scent: Pheromones! You know the rubbing thing that cats do? Twirling around your legs, rubbing their cheeks and face on things- They’re marking their territory with their pheromones. The “friendly” pheromones are located on a cat’s face- that’s why cats only do this when they’re comfortable. The goal of this step is to get the cats used to each other’s friendly scent. This can be done by switching the cat’s beds, blankets, or rubbing a clean piece of cloth or clothing (gently) on your cats’ faces and then switching them (ie- cat a’s blanket/cloth is placed in cat b’s room, and vice-versa). Like I said above, I left the blanket that Remus was wrapped in on the drive home in the middle of my bedroom floor last night. I’m going to do the same tonight, although this time, Remus will be in his own room, and Morgana and I will be in my room (as normal).
    1. Familiarization- Room Swapping: This is a more immersive form of scent familiarization. For an hour or so a day, switch the cats rooms. This allows the cat to explore on his/her own, and investigate the other cat’s scent.
  3. Training- Positive Association: Essentially positive re-enforcement, have the cats do something enjoyable while they’re within sound/scent of each other. For example, place their food bowls on opposite sides of a door, or place a small cloth with the other’s scent by the other cat’s food bowl. However, you want to keep this part short. You don’t want to leave the cloth by the food bowls, or leave their food bowls by the door. Otherwise, the cats may tire of it, and just not bother approaching to eat, which is an entirely different problem.
  4. Familiarization- Visual: Once the cats are used to each other’s smells and sounds, let them take a peek at each other: mesh, a gate, a cracked door, etc. Yesterday, Morgana and Remus briefly met face to face when I brought him home, and via the slats in the carrier overnight, but other than that, there’s been no physical meeting. It could take up to a week or longer for the cats to make it to this step. Keep these visual visits timed, a few times a day or so over several days or a week. Like I said before, it all depends on how the most stressed-out cat is doing. With Morgana and Remus, I’m going to leave this step til next week, keeping them scent/sound only for about a week, just in case.
  5. Short Visits (supervised): Once the cats are used to seeing and smelling each other, they should be ready to have short, supervised visits where they can actually interact with each other. These visits should be in a neural room. This will be hard in my house, since we have an open floor plan, but we’ll manage. I’ll probably end up using the bathroom. It’s located in between my room and the guest room, and is a high traffic area, so it’s neutral territory.
  6. Long Visits (supervised): From here, you can see the finish line! Once short visits are accepted/tolerated, you can extend them. While still keeping the cats supervised, always be on the lookout for aggressiveness. This also goes for the short visits- If one or both cats starts exhibiting anger or aggression, separate them back to their rooms, and try again at a later date when they’re calmed down.
  7. Short Visits (unsupervised): After the cats are used to being around each other and don’t show any signs of attacking one another, it’s alright to leave them alone. This is when it’s okay to leave the doors open, and have them mingle normally around the house shorter periods of time.
  8. Full Integration: Once the shorter visits are taken as more normal by both cats, you’ve made it! By this time, both of the cats should be able to act normally around the other, without perceiving any threats. While still needing to keep an eye on their interaction, it should be more casual, and not constant supervision.

I’ll be posting occasionally under the ‘Tail of Two Kitties’ series about how Remus & Morgana are doing, and letting you know how each of the steps are, or are not, working! For now, I’m just getting constant text updates from my sister on the attitude of my cats. Lol (For those curious, Morgana is cranky, but less spooked and more curious. Remus is still happily oblivious, eating and napping the day away.)

Here are some of the great resources I found while I was doing my research. Each of them vary slightly, because of course, each cat is different, so some might not need as many steps as others.

Enjoy!

Resources

“How to Introduce a Second Cat.” Pam Johnson-Bennett. http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/how-to-introduce-a-second-cat/

“Adding a New Cat to Your Household.” Animal Humane Society.
https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/training/adding-new-cat-your-household

“How to Introduce a New Cat to an Old Cat.” Animal Planet.
http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/how-to-introduce-a-new-cat-to-an-old-cat/

“Introducing Your New Cat To Other Pets.” Humane Society.
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/introducing_new_cat.html

Time Management: Get Organized without Getting Bogged Down with Details

This is a re-post of an article I wrote for my alma mater’s blog a few weeks ago. Focusing on time management (my arrow to the knee) was difficult. My mind goes a thousand miles a minute, making multi-tasking a natural go-to. However, multi-tasking isn’t always the best approach. Below, I talk about many of the tricks and tools I’ve learned over the years.

Midterms are over, finals are almost here, and your mind is a battle ground between the necessary productivity, and the completely unhelpful spring fever, senioritis, or the age-old “summer-is-so-close-i-can-taste-it” restlessness- or all three at once, which is always a trip. When I was working towards my Bachelor’s degree, I was definitely one of those kids that had caffeine being pumped into my body via an IV (no, not literally…unfortunately)-which is something I heartily do NOT recommend. I was on track to graduating early, worked full time at a local coffee shop, had a student job at our library, and was in roughly 6-7 musical ensembles, all on top of my course load. In grad school, I worked full time on top of full time classes. Now out of school and in the professional workforce, my time is still a rare commodity. Work, various volunteer & semi-professional musical groups, roller derby training…I’m still one of those people who doesn’t like to turn down an opportunity. (or, doesn’t say “no” enough…it’s still up for debate.) Regardless of what your life & schedule looks like- because i’m sure I’m nowhere near as busy as some- making time for everything that needs to be done is never a fun, or easy task.

Time management, working/writing on the go, finding time to research, was difficult in college & grad school. Thanks to some great mentors, smart friends, and the occasional Buzzfeed article (no, not the one about the corgi beach party), I made it through, adding bits here and there to my bag of tricks. That’s why I chose this subject for my third article. I wanted to highlight tips & tricks I’ve collected over the years, which made balancing a full schedule without sacrificing sleep, social time, or sanity seem a whole lot easier. Just remember that everyone has different tricks to keep them motivated, whether it’s the carrot on a stick mentality, or the complete lock-down strategy, so if none of these work for you, don’t worry! I hope I’ll at least share some online tools that prove to be useful. (And to make it easy, anything I like to in the article I’ll also provide in list form at the end, so you don’t have to scroll through the whole thing just looking for a single link.)

Physical Space

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card (or your grandmother), an uncluttered desk makes for an uncluttered mind. The less distractions are on your desk, the harder it is to get distracted. Whenever I have a huge project to get done, a lot on my plate at once, or both, the first thing that helps is to re-organize. Take 5-10 minutes, declutter, reorganize, and streamline your work area.

Organize

  • Lists! I love lists. I have lists on and about everything, everyday, all the time. I’m a list-maker. I’m not suggesting that you fall off the cliff side and join me in list-omania, but a to-do list can be your best friend for organization. The reasoning behind this is simply that when you can see everything that needs to get done, it’s easier to see the finish line approaching, and it’s harder to accidentally forget a task. I start with a list of everything that needs attention, prioritize it, and those with the closest deadlines are the ones I tackle first- they’re the red letter days. Then I’ll organize my list in decreasing importance from there.
    • The Kanban method
      • Recently, I’ve started to use this method of scheduling my to do list, and it’s made a world of difference. It helps me visualize my workflow, and see my daily progress as i tackle the tasks on hand. (It’s also very easy to put up and tear down. Currently, mine is made up of 3×5 cards & scotch tape above my keyboard.)
        post 3- no 4.JPG
    • Pomotodo
      • Since most of my work has to be done on the computer, an easy way to keep me on task is this app. Available (for free!) on all platforms, Pomotodo is a great way to break up your tasks into manageable bites, as well as make it easy to track your productivity level and workflow. Have you ever sat at your computer for hours on end and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done? Based on the Pomodoro technique developed in the 80s, Pomotodo breaks up your work sessions into 25-30 minute time slots, setting off a quiet buzzer when it’s time for you to take a 5 minute break. This helps your focus to stay fresh, and your mind to avoid that mentally exhausted sludgey feeling that always happens after you’ve been straining and concentrating on one task for far too long.

Declutter

  • Minimizing distractions is most of the time impossible with the daily bustle of life, but your work space should be familiar, comfortable, and clean. I don’t mean physically clean all the time- my sister’s metal smith studio is a whirlwind of organized chaos- I mean clean of unimportant or potentially distracting things. Television, cell notifications, internet sites, etc., can all occupy focus that could be applied elsewhere. (I actually just put my cell phone on night mode before writing this article.)
    post 3- no 1     post 3- no 3

    • Internet blocks
      • Sites like Cold Turkey, Freedom, Dark Room (for Windows), and WriteRoom (for Mac), are great sites that block access to pages you don’t want to distract you. This is great for assignments where the internet is necessary (which is essentially all assignments), but you don’t want to risk the pull of social media. Google Chrome several extensions like StayFocusd and Site Block in their app store, as does Firefox (called Leechblock)

Noise

  • There’s an increasing amount of studies that have to do with the mind, focus, and music or background noise. Personally, I prefer ambient noise, instrumental music, or a combination of the two as I work.
    • Noisli
      • My newest find and now favorite background noise generator, Noisli has ambient noise that range from the classic white/black/grey noise to a babbling brook, thunderstorm, train tracks, and the clinking & murmur of a busy coffeeshop. I have this app installed on my Chrome browser both at work and at home, and typically play this in the background in addition to some mood music.
    • Coffeetivity
      • Another ambient noise generator, this is great if you want the feel of a bustling cafe, but could do without the visual stimulation (or the money spent on coffee and pastries- a personal weakness). Being able to choose from several different noise types – lunch time bustle, early morning stillness, etc., is really great.
    • 8tracks
      • 8tracks is a very old favorite of mine. I strictly used 8tracks playlists when I was writing my undergrad thesis. (I actually still have that collection of playlists.) On 8tracks, users are able to upload playlists that they’ve created. They range from pop & rock, to focus and creativity. You can customize your search down to an extreme, which is fantastic. Be careful though, it’s easy to get caught up in finding great music. I’ve found that happening to me many times.

Mental Space

Organizing your mind is just as important as organizing your physical workspace. I’m talking to myself as well as you when I speak of the importance of mental organization. I am one of the worst at this part of organization. My thoughts often look like the room of keys from The Sorcerer’s Stone, zipping and flying about at no pattern at all.

Re-center yourself

  • Often times, it’s easy to get caught up in the franticness of meeting your deadlines, and this, in turn, will hurt your productivity and focus. Before I sit down and start a project- however large or small, I take anywhere form 5 to 10 minutes to stretch and loosen my body. Being physically uncomfortable is distracting, but so is being too comfortable. I’ve accidentally fallen asleep during an assignment far too often for me to like to admit.
    • Yoga
      • I didn’t discover how helpful yoga was to both my mind as well as my body until after grad school, unfortunately, so I’m going to join the cacophony of voices singing the practice’s praise in hopes that you don’t make the discovery too late. Engaging my muscles requires my mind as well as my physical strength, and elongating my ability to focus has everything to do with elongating your body, so to speak. There are hundreds, if not thousands of focus enhancing yoga videos and stretches available, but my absolute favorite is this one, from Yoga by Adrienne. Only 10 minutes long, it doesn’t take a chunk out of your day, nor does it require lots of experience in yoga. (I am the furthest from being familiar with the exercise, and I’m also probably one of the least stretchy people on this planet.)
    • Headspace
      • Meditation is fairly hard for me, honestly. As I said earlier, my mind is a beehive of thoughts, so quieting it is a bit difficult. There’s an app called Headspace that is amazing at introducing the practice of meditation into your life. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation.
    • Momentum
      • Momentum is a free (yay!) and easy way to keep up your momentum throughout the day. Instead of the “new tab” page on your browser, Momentum greets you, displays the time, weather, an inspiring quote, and your main goal for the day, all set against the backdrop of a breathtaking photograph. You can also add a small todo checklist that you can update and change throughout the day.
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Listen

  • When I was in college, I’d frequently battle headaches, back aches, and sometimes insomnia during or after a project. Restlessness and stress induced anxiety were plagues, and it was only til I started working with my body instead of fighting against it that I saw results.
    • Light
      • One of the first things I changed was the amount and type of light I worked in. I made sure that my area was well lit with either natural or warm light instead of the harsh blue light that is emitted from your computer screen and some lightbulbs. A free app called Flux is free and downloadable on your computer- Mac or PC- to help reduce the blue light coming from your monitor. Immediately, I noticed that my eyes weren’t getting as tired as quickly during an assignment.
    • Stretch
      • Just like resetting your body with a quick yoga session before beginning, taking breaks intermittently to stretch, take a quick walk, or just move will help keep your body from being restless. I usually try and take a 5 minute walk or stretch break every 45 minutes to an hour.
    • Write it down
      • Far from making yet another list, if pesky thoughts keep popping into your head and interrupt your productivity, write them down. This will make it easier to wipe them from your mind and focus on later.
    • Wake up!
      • I am THE furthest from a morning person. In fact, my sister posted a meme about the terrors of me before my coffee just a few minutes ago. However, I’ve noticed that over the past few months, I’ve been waking up naturally around 6, 6:30. On the days where I feel lazy and go back to sleep til my alarm goes off, I found myself dragging, unfocused, and lackadaisical. The days where I listen to my inner clock and wake up, I’m more relaxed, focused, and productive throughout the day. Part of this I blame on my cat, who promptly meows for food at around 6:15, but I also give credit to a great alarm clock app that I found. Called “Progressive Alarm Clock,” It’s in the app store for around $3, and is the best purchase I’ve made for my iphone. Instead of jerking you awake with a song or harsh sound, it uses Tibetan singing bowls to gradually lift you from sleep by increasing the volume, making for a much more welcoming morning alarm.

Articles, Sources, & Quotes:

When compiling resources and first beginning this article, I talked to a couple of the busiest women in my life on how they were able to keep focused on the job, at home, or on the go. I know that my way of keeping myself focused is unique to me, so I wanted to get other perspectives as well.

Articles & Resources:

Increase Productivity-Buzzfeed- Tactics, methods, and tricks for keeping the drudgery of the work week at bay. This article is more focused on work methods and mental tricks than helpful resources and tools.

Apps, Apps, Apps-Buzzfeed- While a few of the apps and sites I mentioned are on this list, there are many I didn’t mention that could be extremely helpful! I was actually recommended a few of them from various friends and acquaintances over the past few years.

More Apps!- Buzzfeed- Seeing a trend? I love Buzzfeed’s listed articles because of the quick and easy to read format that they’re shown in. This article is less focused on productivity, and more of an app-based show and tell, but there are a couple listed in here that are pretty fantastic tools!

Study Music – Growing up on the “Mozart Effect” for studying had its pros and cons. This article provides a brief overview of a few instrumental-based music genres and how the brain reacts to them.

Music & the Mind. In contrast to the article I mentioned above, this study breaks away from the previously praised school of thought (such as the Mozart Effect) where it was said that music with words is distracting and inconducive for productivity.

Kanban method – An easy, visual way to see your to do list, prioritize your workflow, and a great encouragement to get things done. It uses a production flow method that was first developed by the Toyota company, and applies it to every day tasks.

Pomotodo – An app that uses the Pomodoro technique to optimize your time and focus by breaking down your work day into 30 minute segments.

Cold Turkey – There’s a free and a subscription based version for Cold Turkey. It allows you to block out different kinds of sites for certain periods of time, although you can only schedule blocks of time if you buy the second tier of the subscription service. Still, this is a great app to streamline your internet use if you find yourself getting too distracted by clickbaits and social media.

Freedom – This is free, available on all platforms, and makes it very easy to block any potentially distracting websites, apps, etc., from your internet browser without needing to get rid of your internet access altogether.

Dark Room – This is the perfect tool to fight writer’s block with. DarkRoom clears your screen and monitor of distractions, making freewriting clean, minimalistic, and at the center of your bullseye.

WriteRoom  – WriteRoom is the Windows compatible style of the DarkRoom site & app.

Noisli – A simple, minimalistic ambient noise generator. You can create combinations of sounds (such as rain, a crackling fire, an ocean tide, or coffeeshop noises), or just stick with one sound.

Coffeetivity – Another ambient noise generator, this has sounds that are usually associated with more social settings- the clink of silverware and dishes combined with voices murmering at a coffeeshop, the bustling sounds of a streetside cafe, etc. If you excel at working with the sounds of people around you, but get too distracted with people watching or those really great scones in the pastry case (I am SO guilty of both of these), this is a great sound tool.

8tracks – A playlist based website where users can upload and make their playlists public. It does away with your need of spending time tailoring a playlist to what you need, because you can combine any amount of descriptions, criteria, etc. to find your perfect playlist. (ie- “instrumental” “study” “classical” or “traditional celtic” “instrumental” “focus”)

Yoga for Focus – Yoga by Adrienne is one of my favorite youtube yogis. She uploads videos regularly, and best of all, you don’t have to be a veteran to follow her sessions. This 10 minute video is perfect for getting your body stretched out and set for a study session.

Headspace – This app is great for learning how to meditate easily, without the frustration of trying to do it on your own or in a class. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation. The audio sessions usually last around 10 minutes, which is perfect for a pre- or post-study session.

Momentum – This app replaces the ‘new tab’ page with a calming photo and a daily reminder of what you want to get done. So, every time you open a new tab, you’re greeted with the Scottish countryside, the sunset over the Sahara, instead of the blank, grey screen.

Flux – Flux dims or lightens your screen according to the time of day. The later in the day it is, the less blue light is emitted from your screen, being replaced by a warm pink or orange tinged light. It’s not as harsh on your eyes, and you don’t find yourself getting a splitting headache after staring at your screen for 8 hours a day. It’s free, and works on both Mac & PCs.

Quotes:

Anna: actress, tarot reader, woman-of-all trades-  “Well, I have ADHD so the best one I’ve found is keeping a notepad or post it nearby so I can write down things that pop into my head in the middle of a task. Otherwise, I go off to do them instead and forget all about the original thing I was working on… My planner also has a to-do list section where you put 3 that you need to get done to move yourself forward and then the rest are additional. So you can prioritize instead of getting overwhelmed. I’m using Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map planner…her whole philosophy is focusing on how you want to be feeling and building your schedule around that rather than thinking about what your goal is like, make your goals to feel ____ and then build a system to get yourself there”

Jenn: event organizer, actress, social media fiend-  “I definitely keep a to do list, as well as write stuff on my calendar so I don’t forget and I can prioritize/know deadlines.  I like the to do list with the check boxes because checking stuff off makes me feel more productive.  Our database at work has an alarm feature so if I’m remembering to contact a customer about something months later, I can set a digital alarm reminder.  Declutter is a big thing too.  I don’t keep my desk cluttered (especially at the end of the day.  If it gets messy throughout the day, I make sure to pack everything up neatly so I come in to something other than chaos in the morning).  I have trays specifically for different things I’m working on so I can prioritize that way.  I make sure to clean out my email every so often to make sure only the important things stay (so things are easier to find).  I like to focus on one task at a time (I can multitask like a pro but in terms of finishing something, I like to finish one project before I start another – because my boss is always throwing things at me to do.  Most of which are not time sensitive.  I do spend like the last hour of my day on something else if I’m in the middle of a project, just to mix things up and to make sure to get at least a chunk done of the other thing)”

 

My Saturday night is better than yours…

A good book always needs a good soundtrack. To check out what I’m listening to, click here!

I’m on the final pages of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series that I started this past October. It’s SO amazing- wonderful characters, phenomenal plot, brilliant use of word play and descriptors…positively fantastic.

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