What 2009 taught me

nothing is certain… we all know that. i’ve had to relearn that lesson many times and this year it seemed to be a monthly lesson; the ‘Groundhog Day’ version of my life.

i don’t want it to be for nothing, so i’m making this list to help me pretend i’ve got this all figured out.

what i’ve learned in 2009:

• family will always have my back.
• finding a job of ANY kind is a full-time job and the pay sucks.
• love doesn’t see age
• my kids love me regardless of my status
• things that seem as though they’d be simple never are
• i will never be someone who has things fall into her lap
• priorities are easy to figure out but harder to implement
• true friends can be found online and may never get to meet in person
• there is more to life than attention
• life is sweeter when shared
• i am stronger than i was 12 months ago
but,
• i’m still prone to pouting
• being called ‘over-qualified’ doesn’t make getting passed over for a job any easier to swallow
• living out of boxes and maintaining your sanity takes dedication
• being 38 and living with your parents to be able to make a better life for yourself and your children is humbling
• some people really do make an impact on everyone they meet
• there really are people who care about me

Here’s to 2010 being a good one…

Create Your WishList or Registry from Anywhere With Wishpot

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As you peruse the web, how many times have you come across an item for sale and thought “I wish someone would get that for me”? Do you scribble items on paper, or figure you’ll remember them later when someone asks what you want for your birthday… only to lose the crumpled up paper or completely forget what it was?

With the holidays coming, you’ll realize even more how useful Wishpot.com can be. Most people will probably use it as a bridal or baby registry, but why not go ahead and make your own wish list.logo_homepage

The premise of Wishpot is simple: gather a list of all of the gifts you’d like to receive from around the web into one spot. It’s not a shopping site – Wishpot doesn’t sell the items on your list. But it does make the shopping more manageable.

Wishpot offers several different options to make it easy to gather and share your lists:

1) Add the button to your browser to save items you find:

wishpot button

2) Import your Amazon.com wish list

3) Take a photo with your mobile phone, enter the ISBN number and email it to your Wishpot account (you must sign up for your Wishpot email address on the “mobile settings” page under “Account settings”)

Additionally, you can:

  • sign up for price alerts:

“Now, when you add an item to your wish list you can set a price alert. This means that Wishpot will notify you when the item you selected goes on sale or reaches a target price. Click here to see how to add a price alert.”

  • request contributions for a gift:

“Now you have the ability to request contributions for items you add to your wish list or registry. Click here to see how to request a contribution.”

  • request cash gifts:

Click here to see how to request a cash gift

  • create lists for various friends and family members to save gift ideas for each (there is no limit to the number of lists you can create, so list your little heart out)

In my opinion, nothing beats the ease of shopping online. I’d rather sit in the comfort of my home, in my pajamas than fight the crowds and lines at the mall. And the fact that Wishpot makes it even easier? Priceless.

Sound off: How often do you shop online?

photo credit

Managing your time online

clocksphoto credit

When I first started blogging over 4 years ago, it was easy for me to manage my time. I sat down to write a post, edited it, posted it and that was that. I didn’t know anyone else who had a blog, so I didn’t spend time reading other blogs. There wasn’t Twitter. I wasn’t using Facebook. I didn’t know what a feed-reader was. My online life was manageable.

But soon, I realized that there were blogs. MANY blogs. Written by other people. And they were interesting. My “Bookmarks” list in my browser became flooded with links. I quickly realized that method was futile. I spent my time going through that list each day only to realize that there was nothing new to read. Wasted time.

Fortunately, I discovered feed-readers and that solved that problem.

Enter Twitter. And Facebook. And the hundreds of blogs that I ended up subscribed to. And all of the other social media sites that I became involved with.

If I hadn’t realized a way to wrestle all of those things under control, I’d be sitting in a corner sucking my thumb and rocking, mumbling something incoherent. That’s not to say that I have time management down to a science. I don’t. But I have found some things that help me maintain my sanity, while also continuing to grow my sites and business online. You won’t necessarily find anything new on this list, but we all need to be reminded of these things on occasion.

1) PRIORITIZE: Your to-do list is probably a mile long. Face it – you aren’t going to get it all done today (and that’s ok.) But what you can do is look your list over and find the items that have a glaring need for your attention. Put those things at the top of your list. AND DO THEM. If you can’t complete the entire task, break it into little chunks and check those off as you complete them.

2) STOP PROCRASTINATING: If it needs to be done now, do it. Ignoring it will not make it disappear off of your list. It will only serve as a further distraction as you start to worry about the fact that it isn’t getting done. So just do it. You’ll feel better once it’s checked off of your list.

3) USE APPLICATIONS/TOOLS THAT ALLOW YOU TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT: When I first started using Twitter, I hated it. I found myself on the Twitter website obsessively refreshing to see if someone had replied to any of my comments (“Why doesn’t anyone else see how witty I am on there?”). I wasted so much time doing that, I had to just quit Twitter for a couple of months. Then I learned about Twhrl and was hooked on Twitter once again. Only this time, I was able to use it in a way didn’t take me away from other work I was doing. If someone responded to me, I received a little notice on my screen. There are so many applications that make using Twitter so much easier and I’ve tried most of them. Tweetdeck has been my favorite, and each new version adds something that makes me enjoy it even more. Try them out and see which one helps you the most.

(*NOTE* I will be posting tutorials on some of the helpful features for each Twitter application/tool in an upcoming series)

4) KNOW WHEN TO CLOSE OTHER APPLICATIONS: The internet allows us to be in multiple places at one time. On so many levels, this is a fantastic thing. But when you are trying to get work done, it leads to overload. If you have too many programs open on your computer screaming for your attention it will become a major distraction. If you need to write a blog post, close down every program except for the ones you need in order to write your post. Don’t keep Tweetdeck or Skype or GoogleChat open, unless you have to have access to write your post. (And if that’s the case, consider doing that portion of your post separately) Those are tools meant to help you. Just as you can turn off your phone to keep from being interrupted, you can turn these other distractions off as well.

5) ALLOW YOURSELF TO BECOME PICKIER ABOUT WHERE YOU SPEND YOUR TIME ONLINE: When I first started reading other people’s blogs, I had the time to do it. Soon, my reader had become too full. At first I tried breaking them down into types of blogs (eg: design sites; blogging friends; cooking sites…) but my reader still caused me anxiety when I’d open it and find 500+ new posts waiting to be read. I was so afraid of missing something that I’d try to make it through that list (Oh yes I did…). But when I got to the end, I realized that I couldn’t recall most of it. That is because not all of it was relevant to me anymore. My needs had changed. I no longer needed every single design site (And really — did I ever??). So I whittled my list down to the select few that I consistently found myself referring to. I did that for each type of site I had in my reader. If it was not useful to me, I removed it.

6) ALWAYS HAVE SEVERAL POSTS STARTED IN YOUR DRAFTS: At any given time, I have at least 4 posts in my drafts folder that I can work on. This allows me to work on them as inspiration hits, but it also keeps me prepared for those times when something unexpected happens and I need to get a post up. If you are a blogger with a regular posting schedule, this can be a life-preserver in a pinch.

7) DEDICATE PARTS OF YOUR DAY TO VARIOUS TASKS: If you were at work in a corporate office, you would most likely have some sort of schedule that you’d follow through the day. It should be no different when you are sitting in front of your laptop at your kitchen table. Come up with a schedule/game plan for how you will spend your computer time. Twitter won’t die if you aren’t on there every 20 minutes. Facebook will carry on without you while you complete your current project. Set aside times of the day to spend on each of the sites you frequent. Consider what times of day are most active on those sites. (eg: Twitter is most active in the evening/night hours… but you may have people you call on who are most active in the morning) Feel free to allow for flexibility with it, but be aware of how much time you are spending on each site and how much time it is taking away from the other things you need to get done, and plan your time accordingly.

Time management doesn’t always come naturally to us. We want to do what we want to do. But sometimes, we have to do other things. With some focus dedicated to those things, you will soon find that your day feels more in control.

How do you manage your time? Share in comments.

Using Google's "Knol"

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Is there a topic that you are an expert in? Something that you’ve learned about, studied and now would like to share that knowledge with others? Maybe you want to learn more about a topic.

I’ve pointed out GuideSpot as an online learning spot. It’s a great site for sharing what you know. But did you know that Google also has a similar platform?

“Knol” (Google’s made up term for “a unit of knowledge”) has been around since 2007, and came out of beta in 2008.

creat_a_knol screenshot

Knol makes it easy for you to write and share your knowledge with the world.

  • Ease of use
    All you need is an account, a name and a desire to write and we’ll take care of the rest.
  • Control
    You specify the level of collaboration you want with the community. Your knol, your voice.
  • Community
    You can connect with other experts in your area of interest to share and grow knowledge.
  • Visibility
    We value and promote authorship. Great content will be visible on popular search engines.
  • Growth
    Sharing your knowledge with the world is rewarding for everyone.

Watch this video for tips on creating a Knol:

Some Knols to get you started:

Lightbulb Image courtesy of Jacci Howard Bear http://desktoppub.about.com/

Share your knowledge (or learn from others) on Guidespot

As I writer, I’m prone to feel like I always have something to share, whether it’s the latest technology news or the many uses I have for diaper wipes. It’s easy to sometimes feel self-important just because I can string a bunch of words together.

guidespot screenshot

But you know what? Everyone has something to share. A story to tell. A tutorial to make known.

A lot of you probably already have a blog of your own and that is where you share some of your knowledge with others. Whether you have a blog or not, Guidespot is a site that you will surely find a topic to learn about or you might decide to share with others.

What is a Guide?

Think of a guide as your own visual list and multi-media story. Now think of Guidespot as an online platform where this creative knowledge-sharing converge and form communities around your interests.
Building a guide offers you the opportunity to combine text, links, photos, videos, addresses and maps all in one place without having to use the techy stuff to get it done. Organize the layout of your guide by dragging and dropping the contents to your desired locations.

Getting started is simple:

guidespot get started guide

Setting up your guide is simple:

create a guide

If you write one, you can make it as elaborate or simple as you like. Add links, photos. Allow others to add things to your guide. Make it interactive. Even if you decide not to write a guide of your own, there are many helpful guides (and some fun/silly ones as well) that you are sure to find helpful.

Examples:

Where to Get Free Stuff on Your Birthday

Best of: phrases, rhymes and memory joggers to help you remember (sometimes useless) information

Haunted Drives and Spooky Spots in Colorado

Be sure to read their FAQs page for the complete lowdown.