Friday, February 29, 2008

Organizing Your Out of Control Email Inbox

So you haven’t deleted an email in 3 years, so it takes 3 days for your email system to search for a password reminder to your favorite website. Keeping your email inbox messy is like dumping all of your mail on your doormat. It’s disorganized, messy and wastes your time. I will admit I’ve had this problem, but I’ve devised a few tips for cleaning your email us.
  1. Do a bulk search on things you know are spam - Did you subscribe to 5 different email lists only to read one of them 1/3 of the time? Get rid of them, they’re only sitting in your inbox taking up space and making you feel guilty for not reading them.
  2. Unsubscribe - If there is one or more email lists that you have never actually read, find away to unsubscribe to them, or at the least list them as spam and have them automatically filtered out for easy deleting.
  3. Create folders and file - Here is a list of folders I have, you may want to change them for your needs, but I found just about anything fits into these.
  • Read and Respond – Emails that shouldn’t be in my inbox, but I am looking to read some day or I should respond to someone. I like to look through here at least once a week to make sure there isn’t anything I’m slacking on.
  • Bills – Bills and payment confirmations.
  • Blog Research – I like to keep forwards or websites or list research for my blog here so if I’m ever uninspired I can look in here, you can really create a folder for each topic of research you are interested in.
  • Current Projects – Doing research for something new? Try to store it all in one spot.
  • Files – I email myself files instead of saving them to a thumbdrive.
  • Friends – All of the interesting emails from them, not the ones that are 2 sentences long.
  • Job – job search tips, interesting companies, interesting postings (some people toss old postings, but I think that if you were interested in the company once, you should hold on to it and maybe check it out later when you’re more motivated to look for a new job)
  • Memberships – emails about password/account information
  • Recipes – I love to cook and the lists I’m on send me recipes all the time, I try to hang on to anything I might like.
  • Writing – Here is where I keep information from cool writing websites, as well as emails from editors and other writers.
  • Yoga_Health – Yoga tips and health articles I might read some day, right after I quit drinking Diet Coke…
  1. Be realistic about what you can do - I know that I will never have time to read all of the Yoga tips I love, so I have a deadline and if the emails are more than a month old I delete them.
  2. Email Reminders – I love using email reminders to remind myself to do something or take care of someone’s birthday, however once the event is over, get rid of the reminder.
  3. Responses don’t have to be perfect– If the email is from my friend and all it requires is a two sentence response, do it while you have it open. By the time you close and and reopen it later you’ve wasted even more time. Don’t make life more complicated than it is.
  4. Schedule Time on it – Don’t let yourself get bogged down with elaborate organization systems. It should not take you more than 15 minutes to organize your email. Of course it’ll take more time to respond, but budget your time specifically to organize so at least you know what’s going on in your InBox.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bento Lunches

Today's post is on two Bentos i made for lunch last week, they aren’t exactly in Bento boxes because I don’t have any big enough right now. The first has a little flower shaped sandwich made out of turkey, lowfat swiss, and BBQ dressing. The flower is nestled in a little flower bed of baby spinach. In the side compartment is a lowfat Baby Bell cheese, heart-shaped picks with baby dill pickles and mandarin oranges. For desert I made a mini vanilla cupcake with multi-colored sprinkles.

The second Bento has multigrain crackers with a mustard smiley face, egg-salad, laughing cow herb cheese, a Baby Bell cheese, mandarin oranges, and wasabi dried peas. In the side compartment is some Chicken Korma with chopped spinach. Yum!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Apartment Gardening

If you are short on space, but still want to be a green thumb, today’s tip should help you out. I’m not ashamed to say it, but I went to Science Camp when I was a kid. I also participated in our school’s science fair every year. One of the classic Science Fair projects is the seedlings in a plastic bag.

The idea is simple. Buy some seeds, then take a square of paper towel and a clear plastic sandwich bag, and a little water. I love projects that do not require you to purchase any extra supplies! Wet the paper towel and fold it into quarters. Sprinkle the seeds in the middle of the folds and then put the flat wet paper towel in the plastic bag. We always taped the bags to the windows, but I taped mine to my window frames because the screens are in the way. I made sure to label the bags with magic marker so you know what’s growing where. Make sure when you tape the bags up, the window is not too drafty for the young plants.

If you start your seedlings in the next couple of weeks, they should be sturdy and ready for the outside garden in a month or two. This is of course depending on your climate and weather. Buying seeds is much cheaper than purchasing flats of little plants, and gets you in the mood for gardening a little earlier than usual without wasting any space. If you don't have a back yard or a balcony you can always move the plants to a container garden on your window sill.

Above are some pictures of the project. I decided to grow Oregano, Chives and Basil. As you may be able to see, some of the seeds have begun to sprout after only a week!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Writing Ideas Journal

Today’s tip is for all of those aspiring writer’s out there. I constantly hear writers saying “I don’t have anything to write about.” Well I’m here to tell you, that I NEVER have that problem. Aren’t I lucky? Divinely inspired? Nope, I have a system to make sure I never run out of original ideas: an Idea Journal.

My idea journal is really helpful and simple to create. While I don’t keep it with me everywhere I go, it is in a prominent and convenient place on my desk. Whenever I have an idea, I take an entire page in my journal and write the idea down. Many times it just a cool character or a cool line from one of my friends. When I write the interesting tidbit down, I usually have some inkling of how it may further develop in to a story.

My journal is unlined. Remember this is just a brainstorming phase right now, no need for lines and boxes to keep you down. Once story idea for each page I find works best. I also like to use brightly colored fine pointed sharpies. These usually help me get more excited about the idea. Sometimes there is an interesting article in the news or online and I cut or print them out and save them to glue or tape in my journal.

Anytime I don’t have a particular project in mind, I go back to my journal and pick out an idea I was really interested in. I would have forgotten the idea if I hadn’t written it down so I appreciate having my writing journal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recycled Coffee Tin Craft Project

Today’s project is pretty simple, but the outcome is very useful and I find it very attractive. I buy all of my coffee at Trader Joes, and in the end, I always end up with these large coffee containers. While, I get the large containers, there are smaller ones too I might experiment with.

The containers are sturdy, so I decided to dress them up a little bit and reuse them. I bought some paper from this gourmet type paper store around the corner from me called Hollander’s. I picked out a couple of beautiful sheets of paper months ago, and I was still looking for an excuse to use them. All I did was cover the coffee can with a sheet of this paper, making sure that the trees are growing in the correct direction. I used a basic Elmer’s-type glue. When doing this, the less glue the better, around the tip and bottom edges and the slowly gluing a little strip as you go around. Otherwise, the paper can get a little wrinkly. A bone flattener tool that is used in bookbinding could be helpful here to flatten out the glue bubbles.

Here are some pictures of my new storage containers. They store all of my nail polish and manicure supplies. I hope you enjoy this great recycling and organizing project.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How to get LESS Sleep

So everyone's always talking about how people these days need more sleep, and how bad a lack of sleep is for your health, but in reality, Who has time for all that sleep? Here's a list of ways to get less sleep. Also a helpful tip, any time you find one of those sites that tells you how to get that all important sleep, just do the opposite.

10 Ways to Sleep Less
  1. Force yourself to sleep in a different place or position every night. Totally confuse your body by falling asleep one night on the couch, one on your bed, another in the arm chair, on the floor with a pillow…
  2. Exercise late at night. Just when your body thought you were ready for bed, go out and run on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Just make sure that you aren’t doing it at the same time every night so you’re body can’t get into a pattern.
  3. Nap frequently, but erratically. Allow yourself an hour nap when you get home from work. Make sure it doesn’t last longer, and you’ll be up till 3 easily. If you can get down to 4 hours of sleep a night, one extra hour totals only 5. If you can get a 15 min nap in the afternoon. It’s better to nap a little then be totally unproductive while waiting to be able to go to sleep.
  4. Break the Routine. Get to know your body’s patterns and make sure you screw them up as much as possible.
  5. Take your vitamins. An iron deficiency can make you tired. Also the healthier your body is the better you can withstand this sleep loss.
  6. Cut out the refined flour. These kinds of carbs lead to up and down blood sugar. Stick with whole grains and more protein if at all possible. What you want is a long and steady moderate sleepiness.
  7. Drink more water. Dehydration leads to fatigue, also you need keep drinking enough water to fight the diuretic effects of number 10.
  8. Eat little snacks. Low blood sugar can lead to sleepiness. If you start to feel like you’re energy is waning, have a little sack like a handful of dried fruit or a yoghurt.
  9. Never Turn out the lights. Keep your lights on when you sleep so that your body doesn’t think you should be asleep for the night, with any luck your body won't be abel to tell that it’s night at all.
  10. COFFEE! Coffee is good, but make sure you have a steady stream to keep the caffeine and a moderate level. What you don’t want to do is down a shot of espresso, bounce off the walls for half an hour, and then pass out in a bush on the walk home from Starbucks. Also better for the slow drip release of caffeine are drinks like diet coke and tea.

*These tips are provided for sarcastic purposes only and are not proven to keep you awake, make you more productive, and will probably decrease your general level of health.

(Photo Courtesy of pbo31)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cover Letter Help

Lately it seems that I have been revising a lot of resumes and cover letters for my friends. It makes sense, because I live in Michigan where everyone is either unemployed or underemployed. I found that I was explaining how to write a cover letter more often that not, so I put together a few really great sites with examples of different types of cover letters. Also, I have a little sheet here that shows how I write cover letters. If you click on it you can see it in detail and print it out.

Since most cover letters are going to be cover emails now a days, I have found some sites that are a little more up to date than other sites. Remember that if you email in your resume to a job, you should treat that email just as you would a physical cover letter.

Sites with different examples of cover letters:

And here's the handout...