Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building Content Libraries with Trello and Zapier

One of my favorite web writers, James Clear, said "Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating." 

My career as a content marketer demands that I stay on top of trends and news and technology; but I can't spend my entire life consuming, when I need to be creating! I'm pretty diligent about finding efficient ways to handle and benefit from the information available to me without becoming overwhelmed by it.

Lately, I've perfected a little system that I'm totally in love with, using a handful of fabulous apps that work together exactly the way I need them to. Rather than falling into the trap of reading and clicking and reading and clicking, I build libraries. I curate the information that looks useful so it's there when I need it, and so I don't have to give it my attention when I don't.

My favorite app right now for curating content is Trello

It's so simple and functional. It reminds me of a wall of sticky notes:

This is part of my Content Marketing Board; it contains an unlimited number of Lists, and you can add unlimited Cards to those lists. You can click and drag the cards wherever you want them.

I don't know that collecting links is really the intended use of Trello. I think it's more a productivity app to track projects. But the beauty of it is its simplicity and versatility; you can use it virtually any way you want to. For this purpose, the obvious choice is Evernote, but for me, Trello works better. I think it's more visual than Evernote, and that appeals to me. 

So here's my process!

I always start my day with Feedly; this is the new morning paper, right? First thing in the morning I give myself 30-40 minutes to scan headlines, and skim articles of interest. Sometimes I do this from my phone, sometimes from my computer. When an article seems valuable, I either share via Buffer, or save with Evernote (yup, Evernote). Nothing complicated, just a title and a link. MOST of the time I'll choose to save on Evernote rather than share, just because at this point I haven't read anything closely enough to know for sure that it's share-worthy. The point right now is just to "clip" articles for later reading.

The cool thing that happens here is Zapier. Zapier is a web app that builds connections between all your OTHER apps, and automates certain actions between them. You set it up once, and forget about it, and it just works behind the scenes, across all your devices, to connect whatever apps you're using in the ways you've specified.

Zapier offers a few paid plans, which you might find worthwhile because there are HUGE possibilities with this app. But for now I'm on the free plan, and it does what I need it to do.

I've used Zapier to connect Buffer (my social media sharing app of choice) to Trello. So when I share anything via Buffer, Zapier creates a new card on my "Buffered" list in Trello. I also have an "Evernoted" list, connecting Evernote and Trello. So Evernote in this case is really just a vehicle to push my content into Trello, where I really want it. The reason for this is that Trello doesn't come up in the "share" options on my phone; Evernote does. So it's super simple to hit share, create a note in Evernote, and then, thanks to Zapier, it's waiting for me in Trello! These Trello lists live on a board I call "Articles of Interest," and they fill up automatically, every time I save or share anything:

I continue through my Feedly feeds, saving and sharing, trying not to get too caught up in any one article, or fall into any rabbit holes. There's a time for getting involved and reading in depth, but this isn't it.

When I get to the end of my Feedly (love that checkmark!), I open Trello. Voila, my two Articles of Interest lists are filled up! Then I sort them, a quick process. If I'm moving them to a list on the same Trello board, it's just click and drag. If I'm moving them to a different board, I just have to click "move" and choose the new location:

One thing to note: Evernotes are instant (that is, they're pushed to Trello as soon as I create the Evernote, or at least very quickly thereafter; I think the free Zapier plan runs every 15 minutes), but Buffer items don't sync until they actually leave your Buffer. No big deal, I'll catch and sort those next time.

Now I have an organized, personally curated library of resources. When I'm working on an article about SEO, look at that... all my most recent SEO research, at my fingertips.

These are just a few of the lists I have, on one board; you're allowed unlimited lists, boards, and cards!
To view a card, just click it; each card contains the article title, and a link to the article:

You can also add comments, due dates, files & graphics...everything you need, all in one place.

And my Trello is always with me, on any device, so I use those in between moments, in lines or waiting rooms or sitting at school pickup, to actually read and comment on the posts in my library, follow links, and make notes back on the Trello cards, if necessary. I also read in bed at night, so if I didn't get to everything I wanted to during the day, I'll use that time to catch up.

Trello has many other uses. I also have boards to track my job hunt, books to read (with Amazon links), and active projects. You can even add team members, share select boards, and assign items to specific people. You can color code them, attach images or files, or insert checklists. I'm finding myself using it to organize multiple aspects of my life because it's such a simple, versatile tool, with lots of advanced functionality that's there and available, but not required or confusing. The entire UI is clean and uncluttered, and extremely intuitive.

This isn't a Trello commercial. Haha. Nobody's paying me to say these things! But I think it's a really fantastic little tool. I'm always on the lookout for new apps to increase organization and productivity; I'll admit I have kind of a "shiny new things" complex when it comes to apps. So there are other apps I've got my eye on for these uses, like Pocket, for example. But at the end of the day I use what works, and right now, this is working beautifully for me.

How do you stay both informed AND productive? Any shiny new things caught your eye lately? And will you be giving Trello or Zapier a shot?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tech Tickets; or, how to pry the video game controller out of your kid's deformed, claw-like hands

Summer drags on. There's still a whole month of it left! My kids are BORED, you guys. Like...so...SO...bored.

Boredom = too much screen time. It's mathematical fact. We start out the day with cartoons, and then it's hot and I've got stuff to do and suddenly it's noon and I'm like wait, are you guys seriously still on the couch?? So we turn it off and then 4 minutes later they're SO BORED MOM THERE'S NOTHING TO DO PLEASE CAN I JUST PLAY TEMPLE RUN ON YOUR PHONE PLEASE PLEASE!

Now. We still use our Bored Jar pretty consistently, and it does work. But still, it's a constant battle of "No, no more TV. No, you cannot play on my phone. No, you don't need to play the Wii again." Yesterday the 7 year old took the Bored Jar around the corner and MAGICALLY pulled the ONE slip that involves playing video games. AMAZING!

So I hit up Pinterest and came across some good ideas for screen time management, including Technology Tickets. I didn't invent the idea, there are lots of much better and more imaginative bloggers out there who shared their awesomeness first. My favorite was this one from Mudpies and Makeup. I borrowed some of her ideas and put my own spin on them, to make them fit our family. She has a free printable over there, though, if you're interested! I totally don't. I'm not that handy, and I'm not that helpful.*

I chose to give them each 12 tickets at the start of the week. This is because we're normally not home on Sundays, so it's the other 6 days of the week I'm worried about. Twelve tickets gives them an hour a day for those 6 days. I didn't want them to have to earn every ticket so I'm giving them an hour a day to start, but we will be using them as a discipline tool, too. And knowing my feisty 7 year old, she may lose more tickets than she uses at first. BUT I built in some ways to earn them back, or to earn extras, by doing educational or helpful activities around the house. WIN-WIN.

To make the Tech Tickets "board":

I designed the rule sheet, printed it on card stock, then made the tickets and cute little library pockets with my Silhouette Cameo and scrapbook paper. If you have a Silhouette, I used this file for the tickets (I chose to fill them and print them, then just cut them out with scissors because my Silhouette machine was doing other things and I was too impatient to wait and use it to cut them all nice and pretty). I laminated them for extra strength, then used this file to make the pockets out of scrapbook paper that looked like lined paper (I had to resize the pockets somewhat to fit my tickets). I cut the names in vinyl using a typewritery font, and stuck them on the pockets.

Then I just glued the rules sheet and the pockets to a piece of 12x12 scrapbook paper and hung it up in the kitchen. I thought about adding a third pocket for "used" tickets, but then I wised up and realized we'd better put them up somewhere out of reach to ensure nobody tries to...recycle. Yeah, Bianca is a sneaky one. We're working on it. Don't judge.

Jack is only 2, but he loves to do everything just like his sister, so he'll like turning in his own tickets. He's big enough to ask for my phone constantly, so I guess he's big enough to go get a ticket and hand it over first!

So. Today is day 1 of the Great Tech Ticket Experiment, and I'm at work (on my lunch break! Calm down!). So the O.G. is home with the kiddos and I guess I'll find out when I get home whether it worked. :)

Why am I expecting to come home to find all the tickets either used up or lost?

*UPDATE!! So many of you asked that I went ahead and made myself helpful after all. You can download the pdf of my sign here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Always Have a Clean House

I came across this on Pinterest. I'm not sure who I'm following on Pinterest who would Pin such a thing, but rest assured I am going to address that as soon as I'm done here.

source (I'm sure she's lovely, and she should know that I'm only doing this out of jealousy.)

I decided that I should make my own, more realistic version. Feel free to Pin it to your "Good Housekeeping" board. You are so. welcome.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Look who's back

My lovelies. My beautiful bloggy lovelies. I miss you so much.

You out there? Roll call, please!!!! Check in!

I've strayed from my blogging roots, forced into neglect of my first love when my Etsy shop became suddenly and inexplicably HUGELY POPULAR.

And frankly, Etsy customers pay me actual cash money, and you guys...well, you don't.

That's ok. I love you anyway! (But if you're moved to send me cash, I won't turn it down. Email me.)

But my shop has become too much for little ol' me so I'm taking a hiatus. This is what you'll see if you try to shop there (and if you're like everybody else on the planet, I'm pretty sure you're attempting to shop there RIGHT NOW, aren't you??).

There are a few things I'd like to accomplish in my down time. They include things like upgrading from Etsy to a legit all-on-my-own website, rebranding some aspects of my business, rethinking my inventory and production systems to increase efficiency, sleeping from time to time, reading a book for pleasure, reintroducing myself to my friends, getting a mani/pedi, and guess what? BLOGGING.

Yeah, baby.

Oh, and potty training the Monster. Remember him? Remember my little squishy faced baby boy?

Yeah he's almost 3. Kid needs to learn how to use the potty. It's time.

Aw yeah. Lighting McQueen underwear. Spoiler alert: This was a terrible idea. Back to Pull-Ups for awhile, yo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Open Letter to the Jerk in the Blue Car in my Kid's School Parking Lot

Dear Jerk in the Blue Car in my Kid's School Parking Lot,

There's something we need to discuss. I'm writing you out of concern. Concern for your health and safety.

You are dangerously close to being dragged out of your car and murdered in an elementary school parking lot, so please listen to what I have to say before it's too late.

Are you familiar with the school pick up line? No? See, that's funny, because you and I both navigate this line each and every day. You did know there were other people picking up their children at 3:00, right? We all form a line. Let me illustrate.

See the jerk in the blue car? That's you.

It's a line, Jerk in the Blue Car. There's an order to it. We all wait our turn. This is how civilized society operates. See, we all enter the parking lot through one small driveway. Then we pick up our children, and then we circle around the rest of the parking lot until we get to the other driveway. And then we exit.

But not you! You have another strategy entirely, don't you?
What...what are you doing??

This is where things get weird, Jerk in the Blue Car! We're all sitting in line, and then suddenly, your blue car just...gets out of line!

Yes, I know you have already picked up your child. I see that. I saw him climb into the backseat of your blue car. This was before I knew you were a jerk. Does your child know this about you, jerk? Is he a jerk as well? Is this some kind of jerk training program you're running?

Why are you turning? Do you not see the 9 other cars in line in front of you? You may not realize this, but we also have picked up our children and probably have other places to be. Yes, I see that there's a big gap between the parked cars, large enough for your car to fit through. But...I just...DO YOU NOT SEE US HERE?
No! No! Why are you doing that? Are you really doing that? You're really doing that! You're such a jerk!
 Why?? Do you seriously not see all these other cars, waiting patiently??

What's that? You need to get to the bank? Oh, ok. Well, I personally was planning to just pick up my child and then hang out here in this parking lot for the rest of the afternoon. So I can see that your need to exit this parking lot 3 minutes faster is definitely more urgent than anything I have going on.
And look! You have a friend! Did you pay this guy? Threaten his children? I don't understand why he's letting you get in front of him, as if crossing the parking lot in this chaotic manner is a legit route to the exit.
You need to stop this. You're a jerk. Please. Just stop, before somebody (not necessarily me, I mean, anybody could do it) snaps and flies across the parking lot in a fit of rage and tears your car to pieces. I'm just saying.

Think about it.


Monday, October 1, 2012

A warning to my laundry.

Fair Warning.

If you are fabric in my house that is not nailed down, you will be put through the washing machine when you become dirty. And you will become dirty. This is certain.

If you have one of those fussy, entitled tags demanding you be "hand washed only" or even "dry cleaned only" (in the case of the latter, I don't know how you got here in the first place, and I'm sorry for the things you're about to see), you may be afforded the luxury of the "delicates" cycle, if I'm in a generous mood. But you will be washed.

Most of you will make it through just fine.

And those of you who don't? I'm sorry, but trust me when I say it's for the best. This ain't the life for you, princess.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Personalized Trick or Treat Buckets

One of my best sellers over the summer was my personalized beach buckets. I made so many of them and they were just so fun to do.

Custom Beach Bucket, $10.

Well, summer's over and I still have lots of buckets! The nice thing about these is they can be used for so much more than just the beach. I mean, it's a bucket! Use it to store toys or craft supplies, use it as a fun alternative to a gift bag at your next birthday party.

Or, of course, add a spooky design and give it to your kid to fill up with candy on Halloween! You guys know how much I love Halloween. Remember Gnarles? Gnarles is ready to come out and play again! STAY TUNED! Seriously. Stay tuned, or he will find you.

Anyway. :) This is what the Princess (who seems to believe she's dressing not as a princess, but as a vampire this year!) will be trick or treating with:

Your kids can have one too! $10