Good For You

How Do You Get Inspired?

Ever sit down to write/draw/paint/anything creative and just…sat there? These creativity blocks are pretty frustrating (and, as we’ll explore further in a bit, that can actually make matters worse). You want to combat this…but how? We have some ideas.

Find Your Happy Place.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Some people have a physical place, like an office or spot in the library, while other people focus more on cultivating a certain internal atmosphere. Think about when you’re at your peak creativity (something you’ll have to explore on your own), and try to recreate that experience as you get in the creative zone. Personally, I do well with quiet and physical activity- usually running. Although, I have found that complete quiet is actually unnerving, and some background noise is actually preferable (like people having a conversation in another room level of quiet). Pay attention and figure out what works best for you- and keep doing that!

10 Ideas.

The purpose of this exercise is to dedicate some time to being creative. So, you sit down and generate as many ideas as you can¬†without judgement. It isn’t meant to cause anxiety about reaching a certain number or wondering why your ideas are lame/weird/useless/what-have-you. All you’re supposed to do is sit down and let the ideas flow. You know how kids are uninhibited when they play? That’s more or less the goal with this exercise. Here’s the link/explanation behind the “10 Ideas a Day” exercise.

If you look online, there are TONS of creativity boosting exercises/tips. My advice- take all of these ideas with a grain of salt. Some of the exercises might look fun- try them out! But not everything is going to be your jam, and if you ask me, it’s okay to skim over those.

Do Interesting Things…

Being stagnant in real life can sometimes lead to a creativity drought. If you’re stumped, this might be a perfect time to visit your bucket list…not to be dark, but to get inspired. These don’t have to be the sweeping, cliff-jumping/spelunking/flying an airplane type of ‘bucket list’ items- maybe you’ve always wanted to knit a sweater, finish a Crossword puzzle, or go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. Afterwards, you’ll have a new experience that might be worth sharing creatively, but if not, just the act of doing something different can pull your brain out of routine-mode for a bit and help you out of the creative drought. Typically, I try to do at least one small, off the routine adventure every week (usually a hike I haven’t done yet).

…But Not Because Someone Else Thinks They’re Cool.

For instance, if you go skydiving just because it’s something other people will find interesting, you might just end up stressing yourself out. In other words, don’t succumb to peer pressure for the sake of creativity ūüôā

Consume.

Read, go exploring, take a class, watch a movie- one of the best ways to get your brain working is to take in information. The trick is to do this simply to consume- not approaching it from a “What ideas can I get from this?” Tricky, right?

If you already do a lot of reading, switch it up every now and then. Personally, I love fiction and poetry, but every now and then I’ll force myself into a bit of non-fiction on a topic I find interesting or want to learn more about. The result: confronted with this subject matter, I often go to the “What if¬†this¬†had happened instead” or “Why did [whatever person] do [whatever thing]?” (This also used to happen in school and made concentrating on problem sets in physics difficult- so many roller coasters).

Happy October-and creativity month!

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Setting Technology Boundaries

“Are those all your notifications?!” A friend looked at my phone, horrified.

Yup.

This is my phone. I know, I'm overwhelmed too.

This is my phone. I know, I’m overwhelmed too.

As a business owner (or heck, just someone who lives in the world), it can be challenging to figure out tech manners and a tech personal code of conduct.

I recently decided to set a couple personal boundaries with my phone:
1) Turn off email notifications. Me getting an email is as frequent as my dog thinking about food.
2) Sleep with my phone outside my bedroom.

I posted this ‘boundaries’ idea to Facebook and got some great ideas from others about it.

Differentiate Between ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’

As you see, I sort of started to do this here (‘Personal Social’ versus ‘Social Media’) but did not fully commit. My friends have ideas on this.

From Sarah:
I use different apps for personal and work email. Work email goes in an app I have to open a folder for — means it isn’t right there in my home screen every time I look down.

From Jeremy:
My notification light is different for different email accounts.

From Jesse:
I turned off all my social media notifications (except for work) and that helps a ton!

Use Do Not Disturb… And Tell People

My friend Kathy brought up the point about modeling behavior. The adage ‘What you put up with, you end up with’ applies to tech too. Here are some ways people made themselves incommunicado without trying to make people uncomfortable.

From Jake:
There is a do not disturb function on most phones. Between 11 pm and 6 am it stays silent.

(Note, there was a lot of variation as to times people had this turned on. Let’s say I can now tell which of my friends are more night owls and which are more morning people.)

From Brian
I use DND on my phone from 10pm until 9am with certain numbers programmed to break through in case of real emergencies.

From Kathy:
I let people know verbally and in written communication that I will respond to them, for instance, M-F 9-5, and ask them to make personal contact at those times so they aren’t frustrated at no response at odd hours.

Just Saying No In Other Ways

If you feel like you’ve ‘tried everything’ this may be your section.

From Breanna:
I don’t check email on my phone.

From Anne:
Turn your phone screen gray. More here: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/

Various people on my friends list:
Don’t have a phone at all or do something relatively extreme to the phone you do have (among the responses: hammers, hot oil, don’t tell anyone your phone number).

All in all, it was fun to figure out how people figured out their own personal ‘rules’ with cell phone technology. If you have any other ideas, please feel free to contribute them as a comment here!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

What’s in a Ceiling?

Having boundaries, personally and professionally, is a healthy form of self-preservation that keeps us from getting burnt out. Boundaries are not meant to limit potential, but place value on our own well-being. In a different vein, I think a type of unhealthy boundary (one that constrains you in a negative way) is a limiting belief. This type of belief stunts growth in certain areas because of an ongoing story that says “I can’t,” “I’m/it’s not good enough,” “This is the way it’s always been,” and so on. Here are some of the more common limiting beliefs, and some tips on getting over them:

Not Good Enough/Not Ready. The most common limiting belief is that something isn’t good enough or ready to show the world. One example for me was the first blog post I wrote for Breaking Even. It took me a very long time to write, and I agonized over every word. When I was done, I wanted to throw the whole thing away because it was terrible and unprofound (according to my inner critic). Then, Nicole shared a video from Ira Glass (below) about how everyone starts at different points in creativity, but keeping yourself/your work hidden until absolutely perfect, you probably aren’t going to get anywhere.

When an opportunity for a job or something else comes along (like a chance for breakdancing lessons or running a marathon), it’s kind of a bummer to pass up on that opportunity because we aren’t ready yet. The key is “yet.” All of these things take preparation. You probably won’t get it on the first try, but if you’re persistent and keep showing up…anything is possible.

Not Enough ____. Another common limiting belief is scarcity. It could be telling yourself “I don’t have enough time/money” (in other words, resources) for a certain activity. In a business context, this belief manifests itself in “there’s not enough customers for me AND my competition.” Having this scarcity mentality often results in viewing the world in a narrow, short-term lens. This article from Simple Dollar suggests it breeds “sadness and jealousy.” On the flip side, an abundance mindset approaches the world from a “There’s enough here for all of us” perspective. You don’t live in constant fear that things are going to run out, but continue working hard and trust that more will come when it comes.

It’s always been this way. This belief keeps us stagnant more than any other belief. It’s death to innovation and newer, better ways of accomplishing the same work. It can be anywhere from¬†accepting the way certain people interact with you to submitting to a larger system, simply because “that’s just the way it is.” Turning this type of belief around can be scarier than the others, maybe because rejection is a very real possibility, and who wants that feeling? My advice, if you’re standing up to the “It’s always been this way”-ers, is to have some supporting evidence for your argument, be prepared to meet some resistance, and don’t give up just yet.¬†There might be room for a compromise, or it might take others awhile to warm up to the idea of doing something differently. I’ve been lucky in getting a sample of this work environment AND one that encourages new ideas.

Think about which one of these is creating your ceiling, then you can think about changing it. (Unless you have a very nice ceiling that you like, of course.) 

If you’re feeling generally “stuck” in an area of your life, you might want to consider looking at some potential limiting beliefs (you might not even realize you have them- I certainly didn’t). For examples of limiting beliefs related specifically to businesses, check out this article from Entrepreneur. Limiting beliefs create a kind of clogged drain situation- you can’t necessarily see what’s in the way, but you know that the system could be performing a bit better. Once it’s cleared out, there’s really no telling what successes might come to you/your business (with patience, persistence, and some elbow grease).

Limiting beliefs can fit in any of the above categories, like “I’m too young for people to take me seriously.” or “XYZ company has always had a zero telecommute policy.” It may be hard to get at yours but think about something you wanted to do but didn’t… and the excuse you gave yourself may be a good start.

Ceilings help in houses but not in people. Here’s hoping this post made you think about yours and how you can charge though it to get more height than you ever thought possible.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Note-Taking: The Follow Through

So you have great ideas. You write them down. But…then what? What’s the point of generating ideas if you aren’t going to¬†do¬†something with them? The last step in the process of note-taking is the follow-through. Before you jump into action mode, a good first step is getting organized. Here are some quick tips on setting yourself up for success with follow-through:

  1. Sort it out. So, you have ideas and you’ve recorded them in a place that works best for you. If you aren’t organizing as you go, the first step in following through is reviewing things you’ve written down. For me, there’s usually 3 categories I can place things under: Things I have to do, Things I¬†want¬†to do, and Things that sound cool but realistically I’m not going to do. Everyone has their own way of sorting, and it can be done as frequently or infrequently as you’d like (I like to make a point of it once a week/month). I also don’t throw away the ideas that fall in the third category, but file them away. After all, you never know what might change and those ideas could shift into a different category.

    sort

    Sorting can be rough work.

  2. Prioritize. In a perfect world, we would have all the time in the world to pursue every idea that popped into our minds. Time and other obligations are unfortunate restraints that must be worked around, and that’s where step 2 comes in. Prioritizing takes two things into account: time constraints and personal interest. The things on our list that have a time limit/some sort of expiration get moved up on the list (otherwise, you risk losing out on the idea altogether). The second is more subjective- if we’re excited about an idea in particular, it’s likely we’ll place it higher up on our priority list.
  3. Break it Down. As a big-picture thinker, I often fail to consider the in-between steps of where I am now to where I hope to be in terms of goal setting. Breaking down the idea into small, actionable steps sets you up for success and gives a sense of progress along the way. When making this list, it’s also important to keep it within the bounds of what’s reasonable. I tend to get over-excited about new projects and lose sight of other commitments/things that need to get done. In other words, I set myself up for failure. Although it’s great to be excited about a new project, try to stay grounded during the planning part of the process to avoid this level of over-committing.¬†progress
  4. ¬†Be Accountable. Some people are propelled by self motivation and have no problem getting things done. In my experience, my personal goals that fall under the “Things I want to do” category tend to take the backburner. Unfortunately, these things take a long time to get done (if they get done at all) as a result. One way to push these ideas up to the front burner is adding accountability, namely, to another person/thing. For example, if I have a specific running-related goal in mind, there are a couple ways to make myself accountable. To make sure I hit my action steps of training, throwing in a couple group or partner runs usually gets me out the door on tough days. I’ll also sign up for a particular race in advance, which gives me a bit more skin in the game (i.e. registration fee). I’m much less likely to flake out if I’ve already made the monetary investment (and have been known to flake out on races I didn’t pre-register for). A third idea that I haven’t utilized is a coach (because I’m not that serious of a runner). The coach idea is similar to having an accountability partner, who checks in with you about ongoing goals and projects at regular intervals. For more on accountability partners, check out this blog post from a couple years ago.
  5. Incentivize. Adding an incentive, either once you’ve reached your goal or for reaching certain milestones along the way, helps a lot of people stay motivated. This article shares a story about a guy who got to the gym everyday (well, pretty close) by leaving his only deodorant there. If he didn’t want b.o. for the day, he’d have to head to the gym to get it. This probably seems a bit extreme, it did to me, anyway- but it got the job done. Think about some ways you can bait yourself into following through with your plans, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else.

Following through on the ideas you’ve collected is ultimately a personal journey. Some of these tips might be helpful, and you might not be the type of person who needs any help with it at all! You might also have some methods that we haven’t mentioned here.

What helps you with following through?

For more posts about note-taking, don’t miss these posts:

Four Noteworthy Apps (for Taking Notes)

Take Note: Tips on Having (and Keeping) Your Ideas

For more about reaching goals and goal setting, check out these posts:

Tech Thursday: All About Goal Setting

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Infomagical: My Journey

infomagical“You mean you haven’t heard of that?”

Sometimes a friend will say this to me when I haven’t seen the latest viral video everyone’s been¬†commenting about on Facebook or read the 10,000 word New York Times article about a social justice issue.

At first, I took this statement, whenever I heard it, as a challenge. I felt like people were a) implying I didn’t know something I should or b) triumphing supposedly knowing more than I did about one of my fields of expertise.

(Yes, I do hear this statement a lot.)

Between the stuff I have to know (work stuff), stuff I want to and should know (news about friends and family) and stuff I just wanted to know (how to cook with matcha green tea) it was already too much. If I could set up ten of my brains in some kind of parallel circuit to process information 24-7, I would still not know everything.

After this realization, when someone asked me about something online I hadn’t heard about, I felt defeated. In a podcast I can’t remember, someone talked about dealing with email being like being in an avalanche, you are moving handfuls of snow but more is coming at you faster than you can imagine. I feel that about email, instant message, social media, RSS feeds, and audio/video in general.

I sat with this hopeless feeling for awhile. I need to know some things but not all things. So what do I do?

Since I’ve changed nothing, nothing has changed. And then something came into my life I needed but would not have known to seek out.

I’ve talked before about Note To Self, a podcast I regularly listen to. I took place in their ‘Bored and Brilliant’ challenge awhile back which basically challenged people to spend less time on their phone through a series of daily challenges. If you missed it and want to do it, here are all the challenges.

This latest challenge called Infomagical was what I needed. Infomagical’s week of challenges offered us ways to change how we process all the information that is coming in. (If you missed it, you can still do it, just click here.)

The podcast episode launching the project mentioned that ten years ago, we were interrupted an average of once every three minutes. And now we’re interrupted once every 45 seconds. Having run this business for nine years this May, I was wondering why over the last couple years in particular I have felt so overwhelmed by information.

Day 1 was the worst day: forcing me to unitask. I don’t just multitask at work, I do at home too. Often I am washing dishes, cooking dinner, and answering emails at the same time. It is like I am in a race with myself 7 am to 7 pm to see how much I can get done before I let myself relax. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been in battle (and I’m sure I look like it too.) Sitting and waiting for files to upload without tabbing over to the next screen felt painful. But much like call center people can look forward to the small break between when they are hung up on and when the machine autodials the next number (ie when there is literally nothing they can do but wait), towards the end of the day, I started looking forward to these times in my day when there would be breaks (attaching images to an email, uploading the podcast, etc.) It made me feel the task at hand getting done.

I won’t ruin the Infomagical challenge for you but I will say it was a good one if you feel like I do: overwhelmed by information.

I have started to push back a little when people say to me things like ‘You mean you haven’t seen insert-thing-here?’

“Nope, but why don’t you tell me about it?” I say. Because somehow, if I think I have to know something beyond what I consciously consume, I bet that information will find its way to me if I am meant to know it. And while my life may be less rich than it would have if I had watched that cat video, I bet the cat I see when I walk my dog will be an ok substitute.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Thrive

It’s a new year, which means that many of us have started out the year with resolutions to eat healthier and start working out. After a couple months off for an end of season break, Thrive in Bar Harbor has re-opened with new hours and a new menu. We’re pretty excited, and here’s why you should be, too.

Salad by the pound. One of my favorite things about the Bates College Dining Hall was the “choose your own adventure” aspect, and the climax occurred at the salad bar. Thrive’s new salad bar setup brings me back to my college days (in a good way). You get to pick out only the stuff you actually want, and as much (or little) as you want.

Online ordering.¬†If you have a limited lunch break, Thrive’s online ordering option is perfect. You can access through Facebook or their website and schedule for pickup now or later, whatever works best for you. Personally, I love the ability to order online because¬†talking on the phone is my nightmare, even when amazing food is on the table. If you’re in a rush but don’t have computer access, they also have a “Grab and Go” selection of pre-made meals prepared that morning. Convenient plus nutritious = win-win.

Marketing Pros. In addition to being active on social media, you can also find these cards at both Thrive and Side Street Cafe:

sscthrivecard

It’s easy to see where your traffic comes from online, with the help of tools like Google analytics, but for brick and mortar establishments who want to know where their traffic is coming from, it can be a bit trickier. These cards encourage customers to share how they heard about either place.

Local Businesses Supporting Local Businesses. The idea of “Thrive” goes beyond reaping the benefits of a healthful diet, there’s a community element, too. Thrive’s ingredients are, as often as possible, from local sources, like Mandala Farm in Gouldsboro. Thrive also recently partnered with Destination Health, a new fitness studio in Bar Harbor, for a New Year’s Resolution wellness program. Fostering these community relationships in creative, helpful ways is something we definitely appreciate.

destheatlhthrive

Winter Deals. As many businesses who stay open through the winter know, it’s not the easiest feat. To keep things interesting, Thrive has developed a “Deal a Day” offer throughout the winter. It’s something different every day. This keeps things interesting for the already consistent follower, and gives an incentive for the on-the-fencer to stop in. Last week, one of the deals was “Buy one juice, smoothie, salad and receive $5 off any other item.”

If you haven’t already stopped by Thrive or checked them out online, I recommend that you do both. Looking forward to having this option nearby all year long! You can also hear more about Thrive’s mission by listening to their interview on the My Desert Island podcast a couple weeks ago.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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