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Category Archives: How To

5 Tips for Staying Productive While Working Remotely

October 1, 2015

I spent the summer doing a lot of remote work. It’s what most people dream about when they envision the freelance lifestyle – not being tied to a desk or any specific location. Yes, I won’t deny that it is an amazing perk to working for yourself or running an online business, but it’s probably not what you’re picturing. Being mobile doesn’t mean doing less work. It also doesn’t mean working while sipping cocktails on the beach. 

Below are the five things I’ve learned and now implement religiously in order to make the “working remotely” dream a reality (spoiler alert – you still have to do the work): 

Tip 1: Remove yourself from any fun

It may be tempting to plant yourself in the middle of the action with your laptop to “get work done” surrounded by your family and friends, but let’s be real, no one can do real work in that environment. My first tip is to remove yourself from it. For obvious reasons, I would hope… 

Tip 2: Find a productive environment

Find somewhere you’ll actually be productive. Whether it be a coffee shop or staying at home while your friends go exploring, find a quiet, distraction-free environment so you can be as efficient as possible.

Tip 3: Maintain office hours

You may decide to work fewer hours, or maybe you’ll decide to work more hours while you travel, either way it’s good practice to decide what those “office hours” will be in advance and try to stick to them. That way you know when it’s time to work and you’ll feel good about packing it in when your work day ends. 

Tip 4: Decide in advance if there will be days you will take as vacation

If you are able to take time off while traveling, then you should absolutely go for it, but make sure to plan that in advance (let clients know, set an out of office, etc). It will help you relax and totally unplug on any vacation you worked hard for. 

Tip 5: Let your audience know you’re working 

It’s important that your social network and your clients know that you’re still working. As you share pics of the all the fun you’re having, be sure you’re also sharing business or work updates. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because potential clients think you’re on vacation all the time.

Do you have any tips to add to this? I’m still trying to master the art of work & travel, so input is encouraged :) 

Procrastination Nation: 5 Tips for Overcoming Your Worst Habit

February 27, 2015

I am currently procrastinating. That’s right, I am writing a post about how to overcome procrastination while I procrastinate doing client work. The reason being that procrastination is one of my biggest challenges and I’m ready to take a stand against it.

Everyone procrastinates, it’s 2015, and I think a healthy amount of time spent wandering around the internet can be great for inspiration and/or learning. Having said that, there’s definitely a line you can cross when it starts to take away from productive work time and is therefore losing you potential income.

I did some research and pulled together a list of 5 helpful tools and advice from across the internet that I’m going to employ in order to fight procrastination. Ready to join me?

1. Getting Things Done

The number of courses and programs out there that claim to help improve your productivity can be overwhelming. I always prefer a personal recommendation, and the one that has been recommended to me by multiple people is Getting Things Done. This particular program focuses on designing your workflow and claims to double your productivity in 21 days. Sign me up! You can read the book, or even better, take the course on Skillshare.

2. To Do List App

I’m a to-do list queen, but often end up with post-it notes all over my desk. To help me control the post-it explosion, but more importantly, to ensure I have access to my to-do lists from anywhere on any device, I started using Todoist. It’s a free app (unless you want premium features) that let’s me organize my lists under specific categories, set deadlines and notify me if I’m coming close to a deadline. Trello is another app that has been recommended to me for the same reasons.

3. Eat Your Frog

This comes from a famous Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The idea here is that you should start your day off with your most difficult and urgent task. Once that task is done, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and can move on to smaller tasks that will feel easy and achievable by comparison. Decide what your frog will be at the end of each day for the next day and set up your work station so that when you arrive to your desk you are ready to dive in until the task is done.

4. Admin Day

Jessica Hische, a freelance design guru, recommends setting aside one day a week for admin tasks, “Setting aside a whole day to catch up on email, bills, paperwork, etc. means the rest of the week you can feel totally fine putting it off.” I love the idea of having one day to do paperwork and/or finances.

5. SelfControl App

This is for the seriously desperate. Though I have not gotten this far myself, I’ve been close and have had many people recommend SelfControl. It’s perfect for anyone who has to be online to do their job, but needs help avoiding specific websites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). The app allows you to input the URL’s that you want to block and specify the time you want them to be blocked for. Once it’s set, you will not have access to those sites, even if you restart your computer or delete the app. Genius!

Hopefully my fellow procrastinators have found this helpful. Let me know if there are any other amazing tools or systems that should be on this list.

4 Easy Fixes to Make Your Site More Accessible

January 30, 2015

I’ve been doing some work with existing websites to ensure they comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). As of 2015, businesses in Ontario of a certain size must comply with the act, which more specifically means their websites must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

There are many tools you can use to review your code for accessibility (I’ve been using FireEyes), but the best way to ensure your site is accessible is just writing good code. It all comes down to intuitive organization and proper labeling. Below are the top 4 issues I’ve run into with easy fixes for each.

  1. The primary language of this document has not been set. Add <html lang="en"> (exchange “en” for your primary language if it is not English) just below <!DOCTYPE html> at the top of your HTML doc and save a lot of people a lot of trouble. Here’s a great article on the importance of including the “lang” tag.

  2. Pages do not have enough headings. This is fixed with proper use of your h1-h6 tags. Be sure there is only one <h1> tag on each page and that the remaining header tags are used according to the importance of the header, and not for styling purposes. Best practice is to have the <h1> as your brand name at the top of every page. You may think you’re covered with a logo in lieu of an h1 tag, but screen readers can not read what your image says, neither can search engines for SEO purposes. The best way to handle this situation is including <h1>BRAND NAME HERE<h1> in your html doc and then in your CSS make your h1 tag  display:none so it’s there but not visible to the eye.

  3. HTML links or elements that act as links MUST have a visible name or text alternative for image as well as an HREF. Make sure you include “alt” tags on all links and images throughout your site. Alt tags should be descriptive – for links, alt tags should explain where the link will take the user, for images, alt tags should tell the user what is in the image.
  4. Poor visibility between text and background colors. This one is all about styling and is probably not a favourite of designers everywhere who want to make colours subtle and text petite. Design be damned, it’s important that everyone can read the text on a site. All it takes is making sure the contrast is stark enough that all your text is clearly legible.

That’s it! I’m not an accessibility expert, but I do think it’s an important part of web development and we should all be advocating for clean, organized code.

Image source: Bell Blog

Twitter for Beginners

November 5, 2014

Twitter can be an amazing tool for networking and building a name for yourself, but I’ve had so many conversations with people who are starting new careers and are intimidated by it. I’m hoping this will help with that.

Below is a summary of my HackerYou Show & Tell presentation from Week 1 of the course. These are the frequently asked questions or overheard comments I’ve gathered with my answers.

Problem 1: “I don’t have anything to tweet about!”

This is a common problem people raise, especially people who are relatively new to an industry and don’t feel that they have anything valuable to contribute. I have one thing to say to you:

Community-Jeff-wrong

You should be using your Twitter profile as a public face for your personal brand. Share articles, videos, tips and tools you come across IRL throughout your day. Join conversations that are already happening. Tweet personal anecdotes or photos to show you’re not a robot. Share updates on what you’re working on, even if you’re not an expert, tweeting your progress will show that you are able to learn, adapt and grow. The more you tweet, the easier it will get.

Problem 2: “But I don’t know the difference between a hashtag and a handle!”

  • Hashtag: Think of the hashtag as a way to participate in a conversation. If everyone who talked about pie added the hashtag #pie to their tweets, then pie lovers around the world could search for the hashtag #pie and see all of the pie conversations and engage with fellow pie lovers. Huzzah.
  • Handle: Twitter handles are your Twitter name, so if you wanted to have a conversation with me, you would add @moyamiller to your tweet, that is all there is to it.

Problem 3: “What are these Reply, Retweet and Favorite buttons and how should I use them?”

  • Reply: If you want to send a message to someone, you would use the “Reply” button and include their handle at the beginning of your tweet. NOTE: people often start a tweet with a Twitter handle and then wonder why none of their followers saw the tweet, this is because if you @Reply someone it will only be visible to people who follow both you and the person you mentioned. In order for the message to be seen by all of your followers, you have to add a character in front of the @ symbol, most people use “.” Example below:

This tweet will only be visible to followers of both @EmiliaKathleen and @WhatMakesAMan_:

emilia1

This tweet will be visible to all of Emilia’s followers (note the “.”):

emilia2

(side note – you should definitely check out What Makes A Man – amazing website by Emilia!)

  • Retweet: If you like a tweet that someone else has written and want to share it with your followers, hit the Retweet button, it will re-distribute the tweet to the followers on your feed
  • Favorite: I think the Favorite button is totally underrated. Think of it as a high-five or a thumbs up, if you see someone has written a great tweet, or shared something useful, you don’t always want to Retweet that out to all of your followers, so hit the “Favorite” button to let them know you liked it

Problem 4: “How do I get Followers? Cause I want ALL OF THE FOLLOWERS!!!”

Followers will happen organically over time. Think of the old adage “If you build it, they will come.” That totally applies here, the more interesting and vocal you are on Twitter, the more people will want to follow you.

And don’t follow all of the internet, it looks really bad if you’re following 100000 people and have 5 followers in return. Try to keep your following/follower ratio to a similar number.

Problem 5: “The number of Tweets is overwhelming! How do I keep track of everything?

I would recommend free tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. They allow you to set up streams based on filters like hashtags, search terms, handles or lists, you can even tweet directly from these platforms, so it totally eliminates the need to visit twitter.com.

And that’s how you do the Twitter. Questions? Comments? Ask below!

And Follow Me :)

Images via: Twitter bird created by me, GIF via Sporadic Reads

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