How To Get Sh*t Done

productivity hacks
photos by naomi johnson

Motivation. Ambition. Avoiding procrastination. Feeling accomplished. Productivity.

Are these feelings as fleeting for you as they are for me?

As I enter my six month of self-employment, I’ve had to come up with some new ways to keep myself motivated and to continue to work towards my goals. A year ago, if I gave myself a slack day, I would still come home with the same paycheck as the previous week. Now, if I don’t get work done, I don’t make money at all. If that’s not a motivator in itself, I don’t know what is.

However, in the moments when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels or when you’d just rather take a nap, what keeps you going? It’s easy when you land the client or when you send your invoice out, but what about all of those other mundane moments?

productivity hacks

Goal Tracking

The idea of setting goals is not foreign to me. However, the idea of working towards them is. Goals for me were always somewhat attainable – graduate college, get a job, buy a house. These may have taken longer than expected, but they happened. The reason? I was intentional about them. And they probably would have happened faster had I tracked my progress along the way.

Goal tracking is now one of my favorite things to do.

Each month, I write down a list of things I want to accomplish in the next four weeks. I get really specific…and I include every single aspect of my life. Here’s an example of my goals for the month of July:

Scout Creative

  • Land two new clients
  • Be set up to earn $5,000 in August
  • Write one blog post each Wednesday
  • Grow my email list by 10%

Simple and Inspired

  • Grow pageviews by 10% of last month
  • Grow Instagram to over 3000 followers
  • Get one new partnership with a brand

Kids

  • Get Finn enrolled in preschool
  • Get Reese to take a bottle
  • Be patient and rational

Me

  • Stick to marathon training
  • Drink water

Marriage

  • Stay within budget
  • Pay off next debt
  • Be an excellent wife
  • Read new book

I have these goals written down in my monthly planner. Every morning I revisit them. I check in to see if I’ve made any progress or accomplished any. I then create a list for my day based on my monthly goals. This list is a to-do of sorts that will help get me closer to achieving the goals. Sometimes, the goal has an actionable item, other times, it causes me to pause and think first. Either way, I make sure that by month’s end, I’ve accomplished as much, if not all, of the items on my list.

productivity hacks

Staying Accountable

Being accountable for these goals is solely up to me. And truly, if I don’t feel like it, then I don’t need to do anything. But where’s the fun in that?

In addition to monthly goals, I have my yearly goals, five year goals and even ten year goals. When I first decided to become self-employed, I read a lot of professional development books that encouraged me to do this. I started “dreaming in HD” and writing down my future as specifically as I can think of it! It sounds corny, but it’s actually fun to do. I know each day, my small list of five items gets me closer to each of those bigger goals, and that’s pretty exciting, too.

productivity hacks

Set the Scene

When I’m not feeling motivated by my goals alone, I like to set the scene. This usually consists of a big cup of coffee, a snack, some familiar music, and a table and chair with a back on it. A simple change of scenery does my mind good.

I like to diffuse my essenital oils – usually motivation or a citrus blend – and set a timer for 20 minutes. I dive into work for that amount of time, and usually, when the timer is up, I’m so engulfed in what I’m doing I continue to be productive. It’s a little mind trick I play on myself! I do it when I go running, too. I tell myself that if I just get a little bit further, I can stop to run. But by the time I get further, I want to keep going to see how much more I can run!

Rest

This may seem counter intuitive, but nothing makes me more productive than a day of rest. Sometimes, I beat myself up so much just to get something accomplished, that I stress out and get absolutely nothing done instead. However, after a day of resting and not thinking about work, one of two things happen: either I feel guilty that I didn’t get work done and work harder to make up for it, or I feel refreshed and focused and ready to take on anything!

What are you tips for staying motivated?

Continue Reading

It’s Okay To Admit It’s Hard

The last thing I want to portray on this blog or in any aspect of my life is that I have a perfect life. I don’t! I get stressed out, I lose sleep over silly things, David and I argue, my kids drive me nuts, and I have more student loan debt than I care to admit. Guess that just makes me …. normal.

We’re in this era where a snapshot can seem to define your life. Social media can cause you to feel like you aren’t keeping up or that someone on the internet has a better life than you. And it’s not surprising that folks are suffering with depression and anxiety at higher rates than ever before. 

Initially, this post was going to be about motherhood. About how as a mom, it’s okay to admit that you’re having a tough season, or that you don’t necessarily enjoy the parenting thing. That’s how I felt in the months following Finn’s birth. It was a shock to my system. My life as I knew it was over. And it was hard.

I learned to love my new role over time. However, I still have moments where I want the freedom and the silence and the sleep. I am taking Reese to business meetings, because that’s just my reality. And as thankful as I am that people are happy to accept that she comes everywhere with me, I also wish she didn’t have to come everywhere with me.

I love my life today, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but sometimes it’s just hard. Some days, I wish for bedtime more often than I care to admit. Some days, I scroll aimlessly through my phone instead of paying attention to my kids. Some days, I lose my patience and get upset with Finn over things he doesn’t understand. Some days, I just want to have time with my husband and forget about everything else. Because it’s hard.

Like I said, this post was supposed to be just about motherhood, but I realized as I started writing it that this notion of admitting that things can be difficult goes way beyond parenthood.

Breakups are hard. Like the worst.

Job hunting can be soul sucking. And the rejection is the worst feeling in the world.

Marriage is hard. Spoiler alert – love doesn’t conquer all. Communication does. And sometimes, you can both suck at communicating.

Paying bills is hard. And stressful. And getting old really fast.

The moral of the story is life is hard. And messy. And heartbreaking. And full of struggle. And if you can’t admit that, I promise things are only going to be harder and much lonelier.

The good thing is that all of these difficult seasons have an end to them. It’s not always going to be hard. And when you get past these seasons, you come out with a fresh perspective, and a little bit stronger. And the best part? Having hard times make you appreciate the good times even more!

So, just in case you are struggling with something and sitting there thinking “gosh, this is hard” just remember that it’s okay to feel that way. Give yourself a little grace. Sooner than you realize, things will be less difficult!

Continue Reading

The Real Reason I Quit My Job

photos by naomi johnson

Gosh. Are you getting sick of me talking about why I quit my job yet? I know, it’s not that big, radical thing. Except that, in my life, it is.

You see, I once defined success as some definite. That one day, I would reach a successful position in a successful company and bring home a successful-person’s salary and blah blah blah.

Been there. Did that.

The story starts in 2014 when I got laid off from the worst job I ever had and ultimately started back at zero. That summer I lived at home with my parents and worked for my dad. I applied to every job I could find on the internet. I started this blog that year, too. My self-esteem took a hit. Looking back now, I realize getting laid off was a blessing in disguise, but then it felt like the biggest gut punch of my life. I had zero confidence in the workplace and never thought for a million years that I would be successful.

But then I got a new job with a great salary and in my desired location. In four and a half years, I built something out of nothing, and thoroughly enjoyed the work.

Because of that job my self-esteem crept back. I started feeling confident again and a little voice that had always been there got louder and louder. “Hey, Erica. Are you gonna start this business or are you gonna wait around and let other people control how success is defined?”

Okay, maybe the voice didn’t say that, but it did start asking more questions!

I always had this entrepreneurial itch. I wanted to build something that was just mine and use my skills to help other businesses thrive. It wasn’t some distant dream either. My dad is an entrepreneur as are several of my aunts and uncles. I knew I could do it, and when the timing was right, I jumped.

You see, I was always supposed to be doing this! I was always meant to own Scout Creative and blog and brainstorm new crazy ideas each day and make them a reality! I just needed a little confidence boost, and when I felt like my wounds had healed, I quit my job.

It’s funny, because my life has come full circle. Back in 2014 when I was laid off, I was in the exact situation I’m in today! No steady paycheck, no employer. The difference is this time I’m in complete control and feel more successful than I did at my previous job! I think the universe was trying to nudge me back then, but I just wasn’t ready yet.

Life is all about perspective!

Continue Reading

This Simple Exercise Changed My Outlook on Being Active

I like to think that I’ve always been an active person. I’ve gone through my droughts – you know, the endless months of telling myself that I should be working out but the couch or my bed looks far more appealing. That being said, in my younger years, being active looked a lot differently than it does today.

In high school I was a two-sport athlete and pretty much played soccer year round. After I graduated, I started lifting weights and training at a collegiate level which really upped my game and changed my body in a good way. I have always loved running, and continued with that into my twenties. I’ve even continued to play soccer, though not nearly as competitively.

The thing is, I’ve never been able to keep a good routine with any of these things. When it comes to working out, I stay on track for a month or so, and then usually let it fall by the wayside for a while. I will pick it back up, but I’ve rarely been consistent in my pattern.

That is until this year.

adidas workout tank // core 10 leggings

In February I asked my mom to buy me a jogging stroller for my birthday. She laughed a little, because, really, who wants a stroller for their birthday? I was using the excuse that I didn’t have one as a reason why I wasn’t being active, so I figured if I got one, that would change.

The first few times I went out with Reese, we jogged. Well, we jogged for a half mile, then walked until I could breathe again. Postpartum workouts ain’t for the faint at heart.

I felt myself losing my motivation again. I wasn’t enjoying it, and I wasn’t seeing results fast enough.

Then one day, I decided that I wasn’t going to jog, I was just going to walk and enjoy myself. I put on a podcast and walked. I walked for four miles. It took me almost 90 minutes and it felt so good.

I’ve walked that same path about four times per week every week since. That’s averaging about 16 miles per week. Every time, I put a podcast on, I make googly eyes at Reese, and I walk. I have cut my time down by about a half hour. Sometimes, I’m even so motivated that I jog a bit, but I never pressure myself. I let my mind wander and I brainstorm – ideas for my business, ideas for my blog posts, dreams for our future. I just let myself go and see where it takes me.

This routine – this simple routine of walking with Reese and listening to podcasts – has been the only activity that I’ve been able to keep for longer than a few months in my entire adult life. Why?? Because I’m enjoying myself and putting zero pressure on myself to get better.

And the best part? I’ve seen results! I’m now fitting in jeans that I haven’t fit in since before I had Finn! I’m below my pre-pregnancy weight. I have played 90 minutes of soccer each Sunday and felt great. I have muscle tone in my legs. And most notably, my mind is fresh and I have so much energy.

photos by naomi johnson

I always thought that working out and being active meant pushing yourself to the extreme for 30 minutes so at the end you wanted to puke and you felt sore for days on end. But that always ended in a lack of motivation. And I never looked forward to it.

I can honestly say that I look forward to my walks every single day! It’s completely changed my outlook about being active and staying active. You don’t have to push yourself to a place that makes you want to quit, instead, you can enjoy yourself and look forward to it! This has also motivated me in other workouts as well. I’m starting to lift, and start with zero pressure. I’m starting to run more, and with no goals to hit or miss. It’s nice to be nice to your body… it has more than paid off!

Continue Reading

The Story Behind Juneau’s Behavior

If you know David and me, then you know all about our crazy dog Juneau. Juneau doesn’t get his fair share of attention on the blog, but I find myself sharing all about him to people and I figured he deserved a blog post telling his story, too!


Juneau’s Adoption Story

David and I started dating in October of 2010. In January of the following year, we adopted Juneau. Much like everything else in the early days of our relationship, adopting a dog was totally on a whim.

I grew up with dogs and knew I would want one for my own. David and I used to go to the local SPCA just to check in, but one fateful Saturday we walked in without a plan, and walked out with a fluffy puppy we named Juneau.

The best part? We both had to work that night and decided to dump our brand new puppy off with David’s mom and step-dad within an hour of adopting him! 

Juneau was just 8 weeks old when we adopted him. He was given to the SPCA along with his brother and sister after being found on the side of the road! His original papers said he was a German Shepherd/Lab mix, but we later did a DNA test on him that revealed neither of those to be true!


The Crazy Side of Juneau

Juneau has always been a high-strung dog. When he was little, he used to bite his crate and whine/bark/howl whenever we left. He would fight to get out of the crate so hard and at times, he would succeed! We’ve lost countless stuffed animals, shoes, lots of food, couches, and even a down comforter to Juneau’s ridiculousness. We eventually even lost the crate because he bent the metal so badly he would just escape. 

We figured Juneau just had separation anxiety. We tried everything on the market that claimed to reduce his anxiety – blankets, CBD oil, music, etc. Nothing seemed to work. Over time, we just chalked his behavior to “being Juneau” and claimed we had the craziest dog in the world.

When I got pregnant with Finn, Juneau’s behavior seemed to worsen. He started barking and spinning at the door whenever we came or went. If someone came over to visit, he would follow them everywhere they went, nip at their heels if they walked near the door, and would not. calm. down.

When Finn was born, Juneau’s behavior heightened again. We moved to our house last year, and thought that giving Juneau space and freedom to run would help with his anxiety, but it didn’t. Of course at the same time, I became pregnant with Reese, and we noticed Juneau’s anxiety worsen again.

At our new house, Juneau started new behaviors. He barks at doors closing, and bites the door knobs. He wouldn’t let guests walk across the room without whining and trying to bite their heels. He picks one guest and sticks by their side the entire time they are over. At times, he randomly starts barking and cannot be calmed down. 

The funny thing is, when it’s just us – David, Finn, Reese and me – Juneau is super chill. But if we are getting ready to leave, or if we have guests over, he is on alert.

He has all sorts of weird behaviors – he hates the sound of my camera clicking, he runs from window to window when someone goes outside – even when the door is wide open and he can follow them, he lays outside the bathtub when we are in the shower, he gets bent out of shape when my dad is around, particularly when he says the phrase “Ok. I’m off like a prom dress!” LOL!


The Reason Juneau is the Way He Is

A few months before Reese was born, I decided it was time to reach out to a trainer. It wasn’t fair to Juneau, or to ourselves, to continue to watch him get stressed in very normal situations.

Juneau’s DNA test revealed that he is a mutt – a mix between Chinook, Australian Shepherd, Chow-Chow, and Collie. When we told the trainer this mix, she explained that Juneau’s breeds are herding and working dogs. He was essentially born with the instinct to herd. His behavior heightened initially when I became pregnant with Finn because he knew his pack was growing, so his herding tendencies amplified. Again, when we moved and became pregnant with Reese, his responsibilities to his pack grew again, and he became even more intense.

The trainer helped us understand Juneau so much more than we thought. Juneau wasn’t anxious or aggressive, he was just being protective and trying to keep his pack together. When we are all together, he is fine because his job is complete. When guests come over, he is on high alert, and if someone tries to leave, that goes against his instincts of keeping the pack together.

The other interesting part that the trainer explained – Juneau will never bite harder than he does today. In other words, a dog’s bite ranges between 1 and 7 – 1 being basically nothing, 7 being hospital bound. Juneau bites at a 2, so when he does nip at your heels when you visit, you have nothing to worry about!

The trainer told us that Juneau loves to work and to be challenged. She told us to work with him to associate someone leaving with something positive – like giving him treats. Now, when we have guests, we give Juneau a Kong with peanut butter in it so he is distracted and he has positive reinforcement.


The Best Dog Ever

Juneau is a tough dog, but is seriously the best. He has been with David and I since the very beginning. He traveled to New Mexico, North Carolina, and Indiana with us. He has stayed with my parents in New York for months at a time and to this day, when we turn down their road, he starts whining excitedly. 

Juneau has also never gotten aggressive with Finn or Reese. He is so patient, allowing Finn to climb on him, pull his tail, even ride him! He is so sweet with the babies, and it melts my heart.

He is fiercely loyal and super cuddly. Juneau sleeps on our bed every single night. He loves David so much, they have a special bond. 

I’m so grateful we reached out to the trainer. Understanding Juneau’s background and why he is the way he is only made me love him more. He is crazy and stressful and there will never be another dog like him!

Continue Reading