I feel like "changed my life" is always such a big claim to make, and it can make me a little skeptical because I wonder if those changes were easy to sustain. The three things I'm going to share with you aren't all massive, life-altering changes - they are small changes that had a positive impact.
These changes didn’t involve me uprooting my entire schedule or implementing a long “magic morning” routine. All of these things are changes I applied in early to mid-2019, and I am still using and are still positively impacting my day-to-day life. After having lived with these changes for close to two years and seeing how they have helped me, I think they have earned the title of “life-changing.”
So here are those significant three changes:
A minimal morning routine
I love routines. I love stability and predictability, and I hate surprises most of all. For the longest time, I thought I needed this long and involved morning routine involving maybe a brisk walk, a full yoga session, and like twelve other things that I honestly am never going to make time to do. This morning routine started back in my Anthro days circa late 2016-early 2017. I have tweaked this routine over the past few years, but the core of it is the same. Here it is:
- Drink coffee (half-caff, low acid)
- Listen to Up First - daily news podcast by NPR
- Read over to-do list for the day/week
That's it. That is the whole routine.
My schedule over the years has gone through a lot of changes. This routine worked well when I was going to work at Anthro every day. I was able to transition this same routine into my workday when I started working from home full time as well. This simple routine has helped me get into the right frame of mind when I need to work while traveling. Now, I still use this same routine to start my day at the studio.
The podcast is always around 10-12 minutes. I try to have finished reading over my to-do list and planning for the day by the end of it. It is a natural timing cue for me to say, "okay, the podcast finished, so I need to get on with my day."
I used to keep a paper planner/bullet journal system, but have since migrated my to-do list management system into Trello. See #1 for more information on Trello. In short, I read over the "this week" column and move tasks into the "doing" column and clear out any completed tasks.
During the pandemic, I’ve been relying a lot on a combo of Trello, my Passion Planner, and a large desk paper calendar. I realize this seems like a lot of things all to manage a daily schedule, but in my new studio setup, Trello is most accessible on my phone, so jotting down my daily to-do list items on paper prevents me from picking up my phone as often. The large calendar highlights essential dates at a glance.
A note - this is my "start the workday" routine. I do other normal human things like brush my teeth and hair, get dressed, etc. in the morning too, but all of those happen before I "go to work" for the day and in no particular order.
The app Daylio
Now that we have talked about the morning let's fast forward to the end of the day. I have always been interested in keeping a journal or recording and reflecting on my day in some way. For all of 2018, I declared one thing I was grateful for each day to my husband as we were getting ready for bed. I initially tried to write down my daily gratitude in a notes app, or keep a physical journal, and that never stuck.
I was wanting to do better at identifying positive things that happened in my day, and as great as it was to declare my gratitude out loud, I wanted a written record of some kind. I tried a bunch of journaling apps and even tried to resurrect a physical journal, and nothing stuck. In my quest for something that worked for my life, I found the app Daylio. It has been super simple to use - you record your day by first choosing how you felt that day and then choosing different activities from the day. Both of these are entirely customizable. You can also track habits and goals within the app.
As of this writing, I have recorded 311 consecutive days in the app and am not slowing down. I love the ability to see trends over time and to be able to zoom out to look at the month or quarter. I've tried so many journal/diary/habit tracker apps and systems, and this is the one that works for me.
I love being able to see the months where I've recorded more of the little smiling face instead of the "meh" one. I also love data and being able to see the big picture. Most days, I only use the little activity buttons to record my day. I've set up an entire system of activities with separate categories for work, house tasks, self-care, health, habits, and more. Occasionally I will make a quick one to two sentence note at the bottom if anything particularly noteworthy has happened that day. Overall, it takes me less than five minutes to record my day.
Remember earlier when I was telling you how much I love routines? One of the things that made this stick for me is that recording my day is my cue that the day is over. I've noted what has happened and "stored" it outside of my brain.
Recording my day helps me quiet my brain. I am less likely to sit and mull over what has happened that day because I wrote it down - I recorded it, and it time to move on. I don't have to think about it anymore. For me, this has become an important part of my pre-bed routine and one that I don't foresee changing anytime soon.
Trello was responsible for a seismic shift in my workflow and mindset in 2018. It changed how I work and how I think about work. I realize those are huge claims, and Trello can't take full responsibility - most of the credit goes to the Kanban system and a sort of variation on agile business systems, which have been made infinitely more manageable because of Trello.
I store all of my work tasks in one main Trello board with the occasional project-specific board. We use it in our home life too - you better believe there is a "house tasks" board. It is super simple, easy to learn. When I started using it, it was easy to see how much this could improve my current system.
The system that I use in Trello is a variation on the Kanban board system. Trello is the system I use to run my business. You can see a detailed breakdown of my main Trello board in the screenshot below.
Before Trello, I used a variety of notebooks and spreadsheets to attempt to organize my life. I often forgot tasks, lost a random post-it note that had a critical list on it, and more. I have always valued organization but struggled to find the system that worked for me.
I dump virtually everything into Trello. I occasionally create separate boards for specific projects following the same format. There is a board for the spring/summer collection coming later this year. However, 90% of the tasks go into one board. I try not to segment out if I don't have to.
Trello also coincided with thinking differently about how I run my business. A considerable part of that has been thanks to my husband, Adam, who has brought home all sorts of project management tools and taught me a ton about agile methodology and lean startups. Trello has kept all of my ideas organized so I can better understand what is and isn't working for me and my business.
Changing how I think about and run my business is a very long topic of conversation, but in short, my goal is to fail fast. Test what works, adjust accordingly and move on. If something doesn't work, then I have information from that. Learn why it didn't work, apply it to the next project, and keep going. If it works, YAY! I still gained new information from that. Keep doing what works and then use what I've learned to make other things work better.
I realize that sounds super vague. Most of that has been testing different jewelry styles online and at in-person markets. If you look at how much my product offering changed in one year, it is kind of crazy. I didn't offer any earrings until halfway through the year. They've been my best sellers by far. I didn't start offering studs until August, and now those and the teardrops are the things that I run out of the quickest.
Thinking this way has been a huge mindset change for me. I'm an artist to my core. I put my heart into every single stitch. I have to love what I make. However, when you get down to it, I'm running a business, and I need to sell what I make to pay my bills and then keep making things and continue to run my business. I spent a lot of time in late 2018 and early 2019 testing the different things that I made and pinpointing the intersection of "things I love to make" and "things that I can sell.”
Each of these three things I shared truly has improved my daily life. Has there been something you've done or changed this past year that has improved your life? Tell me in the comments!