Posted in Work From Home

The Importance of Eye Health When Working From Home

*Post contains affiliate links

After working on the computer and being on video calls throughout the day, do your eyes feel more fatigued than ever? I know I am often more tired than I used to be when I could actually have face to face conversations with people. And it doesn’t seem to just be me. My friends and coworkers are all saying the same thing.

In a study conducted during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers sent a questionnaire to over 1000 participants about their computer use and eye strain (Ganne et al., 2020). They found that digital eye strain was highest among students taking online classes, followed by teachers teaching online. Additionally, eye strain was highest among those who were younger, had increased screen time, and poor habits of not taking breaks (Ganne et al., 2020).

Those of us working from home need to come up with strategies to give our eyes a break. It’s just as important as stretching or standing to combat back and neck problems from sitting for long periods of time. Here are some of the things that I use to help keep my eyes as refreshed as possible in the digital world of work.


Strategies to combat eye fatigue:

  1. 20/20/20 rule

Originally suggested by Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, the 20-20-20 rule was developed as a way to reduce digital eye strain as computers began the rise in popularity for work and home. With the onset of the pandemic, this rule gained new momentum as a recommendation for anyone staring at their computer screens for long periods of time. Essentially, the rule states that you should look away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at something that is 20 feet away. Well, I don’t work in a 20 foot long office, so I try to look out the window to get my distance in. I use Alexa as my timer to help make sure I remember to follow this rule.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure that the computer screen is eye level so you’re not craning your neck and that the brightness is set to a comfortable level.

2. Blue light blocking glasses

I have heard the recommendation to not look at screens anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before sleeping because it can disrupt the sleep patterns. However, the research is mixed on whether blue light actually contributes to digital eye strain. Personally, I have found fewer headaches and fatigue when I do wear my blue light blocking glasses. If you already wear glasses, it can now be added in to your lenses in many eye doctor’s offices.

3. Take breaks

Simply stepping away is a great strategy to give your eyes a break from the screen. In addition to the 20-20-20, make sure to step away from the screen multiple times throughout the day for extended periods of time. It’s easy to wake up and immediately grab our cell phones because they are right next to us. In order to remove the temptation of using my phone first thing in the day, I bought an actual alarm clock that I use. I try to be intentional about taking a lunch break where I’m outside away from technology whenever I can.

Other strategies to help combat eye fatigue include making sure the computer is at the right height and using a laptop stand if needed, making sure you have proper lighting in the room you are working in, and changing the brightness or glare on the display you are working on.

Whatever you do, practice being mindful of how you are feeling and take steps to care of yourself!

Sources:

Ganne, P., Najeeb, S., Chaitanya, G., Sharma, A., & Krishnappa, N. C. (2020). Digital Eye Strain Epidemic amid COVID-19 Pandemic–A Cross-sectional Survey. Ophthalmic epidemiology, 1-8.

Posted in Work From Home

Does Every Meeting Need to be Video?

After over a year of pandemic working, I think we can safely assume that many people are burned out from Zoom. A recent article, citing research by Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, explained why Zoom is in fact so much more tiring than meeting in person or just simply having a conference call. I encourage you to read the article, but the short version is that we have lots of close-up eye contact, looking at ourselves more, higher cognitive load, and that mobility is reduced. The article linked above offers some solutions to these issues.

Meetings take up so much time in our work schedule, and the reality is, does everything really need to be a video meeting? The default was Zoom this past year, which grew from 4 million in revenue in 2018 to 21.7 million in 2020. And now it almost seems like people have forgotten the phone since we aren’t necessarily walking to our coworkers office. Now the question becomes how many people are planning to go back to the office? What does the future of work look like? And if people continue to work from home, do we need to continue video meetings all the time?

Personally, I have started to ask for a phone whenever a video isn’t necessary for the communication piece. Yes, a lot of communication is nonverbal, but quick check-ins can be much more expedient through a phone call rather than waiting for everyone to log into Zoom because inevitably someone will talk and forget they are still on mute and then have to repeat themselves anyway.

I admit, my default this past year has also been to just initiate a Zoom meeting from the get go. However, I’ve started to ask people what they prefer when scheduling meetings. A little over a month ago, someone asked for phone and it got me thinking about how automatic my response is these days to schedule a Zoom. So now I like to give people the choice. I have found that even if you are sharing documents, you can actually do so by using Google Drive products and just use your full screen to view the shared document while having the phone on speaker.

However, my very informal Twitter poll is informing me that 82% of the people voting (of my tiny sample size), do in fact still want Zoom for a meeting with 2-3 people, and someone even commented that they prefer phone for 2 people, but Zoom for 3. So perhaps there’s an advantage to Zoom with the more people you have on the call. It’s certainly easier to tell who is speaking when you can see their little square light up.

For me, I’m going to start scaling back on the video and upping my phone usage, or maybe just declining meetings in general. Perhaps it just needs to be an email. Check out this post for some email tips and this post for video tips.


Pro tip: When scheduling meetings, be empathetic to the people you’re asking to be on video. Ask them if phone would be easier. Maybe they need to do the dishes on the conference call or maybe, just maybe, like me, they are Zoomed out.

Posted in Finance, Work From Home

Ways to Make Money Working From Home

Well, now that I’ve had the privilege of working full time from home for over a year, the one thing I can say I have enjoyed the most is autonomy over my schedule. I did have that before, even when going into the office or teaching at my school to some extent, but more time was available to me without the commuting back and forth to different places.

Now, I’m in a bit of a 3 month limbo here between my current part-time job and my next full-time venture. I’ve utilized some of these freelancing sites before off and on to try to make a bit extra, but I’m especially interested in earning a stable income over the next couple of months from these opportunities.

I will share the two main sources of part-time WFH income I’ve used and then some of my aspirations to grow over the next couple of months.

  1. Rev.com – This is a transcription company that has clients from all over the world submit interviews and meetings to be transcribed. You have to apply by completing a transcription test. There is a learning curve by getting used to their system and platform, but once you figure it out, it gets much easier. You start out at the lowest level and then if your stats are high enough after 800 minutes, you move up to the highest tier. This is better because you have access to higher paying jobs and clearer audio files. Some of the initial files can be tough in the lower category, but if you stick with it, you’ll find it’s actually pretty fun. The pay is per minute and varies by each file, and is paid out weekly.
  2. Upwork or Fiverr – So far, I’ve only completed jobs on Upwork for editing and formatting. Because of my background in education and research, this category works well for me. Upwork is what I started with about 3 years ago, but now I’m interested in setting up a profile on Fiverr as well. It’s pretty simple to set up a profile, but be prepared to answer questions when you’re bidding on jobs to show your level of experience or expertise.

New WFH goals:

  1. Etsy – I started a shop a few months ago, but haven’t had a lot of time to continue adding products. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube video tutorials on making and selling digital products. My shop is called Tracy Dee Designs and currently I have 11 digital productivity products and 1 physical product. I am learning how to create more designs on my iPad using the Procreate app so I definitely hope to keep adding to my inventory and create some more income from that.
  2. E-books – I have a lot of training in education and since writing is still in my routine, I was thinking about creating some e-books to sell. I made a 30 day time management journal that I posted in my Etsy shop. Another avenue is to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and make sure to format designs in Canva to match their requirements.

If you google making money working from home, you’ll get tons of articles and websites directing you to opportunities. I know I only listed 4 different avenues here, but I prefer to start with some small, proven websites and then build from there if I still need more. For example, if you stay consistent with transcribing on Rev.com a little each day, you could make a pretty decent monthly side hustle.

The thing that is appealing to me about the Etsy store and the e-books is that it really turns into passive income over time. It takes effort to create everything up front, but with digital products, you only need to do it one time. I’m also taking time to market on Pinterest and of course, here on the blog and on my YouTube channel. All of that is part of committing to a goal that may take a little bit of time to get off the ground.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure to verify it is legitimate and decide if it is worth the time investment to get started.

Posted in Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Using Gmail Efficiently: 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Inbox

I try to keep my email inbox at zero or as close to zero as possible at all times. During the day, the emails that are still there serve as my to-do list of sorts. I work through at certain times throughout the day and make a plan to address it on the spot. I also do not like to have email on my phone. I find that I get distracted by the numbers and notifications and then I’ll read it and have to go back through it on my computer later anyway.

Gmail is my preferred email provider and has been for over 15 years. Thankfully, my job also uses Gmail so I can keep settings consistent across all my accounts. I have several accounts for different purposes. Although many people prefer to sync all of their email accounts, I actually like keeping them separate. It helps me compartmentalize the different tasks I have to do whether it be for school, personal, teaching, or entrepreneurial endeavors. And by having a separate teaching email account, I never miss a student question or concern because it doesn’t get lost in the many other emails I get on a daily basis.


Here are my top 6 tips for using Gmail efficiently

1. Compact View with Conversation Threading Off

I prefer the compact view the best in my inbox screen. I know a lot of people prefer to use the conversation view to group emails together, but I tend to get confused in threads and have to go back to figure out what was said. By using the compact view, I do not miss any comments on any emails that are sent because each one shows up separately in my inbox. The compact view is nice because you can see more emails at a glance since the space is reduced between each one.

2. Smart Compose On

In the general settings, I use smart compose, grammar, spelling, and autocorrect. In fact, it’s kind of scary how accurate the smart compose is. It allows me to respond to emails faster because it predicts what I might say when I start a sentence. If I agree with the response, then I just click enter and keep typing the next portion of my email. I’ll all about ways to save myself time, but still write a quality and professional email response to someone.

3. Using Folders

I go through my emails several times per day. Once it is filed or completed, it goes immediately into a folder. In my personal email, I have folders for advisory boards I serve on, billing information, doctor information, organizations I’m involved with, and much more. Pretty much any activity has its own folder and that’s where the email lives after it has been addressed. It makes it much easier for me to find things later and know that I didn’t delete anything.

4. Setting up Filters

This setting is helpful if you get frequent emails from a specific person or organization. You can create a label and a filter for that person. It can be color coded and make it easier to stand out in your email inbox. Once you receive an email that you may want to filter, you can click the three dots at the top and then choose how you wish to filter that type of email in the future.

5. Schedule Send

I love to use schedule send when I am trying to send an email that needs a response from other people. I tend to draft emails later in the day during one of my work time blocks. However, if it’s getting close to 4:00 or 5:00pm, I don’t send the email right away. I schedule it to send at 8:00am the next morning so that it goes to the top of that person’s inbox. Now they may have a great management system, but I’ve found that a lot people have thousands of unread emails in their inbox and may miss things, especially if they are very busy. The other great use for schedule send is to give myself reminders. Even though I keep a pretty good list of action items in my digital app, it’s helpful when I have important reminders that I don’t want to forget. For example, I needed to mention someone’s retirement at a workshop and I scheduled the email reminder to myself to come up during the week I would be preparing the agenda. I have learned that no matter how much I think I’m going to remember something, it is much better to have a plan and be prepared than to rely on my memory of something someone said 3 months prior.

6. SNOOZE!

This feature is my ultimate favorite use of my Gmail settings for efficiency. It is especially useful for maintaining a zero inbox. When I go through my emails throughout the day, if it is something that I don’t have time or is not urgent to respond to, I will snooze it to the next day. Sometimes the emails are informational relating to an upcoming meeting later in the week or the following week. I then snooze it to the day I plan to review the agenda or that the information is most needed. Therefore, it stays out of my inbox, but it’s not filed in a folder yet because it’s still relevant.

Posted in Time Management, Work From Home

To-Do List Digital Apps: 4 Free Apps to Try Out

Making to-do lists is a helpful way to organize tasks that need to be completed. While, I do use a daily paper and pen method to keep track of tasks, I currently use Tick Tick to manage my goal-related tasks. I’ve used other digital apps as well and it all comes down to preference and whatever is best suited to your individual goals at the time.


Tick Tick

This program is a website, but also can be downloaded as an app. I have it on my Macbook, but mostly use it on the browser and keep it in my Google Chrome grouping tab for calendar. It can synced across all your devices so that if you update it in one place, it will be updated everywhere.

Within Tick Tick, you can create folders and assign tasks to a date within a folder and category. I have everything organized by school, different work tasks, bills, and personal development objectives. I also include things in my list that are recurring like do the animals flea treatment every month. You can also choose to utilize the calendar view to visually see when you have lots of tasks due or happening at once.


Remember the Milk

This app has the same basic features and interface as Tick Tick. I personally like both. Similar to Tick Tick, you can view tasks for the current day, the next day, or the week. Remember the Milk has a really nice easy share function where you can share tasks with someone’s email address.


Workflowy

Now, this one is newer to me and I look forward to playing around with it a bit more. The cool part is that it has different templates that you can use depending on what type of list you are trying to create. It also has the option to organize it by boards or bullet points and you can go back and forth.


Google Keep

If you are an avid Google user, then Keep is for you. It integrates with your calendar and you can move it up on your waffle to keep it nice and close by when you open a new google browser tab. The neat thing about Google Keep is that you can add images to your lists and move them around. There is a lot more visual customization available than the other to-do list apps that are out there. You can add collaborators, set reminders, change the color, and copy to Google Docs. It’s definitely worth trying out!

Posted in Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Ways to Create a To-Do List: Methods to Get Stuff Done!

Do you often make it through the day just putting out fires as they occur, trying to keep up? Creating and sticking to a schedule can help with managing time effectively. One helpful tool is to create a to-do list of action items that you need to get done. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of writing a to-do list, which have worked for various purposes depending on my goals at the time.

Why is it important to make to-do lists?

Making lists and prioritizing tasks helps you become more likely to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams. It also provides a way to track your progress and keep you motivated to move forward. To-do lists are great for both personal and professional use. You can use a paper and pen notebook to track it all or there are lots of great digital apps to organize tasks by category.

I’ll share some of the methods I’ve used to create to-do lists with you here.


THE EVERYTHING LIST

I like to call this list the everything list because it’s more or less a brain dump of all that has to be done. Sometimes I make columns for personal and work action items to keep them separate, but I just get it all down on paper (or digital). I’ve seen others refer to this method as the grocery list method because it’s just basically keeping a running tab of tasks as they pop into your brain.

Top Three to Five

For me, this method is helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Instead of literally writing everything down that needs to get done, I write 3-5 MANAGEABLE items at a time. Then, when I’m able to cross them all off, I write 3-5 more items to accomplish. It’s comparable to time blocking a schedule. It’s focusing me to be intentional about what I want to accomplish within a certain timeframe.

Prioritized List

This method takes the everything method and then rearranges it based on your priorities. It’s easier to do this with a digital task management system because you can easily cut and paste the items and move them up and down on your list. One way to prioritize is to use the Eisenhower matrix. Some people even recommend a simple lettering system next to your tasks with A being the most important item to tackle first.

Big and Small

This type of a to-do list breaks task into big and small tasks. You can think of them in time commitment. If it’s something like sending an email that will take 5 minutes to write, that could be considered a small task. If it’s completing an annual report, that might be a bigger task. Sometimes it’s more helpful to break up those big tasks into smaller ones and cross of those milestones as you reach them.

No matter how you organize your tasks, the best thing to do is find what works for you. The physical act of crossing something off on paper to me feels so good that even though I manage my longer term and ongoing tasks in a digital app, I still create a daily list of items that need to get done. I also try to keep it realistic so as not to get disappointed if I don’t get everything crossed off my list.

Happy to-do-ing!

Posted in Technology Tips, Work From Home

My Favorite Google Calendar Settings and Features

Settings and Sharing

Since I use my Google Calendar for all of my professional and personal tasks, I share it with anyone who might need to get a hold of me or schedule something. However, I do not necessarily need them to see all of the event details, so I choose the option of just Free/Busy.

Notifications

Normally, I don’t like to have a lot of notifications coming through on my email, but I do have some calendar notifications set up. If something is changed or canceled, I do like the email to come through so I’m aware of it and don’t just happen to notice it missing from my calendar at a later time. Another helpful notification is to get a daily agenda from your calendar emailed to you.

Color Coding Events

Originally, I utilized the create calendar feature to make a separate calendar for each of my activities. But then I realized if I was using the share calendar feature to alert people to my availability I would have to then share all of those calendars with them. So although it takes a second longer when I create an event. After I make it on my calendar, I right click the event and then change the color to match my coding for that activity. Then, at a glance, I can see what responsibilities I have for my freelance work, my teaching, and my school.

Multiple Time Zones

Another setting you can utilize on the calendar is to have more than one time zone displayed. This is helpful if you have to coordinate meetings with people who live in a different area. I have to do this and so I have two different time zones on my calendar to make it easier for me to plan meetings with others.

Overall, I find Google Calendar simple and user friendly. I like that I can access it on all my devices and put everything in one place!

Posted in Goal, Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Mastering the Power of Effective Scheduling: Some Tips to Make it Happen

Some people say that I’m a planner. Others say I’m calendar-oriented. Really, I just like to make sure that my time, tasks, and priorities are all reflected on my schedule. When someone asks me to do something and I agree (also power in saying no), I immediately add it to my Google Calendar, which can be accessed on my phone, iPad, and laptop. No matter where I am I have access to it.

If it is a work or professional meeting, I copy the Zoom or webinar link from the email and paste it directly into the calendar event that I create so that I do not have to search for the email when it’s time to log in.

Clarify your goals

It is important to know what you want to accomplish with your time. You cannot create an effective schedule if you don’t know what you are aiming for. I wrote a post on mini-goals here. Get specific on the main areas of your life and figure out the chunks of time that need to be spent on each.

Prioritize your tasks

When you sit down to work, or even at the beginning of every day, take a look at everything that needs to be accomplished. What is that one thing that can’t be put off? Do that first, in the morning if you can. For longer term projects, break it down into smaller deadlines and place those on your calendar. If you’re not sure how to prioritize, consider using a strategy like the Eisenhower Matrix.


Utilize a digital calendar like Google Calendar

Keep a calendar that can be accessed from all of your digital devices: laptop, phone, iPad, etc. That way, you always have access to what you need in the moment if someone asks to schedule something. Personally, because I work several part time jobs and manage my own schedule, I keep one Google Calendar for everything and color code by activity, including my personal commitments. For example, if a friend texts me and says, “hey, we should catch up on the phone Thursday around 8pm.” If I’m free, I actually confirm and add that to my calendar so I don’t forget to call or accidentally make plans to do something else because I forgot we were going to chat.

At work, I utilize my email kind of like a to do list. I try to check my email at certain points throughout the day, but if something comes on that I need to take care of that day or later in the week, I also add it to my calendar and include the reference email.

Learn to Say “Let Me Get Back to You”

If you’re a kind-hearted person who wants to follow through with helping people or do a good job, you’ll be tempted to say yes to everyone and everything. That is not a realistic way to manage a schedule because you will quickly become overwhelmed. However, instead of saying no right away, give yourself some think time when someone asks you to do something or for another meeting or a favor. Evaluate if it fits with your goals and priorities or fits in any extra time you have available for leisure. If not, perhaps you may have to decline or ask the person to check in with you at a later date.

These are just some of the strategies that I use on a regular basis to maintain my schedule. Please leave a comment if you’d like to hear more about any of them!

Posted in Time Management, Work From Home

Using the Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Your Tasks

If you clicked on this article, you were drawn in by the prospect of prioritizing your tasks. Maybe you don’t know what the Eisenhower Matrix is, but you liked the Matrix movies and you kind of remembered that Eisenhower was a president or something. No worries – I am here to help you out with this strategy of prioritizing the tasks to be completed.

History of the Eisenhower Matrix

Other names for this matrix include the decision matrix or important/urgent matrix, but ultimately came from a quote by President Dwight Eisenhower.

I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

https://woven.com/blog/the-eisenhower-matrix

From this quote, people took away the fact that there are four main categories that our tasks and activities fall into: urgent/important, urgent/not important, important/not urgent, and not important/not urgent. Although inspired by the quote from Eisenhower, the concept became popularized by Stephen Covey.

How Do We Use the Matrix?

Red pill or blue pill you say? Well, let’s take a look at something that could alter how you think about prioritizing your tasks. First, ask yourself if everything seems urgent and the world is constantly on fire. If you answered yes to that question, then utilizing this strategy could benefit your planning and reduce stress in your life.

When you have a new task pop up in your personal or professional life, before acting on it, take a moment to pause and decide which box it belongs in. If it truly is urgent, like your kid fell outside and hit their head, then of course handle it in the moment. If it’s a work email on a Saturday morning that doesn’t really have to be handled until Monday, well … can you pause and save it for Monday?

You can do this on a daily or weekly basis, but I find it to be helpful to periodically go through my big tasks and move them to different boxes depending on what needs to be accomplished. Here is an example of a diagram you could create to visualize your task management:

You’ll notice there is a box for the not important and not urgent tasks that says to delete. I prefer to look at this box as “in moderation” or evaluate shortcuts and strategies to become more efficient. Do I really need to get the CVS newsletter emailed to me every day? Probably not. In which case, I can delete it by unsubscribing and freeing up that inbox space and mental space. I wrote another post about email tips if you’re interested in checking that out.

So, next time someone asks you to do something or you feel that pressure that everything at work is urgent, decide if it is both urgent and important before you act. If it is, go for it. If it’s not urgent, but still important, add it to your calendar for later in the day or in the week, but don’t forget about it. That’s why the matrix says to schedule it.


You can order these super cool daily sticky notes to keep yourself organized and prioritize each day:

Sources:

https://woven.com/blog/the-eisenhower-matrix

Product Plan Glossary

*Links to products are affiliate links

Posted in Manifestation, Personal Skills, Work From Home

Starting a YouTube Channel: My Top 4 Goals To Get Started

I’m venturing into new things for 2021 and one of them is starting a YouTube channel. I have to admit, the writing for a blog is a bit easier for me than the speaking on camera. I think that’s probably why I’ve written more blog posts than I’ve posted videos.

Here are my 2021 YouTube Goals:

1. Get to 1000 subscribers

This is the level that YouTube says you need to start becoming monetized on YouTube. Not only do you need 1000 subscribers, but you also need 4000 watch hours. Hopefully, I’ll get to between 1000 and 100,000 subscribers by December 31, 2021.

2. Become more comfortable on video

I would like to become more comfortable and self confident on video. There is a lot of fear and anxiety associated with this new project, but I really want to work through this. I want to challenge myself to do this and inspire others to try new things and go after their dreams or goals.

3. Learn video editing skills

I am currently using iMovie for my recording through my Macbook. My skills are limited at the moment, but I hope to continue improving with each video that I make. I will learn as I go and continue to get better as I learn more about video editing.

4. Consistency

There is no growth without consistency. I will have to make a goal to post at least one video per video, if not more. So, that means I have to find out what topics would be interesting to talk about and make content. For now, I’m going to focus on the things I enjoy sharing with others and continue to improve my presenting and video editing skills.


If you’d like to check out the YouTube video where I talk about these goals, here it is!