Career/Professional

My Office Space + New Standing Desk

Today’s post certainly isn’t Pinterest worthy, but considering how much time I spend in my office, I wanted to share about how I make the space work for me.

I believe SO strongly about the importance of having and maintaining a work space that is not only a positive environment, but one that aligns with your style, responsibilities, comfort and needs. I think this crucial for productivity, focus and just overall health.

Recently, we had an ergonomic specialist visit our office and do evaluations on everyone’s work space and habits. Her trained eye was able to see little ways that we might be putting unnecessary strain on our bodies, that can really affect us over time. After each evaluation, she gave us customized recommendations on tools we could add to our work space to help make improvements. She also provided us with some resources on some stretches and light movements that we should incorporate into our day. Based on her recommendations, I got screen glare protectors (my office gets tons of natural light, which I do love despite the hindrance), a new chair that specifically has arms that can rotate in more so my arms don’t have to work as hard to hold themselves up on their own, and a foot rest, so I can sit at the right height for my screens while still using the backrest properly without my legs dangling or resting on the chair legs.

And though it wasn’t specifically recommended, I also got an adjustable table top standing desk! I had actually been researching and pricing one out to purchase on my own prior to the ergonomic specialist’s visit. I have never been able to sit still well and I could tell that overtime, sitting 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was really starting to affect my overall comfort. Our office ordered the Varidesk brand, and I have nothing but great things to say about it so far. It has significantly helped with energy, especially in the afternoons when I just need to move around, and I’ve found, specifically to my job, that when I am reading and editing text for a long period of time it really helps with my focus. I also think it has been a great tool for collaborating with other employees. Instead of having someone standing right over your shoulder to discuss something on the screen (which I personally hate), you can push your chair off to the side and instead stand and work side by side with that person. I am so thankful that my employer brought in the specialist and gave us the opportunity to make improvements.

With all of these changes, I also took the opportunity to rearrange and reorganize my office, and add a bit to my decor. The main change was rotating my screens so that I can see my door at all times, instead of having my back to it. Our elevator and lobby are right outside my office, so it really bothered me that I always was turning around to the frequent sounds, and since I have my headphones in a lot, people were always startling me because I didn’t hear them walk into my office.

Before

So here is a quick look of my office setup before the changes (I took these back in December right before my standing desk arrived, hence the Christmas tree).

After

And here it is the After! I obviously still need to do some more cleaning and organizing on my shelf, and I have a few more ideas to add eventually, but for now this is where I am at. I also need to change out the rest of my winter decor over to spring. You can’t see it well from any of these angles, but there is plenty of room underneath my desk for two small tubs that store my seasonal decor, as well as my space heater… which runs year-round.

Because I rotated my screens, I also had to flop the location of my guest chairs with my bookshelf, which honestly I prefer much better because with the set up before, the area where the chairs sat was narrow and hard to get into. That also meant that I moved my gallery wall, which was fine because I wanted to add a few things to it anyway 🙂 The K-State pillow used to sit behind my back in my desk chair, but the new foot rest fixed that problem!

I have to laugh at the fact that I was finally able to find a place and purpose for that bulletin board. I have had it since about the 4th or 5th grade, and it moved with me from two houses in Oregon to 3 houses/apartments in Kansas to here in Virginia. When I moved apartments again here in Virginia, I decided I didn’t want to use it in my new place. I actually tried to give it away a few times, and almost just took it to Goodwill, but it ended up propped up behind my office door — until NOW!

My shelf still needs a bit more work, but this is an improvement from before.

My favorite part of my office though, is this piece that my Mom made for me. Each of those photos are from the wheat farm that my Great-Uncle Hal grew up on in Sherman County, which is just a few counties over from where I grew up in Eastern Oregon. I grew up seeing those photos on the wall in my Uncle Hal and Aunt Diane’s house, so I love seeing them on my wall now in an office where I work for wheat farmers. Below the pictures is a portion of Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech.

Like I said, there is nothing too Pinterest-worthy here, but these changes better align with my functional needs and further create a space that motivates me, feeds my creativity and just makes me happy.

Love Letters

Love Letter: To My Planner

I laughed when I first thought about writing this post because it seemed a bit silly. And while it might indeed be, it was on my mind enough to go ahead with it. I should start out by saying that I am 100% Type A and super organized, which basically means that my planner is an extension of my body, probably even more so than my phone, which gets used for everything else. But I just can’t bring myself to adapt my planning, schedule and note-taking to the digital world. Anyone who is Type A and super organized will shamelessly shake their head in agreement over this post, and anyone who is not, go ahead and get your head scratching and laughs in 🙂

So, late in 2017, I was facing a dilemma when it came to deciding what to do for a planner in 2018. I usually buy the next year’s planner in August, because HELLO, planning never stops! I received my leather Franklin Covey for my high school graduation and every year I choose a new Franklin Covey filler for the inside. But in the last year or so I started to feel like those fillers didn’t fit my style or needs anymore. (Overall, not criticizing Franklin Covey. They have great products and even greater professional development tools!) So I started shopping around for some new, and chose to jump over to the Erin Condren brand and picked the LifePlanner.

But I kept returning back to the thought that I was a little nostalgic and sad to be retiring my planner that had been my sidekick for 8 years. I remember being SO EXCITED when I received it and couldn’t wait to put all of my first semester of college classes in. It also came from someone who was my favorite teacher, mentor and a family friend. Many of the pages came with quotes at the top, but Sam (Mr. Herringshaw) had went through and added more quotes and little notes of encouragement. It can be hard sometimes, even for me, to describe what certain people have meant to me through different seasons of life, but Sam was a true champion for me and played a big role in who I became as a student, a professional and a person. Those handwritten editions to the planner were such an encouragement to me during my first year in college (and being so far away from home) and when the year ended I snipped a few out and still keep them in the planner today.

Eight years is a long time, and this planner has seen so many things happen in my life, all while helping keep my sanity in check (for the most part).

So dear planner, this love letter is for you.

You saw me through 4 years of college at Kansas State University. Four years that were filled to the brim with classes, homework and tests, club meetings, two internships, an on-campus job, Saturday football games and probably way to many social events. I was a BUSY student and pretty early on I established that if it wasn’t in the planner then it didn’t exist and wasn’t happening. One of my favorite rituals every semester was to sit down at the end of the first week and fill out all of my new classes, due dates and upcoming events. It was always the first and only time those pages were neat and tidy because after a few days all of the notes, rescheduling and doodling would ensue, and I would eventually give up trying to color coordinate everything with my color pencils. But during those four years, you helped me develop skills in time management, organization and making priorities that I now use everyday.

Almost since day one, the plastic zipper pouch held my favorite picture of my family from when I was a little girl and an index cardwith my favorite quote on it. I kept them there because I was sure to see them multiple times a day, especially on the hard ones.

You saw me through my interview for my first job, which happened during finals week of my fall semester, and arguably one of the busiest weeks of my life to date. But I got the job, and how I used my planner started to change. Instead of classes, I kept social media content plans, meeting times, future tips and reminders and  important phone numbers and notes.

In 2014, I was in two weddings on back-to-back weekends, and you kept it all together for me from the all of the pre-wedding events and up to the big days.

In 2015, I found out about a new job across the country in Washington D.C. on January 9. On February 9, I accepted that  job, and on March 9 I spent my first day in my new office. You can bet you were along for that ride. Even in college, I don’t think I ever had that many lists and to-do’s to keep track of.

Your pages have been filled with travel schedules, grocery lists, birthdays, blog ideas, conferences, vacations, celebrations, apartment hunting notes and doctor appointments.

I shared my goals with you, whether they were day-by-day boxes to check off or big dreams that I wanted to write down and hold myself accountable to.

One of Sam’s own sayings that he wrote that first year, that has always stuck with me is:

Opportunity knocks; that doesn’t mean you have to knock the door off the hinges.” – Sam Herringshaw

I consider myself an ambitious person most of the time, but I think that point of view is a bit humbling and a good reminder about staying grounded and being intentional with your time and pursuits. And kind of perfect to go along with a planner, am I right?

So thanks, old friend. I am moving on, but don’t fret, you now have a permanent spot on my kitchen counter and will still be in charge of keeping my life organized in other ways.

Love, Amanda

And here’s to new beginnings! This post is not sponsored, but I do have a referral code if you are interested in getting something from Erin Condren yourself. They have lots of fun things besides planners!

Creativity and Organization

My Favorite Phone Apps

Todays post ventures out a bit past what I usually blog about, but the blogs that are easily some of my favorite to read are ones that give me new ideas and things to try. So today I want to chat about apps for our phones!

In a lot of ways I do miss the simplicity of a good old flip phone, and don’t get me started about how longed I sulked when I was told that my beloved Blackberry was a goner. But overtime I finally embraced all that smartphones have to offer, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit I’d be lost without it.

I am always looking around and asking others about what new apps I should try. Honestly, from time to time I’ll just open up the app store and search some key words to see what is out there. Often I’ll download a bunch at once and keep them on a unorganized third screen first while I’m trying them out, and then if I decide I like it I’ll move it over to my organized screens.

Yes, I am Type-A… and yes, my sanity does depend on living the “zero notification life.”

Here are quite a few of my tried and true favorites. I tried my best to categorize them, but that proved a bit harder than I originally thought. And no, none of this is sponsored, just my honest opinions.

Work/Productivity

  • Scannable: This will probably sound strange, but seriously, if you download only ONE app from this blog post, this is the one you never knew you NEEDED in your life. It allows you to scan documents into your phone as a PDF and then directly email it back to yourself or others. I use it all the time and can skip fighting with the office monster machine.
  • Bitly: I use this for shortening links for both work and my blog.  I primarily use it on my desktop but having the app is also pretty handy.
  • Notes: I know there are a ton of different list making and to-do list apps, but honestly for me nothing really beats the default Notes app. It would be a sad day if I lost what I have saved there. With that said, someone did recently recommend Google Keep to me, which is basically the same thing as Notes except it is saved in your Google Drive, so I might switch over to that.
  • Google Drive: This is my lifeline, and it is so convenient to be able to both retrieve and save things straight from my phone.
  • Others: Dictionary, Meltwater Buzz (a service we use for media tracking at work), Voice Memos, Dropbox.

Social Media and Communications Support

Obviously I use apps for all the social media I am on, but I didn’t think they necessarily needed mentioning.

  • WordPress: I run my blog on WordPress, so yes, this one is pretty standard for me.
  • Facebook Page: I am an admin on 5 different Facebook pages, so this app is much more functional then trying to manage the pages from the regular Facebook app.
  • Canva:  If your career is in ANYTHING communications related and you aren’t using www.canva.com, then you aren’t doing your job right. It’s what I use to create all the graphics for my blog and work social media channels, and really, I am nowhere near using it to its full capacity. The day they FINALLY came out with a phone app was like Christmas Day.
  • ABM and Typorama: There are quite a few different social media creative apps for adding words, making collages, etc. These two are the ones I prefer.
  • FILMiC Pro: This is one of the few apps I paid for. When I was traveling for work in Guam last year and needed to shoot some video on my phone, this is what my videographer cousin recommended. It was DEFINITELY worth the $10.99.
  • Others: I haven’t used these much but have dabbled in Boomerang, Watermark and Flipagram.

Lifestyle/Daily Use

One thing that you’ll notice missing, specifically for me, is any news apps. Trust me, I read a LOT of news, and I do have and occasionally look at Medium, AP Mobile, NBC News and CNN, but I rely on my TweetDeck on my desktop and my phone Twitter app for the majority of my news.

  • Spotify:  I pay for a premium account so that I don’t need Wi-Fi to access my music, which also means that this app takes up the most room on my phone. But I listen to music ALL DAY LONG so it’s worth it to me, especially since moving to the city and spend much more time as a pedestrian, running outside and riding the Metro. I realized quickly that it was probably unsafe to be without my phone and I didn’t want to carry both that and an iPOD. And yes, I am definitely #TeamSpotify over Pandora…
  • WomanLog: Ladies, basically you need this app for all the things.
  • HumorCast: My weather app of choice is actually WeatherBug, but I also have HumorCast because for each day it gives you a funny and usually sarcastic message based on the what the weather is doing.
  • Airline-specific apps and Wallet to carry your ticket: Going to play the “millennial” card here… People, it’s 2017, learn to use these. I shudder thinking of my early days of flying a lot in college and not having these as an easy go-to for checking in and receiving flight updates. And I literally pout when, on occasion, they still have to print my ticket out instead of letting me use the digital one. (Yes, I’m a travel snob.)
  • Shazam: Ever watch a TV show and wander what song they are playing? This app “listens” and reports back. Problem solved! (And you can connect it straight to your Spotify app!)
  • Peet’s: My chain-coffee shop of choice (since it’s right near work). It has a virtual punch card and they are pretty great about sending you other specials.
  • Ibotta: Recently I started using this for getting cash back on purchases (mainly food). All you do is scan in your receipt and then match it up with things on special that you bought. Use my referral code (RCTYHWL) if you’re interested so we’ll both earn more 🙂
  • MyFitnessPal: I don’t always remember to use it, but I’ve found it handy for tracking eating, water intake and working out, because it helps give you a scope of what you are actually accomplishing (or not accomplishing.)
  • Bible Gateway: There are so many choices out there but I think this one is the most mobile friendly and interactive.
  • Venmo: This is another MUST HAVE. It’s a money exchange/”I owe you” app that makes paying people back or trying to figure out how to split a bill so much more simple, and more importantly, not awkward. My old roommate actually used to pay me for all of our bills this way.
  • Capital One Wallet: Pretty straight forward, and I also use the WellsFargo app for banking, but I was sold on this app for my credit card, because when I thought I lost it recently, I was able to click one button and “freeze” it from being used. Plus it sends you updates on your account and can log digital receipts.
  • CBS Sports: My sports news app of choice. I like that it allows me to flag “my teams” and sends me news notifications and score updates.
  • iBooks: I am still a fan of a real book over digital, but I finally gave in when I went to Asia for 3 weeks this year and forbade myself to pack 4 clunky books in my suitcase. Now it has been kind of nice when I have a few extra minutes here and there.
  • Others: Maps (with a love/hate relationship of course), Beats Pill+, Nelnet (for my student loans), Etsy, LIKEtoKNOW.it, Groupon, Nike+RunClub, Netflix, Kansas State Alumni Association, SheReadsTruth.

City Living

  • Uber: Living in the city, this a must and I definitely prefer it over taking a taxi. I do use Lyft every once in a while, but its drivers always seem to have a heck of a time finding my apartment building so I kind of gave up on them.
  • Parkmobile: Say goodbye to feeding coins to the meter and having it run out on you before you can get back.
  • Smithsonian: It’s helpful when you are looking for what events are going on, but mainly I really like it for its map features. This app was essential for helping me learn my way around DC.
  • OpenTable: Allows you to check on and make restaurant reservations.
  • Grubhub: Food delivery for optimal laziness.
  • DCRider: My DC metro app of choice.

Just for Fun

  • IMDb: I’ve always been a bit of a nerd about entertainment behind the scenes, so this app definitely enables that.
  • ZUI Days: This is a fun countdown app that that allows you to track things that you are counting down to (like my grandparents visit in 15 days) or milestones in the past (like my work anniversary, which is 2 years, 6 months and 11 days.)
  • Timehop: Connects to your social media accounts and gives you a daily trip down memory lane with posts and pictures from years past on that particular day.
  • Coloring Book for Me: It’s a COLORING BOOK APP (!!) with fun designs and a variety of color palettes. If I am doing something where I have a few minutes to kill, this is a nice, creative change from scrolling through social media
  • Others: Overall I’m not really into phone games but occasionally I’ll play Word Crack, Sudoku and good old Solitaire. Sorry, no Candy Crush addiction over here.

**********

Alright, now that I’ve shared my phone, what am I missing? What other apps should I try?