It has recently come to my attention that...apparently, not everyone finds the above photo deeply disturbing. I certainly do. I can’t understand why you would be okay with that many unread emails in the first place, but then to be okay with a tiny red bubble that is constantly telling you how much unattended business you have sitting there just staring at you....how do people live like this??
I was having this conversation with a good friend of mine who had loaned me her phone to look up directions today. I was appalled to open the device and find the red bubble above the mail that read 648 unread emails. I was aghast. And we proceeded to have a (slightly heated) conversation where I tried to understand how she functions this way and she tried to explain to me how it just didn’t bother her.
I’m going to let that sink in.
It. Didn’t. Bother her.
Needless to say, it bothered me. Organization, efficiency, planning, these are some of the most important pillars of my life. When I was a child, my mom would tell me to go clean my room, when she checked on me an hour later I would undoubtedly be sitting in the middle of my floor surrounded be one category of items from one of my shelves, probably papers, going through each one and putting them into keep, throw away, maybe piles. I was konmari-ing before I even knew what Konmari was.
Nowadays bullet journaling has allowed me to take my love for organization to new levels. But I don’t just organize my physical world. I am also very interested in organization and productivity as it relates to the digital world. We are bombarded day in and day out, all day long, with information and digital attention getters. A lot of times we shove what we can’t handle in the moment under the proverbial bed and into the closet...ie, our emails.
Can’t read that newsletter right now, l’ll get back to it later. Oh! I like that sign-incentive. I’ll sign up and go look at it later. I know I want to read this article and I don’t want to lose it, I’ll email it to myself and read it later. Next thing you know you’ve got 13 unread emails and who has time for that?
You’ll get to it later.
Meanwhile you’ve got one more thing hanging over your head that you have to think about and make time for and feel guilty about not attending to.
To combat this digital overwhelm epidemic in my own life I’ve put a few processes in place to make the whole email “dirty room” problem a little more manageable.
First, I have four personal email accounts and a work email. I don’t think that’s altogether strange, but maybe it is. Each of these emails has a pretty specific purpose. One is a business email for my writing work and one is an email I use for signing up for websites or other things I don’t really care about seeing again, and I don’t keep it logged in on my phone. Theres also the email that used to be my go to email before I got the other email that is now my go to email...that one’s purpose is a little less defined but basically, things that I want to see, but aren’t quite as important to me enough to go to my personal email, go to this email.
And that’s not where it ends.
In addition to these multiple email accounts meant to keep my life organized, I have multiple folders in my email to make it more organized and to allow me to keep track of things that I need and get rid of things I don’t and try to always keep my inbox empty if at all possible. By multiple folders I mean between 15 and 38 folders...depending on the mailbox. Why, you ask? Simple. There are some emails that I want to keep, but I don’t want to look at all the time.
So if you are someone like me who enjoys having even the digital parts of life organized and an empty inbox makes you breathe easier, take a deep breath and dive into my top 5 tips for a super organized email inbox
1. Don’t Empty your Inbox Everyday
Most people get tons of emails everyday, and unless you are an extremely pro active person, you probably don’t have the mental capacity to give each and every one the attention it needs the moment it hits your inbox. So instead of stressing about how many email there are and what they might be and what action needs to be taken, instead set aside one time, every week when you can sit with your email with a cup of coffee and really go through each of the messages there and either respond, delete, or file them away.
2. Don’t Leave Unopened Emails in your box for more than a week
Again, we are trying to avoid overwhelm here, so instead of steadily watching that red bubble rise from 3 to 9 to 27 for days and weeks on end, causing you more stress due to the unfinished business you have staring you in your face, make sure you address everything in your inbox once a week. Additionally, while most emails in your inbox probably aren’t super important, if you are waiting longer than a week to respond to anything in there, chances are when something important does come along, you will have missed it.
3. Do have a list of VIPs
Since almost no one can handle checking and emptying their inbox everyday (nor should you have to) it’s that much more important to make sure the important emails are given priority. On iOS it’s as simple as clicking a button inside a contact to make sure your selected VIPs (think spouse, boss, bff, business partners, etc) email’s are pulled out of the crowd and stand out. These emails can generate separate notifications and even have their own inbox automatically in your mail app. There is a workaround to have a similar interaction with gmail on android devices, you can follow the directions in this link.
4. Do unsubscribe
I have a favorite saying, “you don’t need more space, you need less stuff”. I probably didn’t invent that saying, but its just as true for your email as it is for the clutter in your kitchen. You probably have dozens of emails that come to your inbox because of a random sign-up incentive you wanted, or a contest you entered that gave your email to other companies, or a website you created a login for one time because you needed one thing and never bothered to go back, or any other number of reasons. You either delete these emails without a second glance or you never open them and end up with 694 unread emails in your inbox. ::shudder::
Instead, take the extra five seconds to scroll to the bottom of the unwanted email and unsubscribe. It costs you nothing, no one will judge you and you save yourself a bit of mental energy. Or better yet, use an app to make unsubscribing even easier. I use an app called unroll.me that bundles all my subscribed emails into one email that I get once a day, instead of each of them popping into my inbox individually. It also makes unsubscribing super easy.
5. Create Email Organization Folders
So you remember those 15 - 38 folders I have in each of my email inboxes? Thats my secret weapon. I have folders for links to apartments I’m interested in, jobs I’ve applied to, sign-up incentives I need to use, online purchases I’ve made, and much more. This means I never have to panic when I need the receipt to an iTunes purchase I made 2 months ago. And I also don’t have to search through thousands of emails in my inbox, I just go to the email folder and search for a keyword or the date. Easy peasy. And most importantly, less stress.
So, how do you keep your digital life tidy? Any useful apps you can point my way? Comment below or send me an email, I’d love to get in touch.
I must be some special kind of crazy. This month, as many of you know, is nanowrimo month, or National Novel Writing Month. It’s pretty self explanatory, but the basic idea is, if you decide to participate, you try to write 1,667 words everyday so that at the end of the month you have a fifty thousand word novel.
So considering I haven't written more than a couple thousand words of fiction in the past entire year (I know I know!!! I bring procrastination to a new level) this commitment was quite the undertaking.
On top of that, I have a Spanish interpreter certification test that I have paid a couple hundred bucks for that is the first week of December. I need to be practicing my Spanish everyday for that to not be a waste of money.
And then on top of that, we’re moving this month. I have one month to travel to a city three hours away, find an apartment, pack and move by the end of November.
So thats three big commitments in a small amount of time. So far so good, but then again, we’re only nine days in.
A few people have asked how I’ve been using my bullet journal to stay on top of nanowrimo. In fact, it’s because I have so many big commitments this month that I am loving my bujo so much. It helps me stay on track with getting everything done everyday.
Hello! I’m back! I’ve been absent for a while recently. Why is that…
The short answer is probably some sort of variation on procrastination and "stuff".
The long answer has something to do with the fact that I’ve always been the type of person who didn't like to force myself to do something creative that I didn’t want to do. To me that seems like a recipe for a crappy piece of writing, design or artwork.
After publishing I’m on Your Side last December, I had been knee deep in indie marketing books, blogs and podcasts for several months. Then waist deep in my own marketing, website set up, book and blog launch. I think its safe to say I burned myself out. I was left feeling like if I couldn’t do everything, I shouldn’t bother to do anything. On top of that, theres life, and I live it, and I let it get in the way.
Recently I decided I wanted to get back into this thing. I want to do it better, or maybe just better for me, this time. So I started clicking around on social media and other YA author websites and I was struck by something that had been a particular guilt-driver of mine. Blogs. I had no idea what to write, what I was meant to write, what people wanted to read. So I decided to look at the blogs of other indie authors and see what they were writing.
I can’t tell you how many of their blogs I read that started with the words “I’m back!”. Ha. Apparently we all fall victim to Life sometimes.
At any rate, I am back, and here to answer the question that I get asked most by my readers: Are you going to write a sequel?
I was so excited when Ms. Hunt agreed to review my book, quite enthusiastically I might say. We've been following each other on Instagram for quite a while, so I knew she was an avid reader and reviewer and thought, what the heck, I might as well ask.
To my delight, she happily agreed. And in the midst of a busy new year, moving, and general life craziness, she found time to ready my little novella.
There's a new Short Story in town...
It was incredibly exciting when Olivia J, a follower of mine on my instagram feed, said she would be willing to review my book. It was incredibly nerve-wracking when she messaged me later and told me she'd finished the book...in under a day.
Less than 24 hours? That can only mean one of two things. Either she was so enthralled by my work that she read it in one sitting...or she was so bored by it that she gave up after just a few hours.
I was hoping for the first, but prepared for the second.
Go for Launch...
December 3rd was a pretty big day for me.
I took the plunge and indie published my book. Finally. I'm not a big name. I don't have a big following. I didn't have the time or money to do everything you're supposed to to make sure your book goes to Number One on Amazon's bestseller list on it's first day.
And I knew it wouldn't.
But my work is out there. Its available. People can read it, and they have. And they really like it.
Last week I profiled the websites of four amazing authors. This week I’ll be at it again. These are teen novelists who are immensely popular, bestselling authors. Most, if not all, of them are traditionally published. My goal is to see how the pros do it, and apply the things I learn to my own platform.
We’l be starting with a personal favorite of mine...
Jenny Han (dearjennyhan.com)
Overview: Okay, I’ll admit it, somehow I haven’t yet gotten around to reading P.S. I Still Love You, but it’s not because Ms. Han has a bad site. Her site is awesome. I love everything about it. I love how adorable and playful it is while still being professional. There is no questions who her target audience is, she has tailor made this site for teenage girls.
Breakdown: Jenny Han has seven tabs, because she keep her kids and teen book separate, which is probably a really good idea so her readers aren’t frustrated by scrolling through tons of books looking for the one they want. I love her Bio page a lot, its short, but with lots of little personal touches and the use of font as a design element is really well done. She uses her blog for fan art and it is now my goal to have fan art of my book. There are gifs and picture collages and just everything I loved when I was a teenager (and still do) and her fans must really enjoy being noticed.
Takeaway: I tried to get to the bottom of why I love this site so much and it comes down to a couple of things. She has a specific color scheme she uses and does not deviate from that. There is also a very consistent feel across the pages of the site, its like being inside the bedroom of the girl we see on the home page. I imagine if the internet had smell, dearjennyhan.com would smell like a Bath & Body Works. If an author platform should tell a story, we can all learn something from Jenny Han.
John Green (johngreenbooks.com)
Overview: John Green, the author of one of the most popular teen books of the past decade. Aside from Twilight and The Hunger Games, theres probably no other teen romance thats been talked about more than the one in The Fault in Our Stars. So…why the lame author site?
Breakdown: Okay, maybe thats harsh. Maybe my standards are too high after Jenny Han’s site. But the site is very sparse, a white background with black type and very few interactive elements. He has a vlog, which is a pretty cool alternative to a blog and allows his fans to see him face to face, but he misses a big opportunity with the bio. It reads like it was written by a publicist, not very personal. One thing I do like is that the covers of his books are listed in the sides, and when you click on them you get a synopsis, awards, reviews and comments on the book.
Takeaway: Mr. Green is the only guy on my list, maybe thats where the difference lies. Or maybe he just prefers a more late nineties looking website. Either way, its his site and it does what it should. It tells you about his books and where to buy them, updates you on events and gives ways to contact him.
Susan Ee (susanee.com)
Overview: The author of fantasy books such as Angel Fall, Susan Ee has a lot going for her on her site. Her banner and sides are fantastic, they are eye catching while still giving a feel for the types of books she writes. The banner may have to be updated once she’s done with her Angel series, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Breakdown: There are a lot of tabs on this site (all done in that blue color with the underline link style…you know how I feel about that) but at least two of them take you to free chapters from her books. This is a great strategy for getting people hooked, especially since she has two trilogies available. I also like that when you click on her cover art on the home page, it takes you right to the buy page on Amazon. Remember, the fewer clicks you readers go through, the better!
Takeaway: I like the sides she has consistently through the site, which include an email sign up, social media icons and a link to buy her books. She also has a tab called ‘Sign up to be on Susan’s SPECIAL LIST’ that takes you to a sign up page to be notified when a new book is ready. The fact that she portrays it as special and exclusive makes it intriguing, more likely to get clicks.
Sarah Dessen (sarahdessen.com)
Overview: This site is all about the books and its got a lot less content than some other author sites. There are only three tabs, where the home page and the books page are the same thing: a collage of cover art. This is pretty effective, but I originally found it off-putting, because I thought the page had loaded wrong. And my tablet has a hard time putting all the images in an order that doesn’t leave gaps, so it doesn’t make for the best viewing experience in places other than the desktop/laptop.
Breakdown: One thing I love about this site is the blog and bio pages. They are tastefully simple, but still quite personal. She uses her blog to update readers on events and upcoming news, but also uses it in a more traditional diary style. I read a really gripping entry about her family at the beach when her aunt almost drowned and she had to give her cpr. Her books page is unique in that, when you click on the cover, you get all the usual information, and then she also has a little explanation of how she got the idea and went about writing the book. This is a cool ‘behind the scenes’ element for readers.
Takeaway: Theres something to be said for the simple approach. But I can’t help but wonder if this mostly hands off approach would work for an indie author. Ms. Dessen has a huge catalog of books, her readers know exactly what to expect form her and she already has a following. The rest of us have to work a little harder to get and keep our readers. Bonus content, pictures, playlists, free chapters and the like are super important for indie authors.
When I started this project I had a few things in mind. I knew I wanted to make my website better, as professional as it can be before I launch my book and it (hopefully) starts getting a lot more traffic.
What I found was that websites, and author blogs, are as varied as the authors that use them. But that doesn’t mean theres not a few things that make a website successful. I profiled eight top selling author sites and five indie authors who responded to my call for input on Facebook. I found the bestselling authors by looking through the top 100 top selling teen authors on Amazon and picked out the first eight who’s work I’d read or heard of, and who’s work was also not too dissimilar to mine.
I decided to take notes on the strengths and weakness of the site, as well as elements I want to emulate or avoid. All of this keeping in mind, of course, that they are bestselling authors and have the luxury of not having to build an audience.
I created my feedback with the thinking that, if I want to be a bestselling author, I should do my best to be a bestselling author. With all that said, lets start with...
Of course, obviously, I already have an author website, but I've been feeling that something is missing.
It's just not that interesting to look at. This week, I've started a project of indeterminate length, to try to surmise what is that special something that makes a good author website.
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"Fiction gives the human soul a voice." - Helen Benedict
My thoughts on books, writing, inspiration, motivation and my incredible chosen proffession.