Digital Detox: Sprucing Up Your Social Media

Social media can easily spiral out of control when it comes to organizing your brand image, keeping things cohesive, and maintaining your online presence. Between Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more, social media can be a bit of a hodgepodge of links and information, and if you’re anything like me you probably don’t think to organize as you go (I’m looking at you, Pinterest).

Every now and then I like to go through a do a cleanup, whether I’m just taking an audit of my brand across tweets and posts, or fixing up broken links on my Pinterest boards.

Be consistent. Especially if you’re a blogger or maintain a specific online presence. Your profile picture and name should be consistent across your social media. Example time: imagine if I were @mylifeasateacup on Twitter, but @teacupprincess on Instagram – it might get confusing if you wanted to tag me in both places, no? I know some people by their online personalities, and if their “name” isn’t the same, I have a harder time finding them!

Same goes for your profile picture – if you don’t look like you, it’s easier for your readers to pass you by!

 Pretend you’re a reader. You may do all of your posting from HootSuite, but if someone is searching for your social media feed, they’re going to see the front end. If you don’t have a cover photo on Facebook or your Twitter profile completed, it’s going to look unfinished and not very inviting to the outside eye.

Update your profile blurb. I’m sure you’ve heard of an “elevator speech”, where you describe your blog/yourself/what you do in a spiel concise enough to be uttered in the time it takes to take the elevator to your destination. Most social media has a limited-character “about me” section for you to fill out, and it might be time to revisit what you wrote there, especially if your blog has changed focus over the past few years. Entice your visitors to follow you by succinctly and creatively describing what you do. And again, make it consistent.

♥ Organize your Pinterest boards. Create categories that reflect you and your blog’s interests. And don’t forget to create a board for your blog too! I’ve recently reorganized mine so that I can find pinned items more easily. I’ve even gone through and deleted duplicate pins, and am working to update descriptions and properly credit broken sources. This can be tedious, but overall will help followers better find your posts and articles!

♥ Declutter your feeds. At one point in time I followed a looooot of people on various social media sites. I’ve since developed my own way of keeping up with different sites and people, so I don’t necessarily need to follow the same person on 15 different sites anymore. Likewise, a lot of accounts I followed in undergrad that were Pitt-specific are no longer beneficial for me to follow (as I don’t go to Pitt any longer!). Declutter your feed by getting rid of those you no longer need to follow.

♥ Create a cohesive aesthetic. This is a more advanced tactic, but I bet you can think of an Instagram feed right that has a certain “type” of image that they post; maybe it’s the filter they use, or the way they format their photos, but you can already picture what their feed looks like, can’t you? Their cohesive style helps to reinforce their brand, and their consistency helps to make them memorable. You don’t have to go back and delete all of your Instagram photos that have a variety of borders, but you might want to think about your presence going forward (there was this horrendous time when I used 50 different filters and my photos looked like a hot mess!)

How do you manage your social media? Tweet your tips with the tag #digitaldetox!

Digital Detox: Organizing Your Documents & Files

organizing your files
Ah, documents. The most serious part of your computer set up. They may not be the most fun type of file, but they certainly are important and constant maintenance is a necessity to keep outdated files from piling up. Organizing your files as you go can help you maintain a clean desktop, clean hard drive, and your sanity.

Desktop and Folder Organization
Everyone has their own system for organizing files. Here are some of my general guidelines and what works for me, but you may not find them optimal for your own set up. Take these ideas and run with them!

Naming systems // Most of my folders have been given a no-brainer name; I don’t want to waste time trying to decipher what the contents of a folder are. There’s really no trick to this process, but if you get into folders that need to be organized sequentially like photographs, or blog posts, you might benefit from coming up with a naming formula. For instance, you might choose to organize your photos by date, to have a chronological record of pictures. I’m more likely to remember what year something happened in, versus what month, so I start my folder name with ‘2014.03’, the year first, so that I can easily find what I’m looking for. Alphabetize, put things in numerical order – whatever floats your boat!

Tags // The latest OSX update gave Mac users perhaps the most helpful feature, in my opinion: the ability to tag your files. Just like I would color code my Filofax or daily planner, I’ve broken my documents down into main categories (e.g. ‘blog’, ‘career’, ‘writing’, ‘teaching’, etc.) which allows me to categorize and search for specific files much more efficiently.

Hierarchy // Just like with my tags, my ‘My Documents’ folder is broken down into smaller sub-folders: ‘Blog’, ‘Personal’, and ‘Professional’. I find that all of my documents fit into one of these categories, and each main folder is subsequently broken down even further. File your documents into their respective folders in a way that makes sense to you. Step back and think about what folder you would look for ‘post drafts’ in 8 months down the line – it should be logical!

Easy access folders // I keep my most used folders right on my desktop for easy access. This requires that I be a little bit picky; I don’t want to deem every folder important and clutter up my desktop, but I find it easiest to keep folders for projects I’m in the middle of, or those I need frequent quick access to within reach. Things like a folder for weekly Things I Love Thursday pictures lives on my desktop, as does my resume when I’m in the middle of revising it. During the months of March and September, I keep my #30Lists pdf on my desktop too, so that I have all of my log on information at my fingertips.

Security and personal documents // As wonderful as the cloud is, I prefer to keep my super-important personal information on my hard drive only. Things like archived taxes, scans of my identification, clearances, etc. are documents that I keep close tabs on. As nice as it would be to have access to these files from anywhere, I’d rather take the extra step of having to boot up my laptop than risk my security.

Cloud Services
There are so many cloud services nowadays that you more or less have your pick. I’m a fan of Google Docs’ simple layout, and its ability to integrate with my Google account. While nothing in this section is necessarily Google Docs-specific, the basic principles should easily transfer to another cloud service.

I love that I can save documents in the cloud, which frees up space on my computer for maximum running efficiency. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely reliant on the cloud (see ‘security’ above), but I’ve been moving most of my documents to the cloud lately.

Sync your files // Most cloud services allow you to access your files offline, which comes in handy if you’re out and about. How I work has changed over the past year or so, which means I don’t always have my laptop on me to access all of my files. The cloud works with my changing work habits to ensure that I have access to the documents I need, be it on my phone or my iPad. I’m still not the best at making sure I don’t have duplicate files saved on Google Docs and on my desktop, but I’m working on it.

Desktop organization applies // Organizing my files in Google Docs isn’t much different from how I organize them on my desktop. The added bonus is that I can actually see the drop down hierarchy in Google Docs, which is sometimes just what my brain needs. Another bonus? Being able to quickly view your most recently opened/updated files.

Migrate working files to Evernote // I’ve come to use Evernote almost as a replacement for bookmarks. If there’s a file that I’m constantly updating, I need access to on the go, or is only temporary, I keep it in Evernote. Blog drafts, for instance, I find easier to work on in Evernote; the Blogger app isn’t my favorite, and I don’t have much of a need to keep a permanent Word document on my hard drive (once it’s written, it gets uploaded, and I don’t have much use for the working draft any longer).

Create a schedule for maintaining your documents. It doesn’t have to be frequent if that doesn’t suit your computing style, but it should be consistent.

I do one major clean out a year, where I go through old files and delete what is no longer relevant. The more you stay on top of things as you go, however, the less pile up you’ll have down the line.

Archiving // If you have files that you know you want to hang on to long-term, but don’t require frequent access to (old tax returns, I’m looking at you), you might consider buying a dedicated thumb drive to organize your archived files.

As with any system of organization, not everything here will work for everyone. Even my methods of organization change and transform as I enter new stages in my life. Play around with the tips here to come up with an organization system that suits your needs. Tweet me your tips, or leave a comment below!

Stay tuned next month for a guide on tackling your social media!

Digital Detox is a monthly guide to organizing your digital life and keeping your technology in tip-top shape! You can view past installments here.

How to Organize Virtually Anything with Evernote

Evernote app
Finding an app to organize your entire life sounds like an inconceivable task. Yet, dare I say, I think I’ve found the perfect one? Enter Evernote; I’ve been an avid user of the app for at least the past year, and often find myself wondering how I managed to live without it. As far as resources go, I’d be willing to put Evernote up there with the Oxford English Dictionary on the “inanimate objects that I would marry” list.

But would you believe I hated Evernote for a solid 6 months at first?

The Golden Rule

Before I became an Evernote addict, I had trouble using the app in my everyday routine, and frankly, it was just hard to get into period. And then my mother shared some sage advice that has not only converted me, but completely transformed the way I use Evernote. That advice?

The more stuff you put in there, the better it works.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? Aren’t I trying to simplify and minimize? More stuff, more notes, more clippings just screamed clutter! to me. But oh-ho, was she right.

The more I saved and clipped things to Evernote, the better it worked for me. And that’s just it – Evernote works for you, so you don’t have to.

Evernote app

For Blogging

I’ve created notebooks for my main post series, including “For the Love of a Linguaphile” (which includes notes with words for future posts) and just a general notebook where I brainstorm ideas for potential posts or days when I’m having writer’s block.

“Link Love” is a different story; with Evernote’s web clipper I’m able to quickly bookmark links I find throughout the week and save them all in one notebook. On Saturday, I’ll sit down and open up all the links to write my post, without having to hunt for my bookmarks or save the whole page as an article!

Sponsor information is easily stored so I have the information of all of my sponsors for the month, including web addresses, emails, and answers to sponsorship highlight post questions. Rather than going back and forth between documents and Blogger, I find it easier to make Evernote my sponsor “workbook”

I also keep a notebook full of resources for editing graphics, writing about page blurbs, and the like.

Evernote app

For Life

Did you know you can add checkboxes to tick off as you complete a task on your to do list? Now if I need to make a trip to Target, I can jot my shopping list down before I leave and check off the things I add to my cart.

Meal planning is made easy with a file that I’ve saved as a shortcut to my home screen. I map out the lunches I need to pack for the week, and dinners I have planned. Plus, I’m able to link to the recipes for gathering my grocery list or for when it comes time to start cooking.

My mother and I share a notebook where we save all of our township’s information, such as utility companies and contact information, important phone numbers, recycling collection dates, and even library hours. We always have access to our community resources, whether we’re at home or on the go!

For Your Career

My career use of Evernote is two-fold. First, I have a notebook titled “Professional” which holds all sorts of career resources such as resume tips, interview etiquette, and company information. Whether I save cover letters that I’ve written myself, or use the web clipper tool to save helpful articles to refer back to, my “Professional” folder has become a goldmine of information tailored to my job hunt needs (not to mention, bookmarking a bunch of handy, but not immediately needed articles can get messy).

I’ve also begun two separate notebooks for my portfolios: one for teaching, one for writing. I’ve saved everything from emergency substitute lesson plans to questions I might pose in a paper workshop, and am currently in the process of compiling my own teaching portfolio to highlight lesson plans that I’ve created during student teaching.

My “Writing” portfolio allows me quick access to standout articles that I’ve written when I need to send in writing samples, or just want to see my personal growth over the years.


For Collaborations

Some of my Literature friends and I have started brainstorming ideas for a side project, and Evernote is the best place for us to plan, compile our thoughts, and share ideas. We all have access to view and edit the files, and can keep working at our own pace while seeing what the others are creating at the same time.

Some Final Tips

Organize your notebooks and notes in a way that makes sense for you. Not everyone has the same purpose or goals with their Evernote use, and that’s perfectly fine. As much as I like seeing how others organize their lives, not every setup suits my needs. It’s more important to be able to find the information you need in a pinch than have layers upon layers of notebooks meticulously buried inside of one another for the sake of “organization”.

Create a habit. Evernote has a ton of great features like a web clipper and keyboard shortcuts to make incorporating it into your routine easy as pie.

Condense. I know I said the more the merrier when it comes to Evernote, but combine notes when you can to save yourself an organizational nightmare. For instance, I don’t have nearly enough notes about my car to warrant an entire, dedicated notebook, so I’ve just made a general “car” note in my personal notebook to keep information about my latest inspection, oil information, etc.

Maintain your files! Just because my mother told me to PUT ALL OF THE THINGS! in Evernote doesn’t mean my notebooks don’t need an occasional spring cleaning.

Evernote’s blog has some great ideas for using the app, from new product information to how real people are using Evernote to get stuff done!

What’s your favorite way to use Evernote?

Digital Detox: (Literally) Cleaning Your Tech

macbook iPhone nintendo
Last month we talked about how to organize your photos so that they’re uniform and easy to find on your device. Today’s topic may seem like we’re backtracking a bit, but cleaning the inside of your computer is no good if the outside is grimy and gross.

I don’t know about you, but my keyboard is pretty funky. As is the screen on just about every device I own, full of fingerprints and remnants of foundation from pressing my phone to my face. Whenever I notice dirt and grime starting to build up on my tech, I whip out my go-to tools to have them looking good as new!

  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – It’s amazing what this thing will clean. I’m pretty sure I’ve used it on every surface imaginable! When it comes to tech though, I use a magic eraser on my keyboard to get all the grossness off of the keys and shine up the outside.
  • OXO Good Grips Electronics Cleaning Brush – Great for getting the heavy stuff out from in between your keys pre-magic eraser, this silicone, two-sided brush gets in most tricky corners. I swear I don’t eat cookies at my computer…
  • Monster iClean – My Mac’s screen was caked with, well, I don’t even know what. Those little cloth wipes, awesome as they are, weren’t cutting it anymore, and I’m terrified to use any kind of cleaner on my screen that’s not specifically for it, so I don’t run the risk of ruining it. So I added a bottle of iClean to my Amazon order one day and was pleased to find that it cleared all of the gunk right off of my screen! Huzzah!

More than just making the outside shiny, I like to make sure my MacBook Pro is running at tip-top shape. I’ve been using CleanMyMac 2 to get rid of old files and clean up the inside of my computer for a few years now, and love how easy it makes maintaining the health of my computer.

While there is a free trial of CleanMyMac 2, I splurged for the full version to make managing computer clean ups a breeze. The program scans your computer for excessively large files, completely removes apps and extensions that need uninstalling, and makes your computer generally awesome. And you have full control over what stays and what goes. It’s unearthed files I forgot even existed, and helped me clean out my overflowing iPhoto Library’s trash bin (talk about organizing your photos!).

Don’t forget to run a backup before you start fiddling around with anything on your device! I try to run a backup at least once a month (which doesn’t always happen, but in an ideal world…)
Next month: managing your documents and organizing your files!

Digital Detox is a monthly guide to organizing your digital life and keeping your technology in tip-top shape! You can view past installments here.
How do you keep your tech running smoothly?

My Tech Top 10

favorite gadgets tech

The degree to which technology and gadgets have infiltrated everyday life is insane. Seriously insane. Take a moment to stop and think how long it’s been since you looked up a review for a new restaurant or sent your friend a quick text.

A half an hour? A few minutes?

Just how much technology is seeping into every aspect of our lives is a different story for a different day. But no matter how many tech detoxes you partake in, you can’t deny the fact that gadgets make even the simplest tasks more efficient.

Okay, enough preaching. Point is: I really like technology. Whether we’re talking laptops or apps, technology can do some pretty neat things, like edit your photos with a click of a button, or let you talk to you friend who lives on the other side of the planet.

I’m taking a cue from Apartment Therapy today and sharing my own list of gadgets and devices that make my heart go pitter-patter:
macbook iPhone nintendo
1. Devlin Actions – For a while I had an old-as-dirt copy of Photoshop version, like, 2. Grateful, yes, but did it really do what I wanted it to? Not so much. I was fortunate to score a the updated Photoshop from my old university for a pretty rad discounted rate, and I’ve been using it ever since to stitch together blog graphics and edit photographs. Enter Lisa Devlin Photography and her fairy godmother-level actions which magically transform your photos into editorial worthy gems. Whether its Basic Pop and a little Highlight Rescue, or an action that makes more of a statement (hello-o, Camden!), Devlin Actions are my go to for photo editing.

Macbook Pro Keyboard
2. 15″ Macbook Pro – Despite not having Retina display, my 2011 model Macbook Pro is a beast. It’s almost embarrassing how glued to my side my laptop is. It probably is very embarrassing, but I’m past the point of noticing.

3. Brahmin laptop case – Toting all of this tech around is great, but how do you keep your Macbook Pro and other gadgets protected while on-the-go? Brahmin’s laptop cases are chic, shiny, and do the trick. A typical day consists of my tossing my laptop in my bag with my chargers and cables for the day, my clearances in the back pocket, papers to grade, and I still have room for little odds and ends with the pockets inside. Did I mention the inside is fuzzy and soft to protect your tech?

brahmin laptop case
iPhone wallpaper inspire
4. iPhone – I feel like listing my phone as one of my top ten gadgets is cheating, especially since I feel like I’m going on an Apple product crusade, but I can’t stress how much I love the iPhone. The features, capabilities, interface, and design just fall into line to create such a complete device that I don’t think I’ll ever change. My iPhone 5 is currently sporting Ann Marcellino’s Sailors Assemble! case, which might be another reason I’m so fond of my phone. And prettying it with patterned and adorable wallpapers? Oh yes. Design Love Fest’s Dress Your Tech is brilliant.

5. Google Drive – Everything is moving to the cloud, and there’s no one I trust more than Google. Since I already had a Gmail account (and just about every other Google-related account under the sun), it made sense to just use my Google Drive as well. Have a surprise extra hour to kill? With Google Drive I can run into the computer lab on campus and work on my paper – never mind the fact that I didn’t bring my own laptop with me that day. Coupled with the offline syncing capabilities, I have access to all of my documents, anytime, any place.

6. Evernote – Are you even surprised Evernote is on here? I sing its praises whenever I can, and I’ll do it again. Right now. Evernote’s interface on the new iOS7 looks incredible, and being able to sync between all of my devices means that I’m never without my blog drafts, grocery list, or township contact information


7. Quirky Pivot Power 6 Outlet Flexible Surge Protector Power Strip – I’m the girl with so many gadgets that I’ve run out of places to plug them into, since most plugs these days are so huge that they take up the whole outlet and won’t let you fit something else into the socket underneath! Sheesh. The Pivot power strip has six outlets that individually swivel so you can arrange your tech and plug in more than one device at a time.

8. Belkin Conserve Socket – This little guy runs on a timer so you can charge your device for either 30 min., 3, or 6 hours. I’ve been yelled at to not leave my phone and other gadgets plugged in all the time, yet it’s nice to wake up to a full charge for the day ahead. I’ll set the Belkin Conserve to about 3 hours to charge my phone overnight, and wake up to a full charge without loading up on unnecessary energy! Plus, I’m then confident that my phone won’t die in the middle of the night and my alarm will indeed go off .

9. Afterlight – Afterlight is my favorite photo editing app, period. Not only are the filters a step up from Instagram’s (and by step, I mean a very long stride), but you can rotate, crop, fix lighting and contrast, temperature, etc. Plus some of the filters are more subtle – I don’t want every picture I’ve ever taken to come out with a Lomo finish.

10. Nintendo DS Lite and Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten – I know, I know, the new Nintendo 3DS is out and while I’m dying to play Pokémon X, I just can’t part with my DS Lite. While I do have a fair share of games, the appeal of the DS Lite was that I could buy the “game” Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten to use as a Japanese dictionary to use with the DS Lite that I already had, instead of buying a specialized digital translator. The “game” isn’t really a game at all, but a dictionary that lets you look up kanji by drawing it with the stylus, which comes in handy when you don’t always know how to read the kanji you see.

favorite tech gadgets

favorite tech gadgets
What gadgets do you have a massive tech crush on?