Staying Organized in 2017

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Halfway through the first month of the new year, I find myself pulling my hair out and trying to cope with a million different things between different aspects of my different lives – personal, business, creative, and comedy. The record-breaking snowfall in Portland (we’ve been declared in a state of emergency twice in two months!) delaying supplies deliveries for my business, impeding my ability to do many of the things on my task lists, and being the cause of several canceled shows hasn’t helped.

Backtrack to a couple of months ago to when Marvelous Empire finally started picking up in sales and then rollercoastered into a a full-blown consumer explosion in December. I had multiple sales coming in every day, but not the resources to keep up with them. I ran out of supplies, couldn’t make trips to my print shop or the post office due to inclement weather, and despite everything working out in the end, it felt like a month of pure madness.

I decided that I needed a plan. I needed to account for everything – my personal time, my creative and writing time, my business time. And my finances. This was something I had been putting off my entire adult life. I didn’t use a checkbook or money managing app; it felt like too much. Growing up impoverished left me feeling a twinge of discomfort any time finances were ever brought up or handled. I lived my life mostly making mental notes and reconciling those with my bank account. But now that I had income coming in from multiple sources and more expenses than I could mentally manage, it was time for a change.

For the first time in my 28 years, I decided to get organized with a handful of mostly-free organizational tools.

Wunderlist
Wunderlist is my number one go-to organization tool. I can’t think of any features I would want that it doesn’t already come with. The app is so easy to use, and the web-based portal syncs with it immediately. I love the fact that it utilizes folders, task lists, and sub-task lists within the tasks themselves, which is my favorite feature. The due date and reminders features are great, and I love that there is a section dedicated to the present day and a separate section with an overall snapshot of the week. I believe you can even share task lists and assign tasks to others.

As a person who loves making lists and the accomplished feeling of checking items off as completed, this app has helped me get my shit in order when it comes to organizing my daily life. The best part of this super useful tool is that it’s totally free.

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Google Calendar
Or any calendar, really. This feels like a no-brainer. I often cross-post a lot of events and to-dos between Google Calendar and Wunderlist in an explicit effort to make sure that I don’t miss anything. I use this calendar pretty evenly between upcoming social events and when I’ll be able to find time to squeeze everything from Wunderlist into.

My favorite features of Google Calendar are the sub-calendars you can add and hide, and the color-coding options. My calendar looks like a rainbow of badass organization when all of the calendars are turned on.

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You Need a Budget
I’ve been doing financial tracking and management in my daily work life outside of my personal life for years, which is maybe the reason I’ve avoided getting my shit together with it until now.

I was hesitant to use YNAB because I was reluctant to choose a budget management software makes you pay yearly for it. Now that I’m on board, though, the ease of use is worth it to me.

Much like Wunderlist, I love that the app syncs immediately to the online portal. Immediate data reflection is so important to me. My mother has been tracking finances for years and saves all of her receipts until she gets home at the end of the day where she would spend hours reconciling into a spreadsheet. When she explained her method to me, it totally put me off of budget tracking. YNAB is so easy to use, and has helped me plan out my business growth and expenses for the next two years.

Social Media and Blogging Content Calendar
A must-have for anyone whose online presence is more than merely casual.

I created this calendar to help with my online presence, and though I haven’t stuck rigidly to its direction, it has helped me gain a lot more exposure. I researched the best times to post on social media and when to schedule blog posts, and though there is a lot of different available data out there, these are the times that have worked best for me.

Download my free Social Media and Blogging Content Calendar!

Etsy Finances Tracking Log
This has been one of the most useful tools I have ever created for myself. As I mentioned before, I’ve spent years managing finances and budgets in my daily work life, so when my shop started to take off, it was amazing to be able to plug in skills I had learned from my work life to apply it to my own personal business life.

This tracking log features a tab to list all of your sales data, which you can easily copy and paste after downloading from your shop on Etsy, as well as a profit and loss tab, and a yearly tracker emphasizing revenue, profit and expenses on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.

Note that this tracker doesn’t have to just be for Etsy sales! If you’re savvy with Excel, you should be able to navigate altering cells for your needs.

Download my free Etsy Finances Tracking Log!

Some tips and tricks on organizing:

  • Make sure your lists are where you can see them. Out of sight, out of mind is a real thing! I’ve set my internet browser to open all of these organization tools in different tabs each time I click Chrome open. Don’t hide the things you need to do!
  • Keep your computer organized! If your desktop is cluttered, if you have random items in random folders and no method to organization, your computer becomes more of an obstacle to wade through than what it’s supposed to be: your workspace.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. When to-do lists get longer and longer with more menial tasks, it can leave one with a feeling of being over-burdened. Are the tasks you’re assigning to yourself absolutely crucial to your success? Ask yourself how spending time on what you’re doing is going to benefit you. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
  • Make lists for fun things. Your organizing doesn’t have to be centered on work, work, work. I love making lists of creative things I want to try or pursue. Silly things as simple as making lists of movies I’d like to see or shows I want to watch have helped remind me me of things I want to do in my spare time.

How do you stay organized? Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked well for you?

sarah

 

Breaking In The New Year

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Let’s be frank. 2016 sucked.

I am exhaling a massive sigh of relief as a crisp first day of the new year ends.

Last year I changed jobs twice, fled from an abusive housemate situation, dealt with a massive financial theft that left me struggling, a two-hour frustrating commute to work, and unfortunately ended some friendships that no longer played a positive role in my life. Not to mention all of the cultural and world tragedies that happened. I still can’t believe the outcome of the election. I have been avoiding reading the news since November.

2016 did leave me with some blessings, though. My partner and I moved in together. I found myself integrated into a community which has led me to finding the most important people in my life right now. I got to see Cameron Esposito, Maria Bamford, Tig Notaro, I got to see and meet Rhea Butcher. I volunteered for the Bridgetown and All Jane comedy festivals, which lead to life-changing experiences. And right at the tippy-toe end of the year, my shop exploded. In three weeks, I more than doubled my sales for the entire year. (I’ll touch more on this in a forthcoming post.) Simply, I was beyond shocked. But this huge jump in sales helped motivate me to becoming a small business owner and operator, and has in turn helped motivate me to get my life in order (just a little bit; it is mostly still a perpetuation of chaos).

I’ve never been good at  consistency. I’ve never been good at forming habits that will benefit me. What I am good at is procrastination, avoiding finishing tasks, and finding distractions. And eating cupcakes. I am so good at eating cupcakes, you have no idea.

However, as my business continues to grow and as my interest in blogging continues to manifest itself, I am finding that consistencies and good habits are both absolutely essential for me to function. I’m so used to flying by the seat of my pants without any direction, and trying to stick to these  values has been a struggle. But in the last year, I’ve tried to dedicate myself, and so far it’s paying off. I’m enjoying the feeling of being organized and on top of my game (as much as I can be) with my projects, and my life outside of design.

My resolutions this year are simple.

  1. Produce content. My goal is to triple the stock in my shop by the end of next year, including expanding into cards and apparel. A full year of design, design, design.
  2. Practice. Every time I dedicate time to design and create and illustrate, I learn a new tip or trick or shortcut or process to help my work. This year I look forward to practicing more to hone my skills and my style.
  3. Be consistent. With all things – content, blogging, comedy, and my personal life. The benefits I have reaped from putting just a little more effort into this value has changed my world in the last few months.
  4. Do fun shit. I used to go on road trips every other month. I used to travel alone with my pup to beaches to just spend the day snacking on picnics and reading in the sun. I used to watch shows I liked, read books I loved, and game more. I used to go to friends’ shows and projects more. While I am overwhelmingly excited to have business and creative prospects, I am happiest when rewarding myself for hard work. Doing fun shit is important.
  5. Focus on minimalism. Minimalism is a theme I try to emulate in my work, and it’s something I’d like to try to adopt in other aspects of my life. With my writing, with my comedy, with my style and living.

What do you see for yourself for the coming year?

Christmas in Bridgetown

When I first moved to Portland, I didn’t realize there would be an alarming absence of snow during the winter. There have been some spotty sprinkles here and there, but even after a massive city-wide debilitating snowstorm-to-end-all-snowstorms in which I was certain the White Walkers would descend upon us, the snow was all melted in the following week.

Mostly, I am deeply overjoyed by this prospect. Anyone who has spent their life navigating through snow, as I did growing up in Utah, would tell you that they feel the same. But even though I spent five dry, moisture-less, barren Christmases in Phoenix, Arizona, I still have never fully reconciled the idea of a holiday season without snow.

But it did make for wandering around Pioneer Square on Christmas morning pretty enjoyable. I went downtown, but didn’t really come away with anything I was happy with except for this. Someone wrapped charming red ribbons on each of the animal statues in front of the courthouse, and I found them just in time before I drove away.

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What did your Christmas look like?

 

Birthday!

Tomorrow I turn twenty-eight. Whoa.

My life at 27 has been different than I imagined it would be. Not just a little different. Different as in, Can you believe you’re holding a microphone and talking to yourself in front of strangers on a stage right now?, or Holy shit, you just met Rhea Butcher!, or People are giving you money for you art and you can’t handle it!. Awesome different.

I never in my life thought I would pursue creative arts as more than just a hobby. Never in my wildest dreams or even speculation did I consider that I would pursue stand-up comedy. I think when I was younger, I envisioned myself being an English teacher or maybe even furthering my education at this age. Now, I cannot accurately express the relief I feel that I did not pursue that path.

Some defining moments of being 27 have been:
Beginning my career as a stand-up comic. I’m less than a year in, but already peers in my community have taken a chance on booking me for their shows. It is blowing my mind that this is happening. This has been a huge turn in my life that I never saw coming; It’s also been one of the more challenging things I’ve ever pursued. I’m excited to see where it goes.
Got a killer job. Seriously, I somehow managed to land an amazing job at a relaxed tech company that encourages employee satisfaction, wellness, and flexibility. It’s so close to my house, central to my needs and places I frequent, and the compensation is insane. One day when I can get over my fear of bikes + cars on roads together, I will begin my adventure as a cyclist and bike to work.
Re-started my print shop. After a hiatus due to moving, fatigue, general life-business and juggling too many plates, I’ve restarted my Marvelous Prints shop on Etsy! Business is slowly picking up, and I’m stoked to see where it goes now that I can devote more time to helping my brand flourish.

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Some goals while I’m 28 are:

Personal:
Travel to a new country. Truthfully, this does overlap with a comedy goal because the thrill of performing in another country is motivating me to make this trip happen.
Run a marathon! I’ve been putting this off for years and I need to do it. I hate running and I hate exercise, but there are some fun, nerdy events that I think will motivate me to get through doing this thing that I can’t stand doing.
Start a Twitch account. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, and as soon as I can prioritize getting a capture card, I’ll be broadcasting my squealing, jumping, shrieking gameplay for all to see.

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Creative:
Master Photoshop and Illustrator. Despite knowing my way around them, I still don’t feel wholly comfortable in either of these programs. Locking myself in for some good old boring, dedicated tutorials or classes will probably help me and save me a lot of time in the future.
Work on my illustration. It has been so long since I’ve drawn anything.
Develop my photography skills.
Develop my illustration skills.

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Comedy:
Start my own comedy show. I am stupidly excited about this idea. I’ve been dreaming about this pretty much since I stepped foot on stage for the first time, and with the support of some key local members, I’ve decided to just pull the trigger on it.
-Get booked on a festival. Since I’m still super new to the craft, this isn’t terribly important for me to accomplish since it’s such a far-fetched goal. But I have hopes that I can land a booking for even one small-ish comedy festival sometime during my 28th year.

Business:
Turn my shop into a fully-formed design business. I want to begin a legitimate self-made business before I am thirty.
Add card design to Marvelous Prints. I have so many ridiculous social card ideas that I’m excited to impliment.
Start a clothing shop. Like my ideas for cards, I have been adding clothing ideas to a master list for a long time. I hope to put this idea into production into the next year.

What I’ve learned at 27 is finally how to adult. I’ve learned how to do things I don’t want to do, but I still chip away at procrastination as perhaps my most centric flaw and it can still be a bummer sometimes. Contrastly, I’ve also learned that creativity is the key to my happiness. I can pinpoint the decline of my depression coinciding almost exactly with brandishing my skills as a new designer, artist, and performer, and it’s contributed to a monumental shift in myself as a person and how I function.

My aesthetics have changed over the course of the last year or so, but not to a degree I find myself being happy with. I find my wardrobe feeling plain and not very “me,” and I don’t find my style representing who I am. Basically, I have become lazy as hell when it comes to style. Part of this is my feminist obstinance in resistance to the beauty industry, but being honest with myself, I really just love the feeling of empowerment with a fab look. One of my goals for being freshly 28 is to re-acquaint myself with my style and figure out what my aesthetic is, and then to make it killer.

What are your plans for your next year?

October Instafavorites

I’ve been trying to be more active with Instagram lately in order to spread the social love and in doing so, I’ve discovered so many lovely accounts! I’ve decided to post a collective of the ones who have stood out the most to me in terms of style and aesthetic inspiration.

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@jaglever

I have fallen in love with Rachel’s urban witch aesthetic that she has going on. Her Instagram is like scrolling through a perpetual Halloween.

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@royalghostmarch

Niky’s artwork is just stupendous. I love seeing what she does with animals resting on petals and flowerbeds, and the bright colors she uses brings a particularly cheerful feel to her macabre-twinged pieces. Plus, her decor speaks to me on so many levels.

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@prettylittlefawn

I came across Courtney’s account by complete accident, but her feed seems to promote an overall feeling of a simple yet comfort-driven lifestyle. I love seeing her varying outfits and snapshots from around the city.

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@emricchini

Saved my favorite for last! I loved stumbling across E.M.’s feed anything promoting body positivity I am 100% on board with. E.M. takes stunning photos with beautifully coordinated outfits showing off the more captivating parts of Philadelphia.

Do you have any favorite Insta accounts to follow? Follow me at @sarahmarvelous and comment with your username so I can check out your account!

Design Diary: Back From Hiatus

It’s been some time since I’ve been in the designing mentality. In the last four months, I’ve designed exactly three things, all of them commissions: business cards and a logo for my dear friend Pree who is currently blogging about her experience hiking the Appalachian trail from head to foot, a poster for a friend, and an event flyer for an upcoming golf tournament for an acquaintance. It’s nice to be back in the creative kick for it, and I’m really excited to execute ideas from my bucket list.

Thanks to setting up my new desk, I finally have a workspace to thrive in! Today I created a few moodboards to help with some inspiration for upcoming projects.

1 // May Pastels

2 // Curiosities

3 //  Teal

4 // Rustic

I do not own any of the images assembled in these boards. These are for inspirational purposes only.

 

The design process is a difficult one for me; I struggle with creating. It’s a constant aspiration in trying to achieve the utmost perfection, the absolute masterpiece. I am an over-editor, both in writing, and with design. It is too much sometimes. These qualities come along with being a serial over-thinker and over-analyzer. Nothing is ever complete. Nothing is ever perfect. I submerge myself into my ever-lengthening list of ideas that I want to use and tweaks that I can make to keep perfecting my work.

But sometimes it just has to be. Sometimes you just have to let go, close the book to say, “No, this project is finished. I can use my time more wisely in creating other projects rather than wasting energy making small tweaks that are no longer necessary to the finished project.” Which brings me to my next point.

Inspiration. I am a serious offender in spending much too long searching for inspiration and creative possibilities. I lose so much time searching for inspiration instead of just taking the time to trust my own thought process and create my own work without relying on influence from others. In doing this, I often become so overwhelmed with a thought process and creative goose chase that I lose sight of what I originally intended to create in the first place. This is a problem for me, and it seriously impacts my productivity in a negative way.  I’ve realized that I need to institute limits and restrictions when browsing for inspiration and creative tweaks. A good starting point is to stick to five things, five images or colors. Just today, I found an old emailed note to myself on ProductivityOwl.com, which I have now installed and intend to put to full use. Does anyone else else struggle with these things? I can’t be the only one.

So happy with my new workspace, and even happier to be working again.

Three Months in Portland

Today marks my third month living in Portland. This city with all of its weirdos and crazy liberalism has been calling my name for years. It’s been an unprecedented journey of madness.

In February, I quit my job. I’ve quit many jobs before, but none in a circumstance like this. Many a time I’ve fantasized about pulling a much more gracefully-executed exit à la Jerry McGuire, proudly walking out the door after collecting my things and giving management a piece of my mind. Instead, I quietly slipped away on my lunchbreak after what I decided was to be the last mistreatment from management. I left the building, got in my car, and didn’t look back.

It was both liberating and anxiety-inducing. Never before had I quit a job without another job lined up. Who does that? People who don’t have bills and responsibilities do things like that, I would assume. People who don’t have rent and a car payment and insurance and a phone bill. People who aren’t supporting pets. People who are not me. Yet there I was, doing that very thing. For a single moment, I thought about turning back around from my lunch and pretending the whole thing never happened; I would never tell anyone. That thought quickly faded as I kept driving. I was committed.

I went straight to the store to buy champagne (for celebrating), cupcake wine (it was terrible), sugar cookies (for diabetes) and ice cream (more diabetes). Over the next couple of days, I allowed my unemployed self to vegetate slowly on the couch into accepting the reality of what I had done. After that, I went into overdrive mode in applying for jobs, and decided that I needed to get out of there.

So Portland it was. I reached out to my longtime and very dear friend Pree, who warmly responded that I could come to Portland and stay with her. This is, of course,  all paraphrasing for the sake of a summary. The anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness I experienced over not having an income or an immediate plan for the future was overwhelming on an inhuman level. As someone who is overburdened with anxiety sometimes simply for the sake of anxiety (over-analyzing is a real gem quality to have!), this stage of the unemployment and major life changes was at its peak. What was the plan now? “Get to Portland and figure your shit out later.”

Pree was gracious enough to welcome me, my hound and my feline into their home. As it happened, her home was in the basement of an active and in-use Episcopalian church on the edges of a rougher neighborhood in mid-Portland in which rooms were made from previously occupied classrooms. There was a giddy, adventurous feeling to staying at the church. There I was, fresh into Portland, crammed into a tiny room with a dog, a cat, and as much of my things as I could possibly fit in there with me. Clothes lived in a basket. I had a makeshift pantry made out of a bookshelf. Thank god we had a restroom in the basement. The kitchen upstairs was wonderfully stocked with brand new-like stainless steel appliances. The shower was creatively fashioned out of a tub bucket, an old church pew, and a hose. There was no washer or dryer. It was an interesting and humbling experience staying there with them. We had busy schedules, but tried to meet for dinner, outings, and tv sessions (Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Peaky Blinders) when we could.

A small piece of trivia relating to churches: This was not even the first church I had lived in. Catholic church in 2000. Six people (mom, dad, sisters), and two cats crammed into one room. That was an experience I hope to never relive.

Adventures came and went. I explored my new home as often as I could, venturing out around the neighborhood of the church and downtown when I could. Powell’s became a second home for me on the weekends. Salt and Straw was visited for ice cream, The Bipartisan was visited for coffee. Fuel Cafe was visited for brunch, Random Pie Bar was for pie, obviously, and also for cocktails. It did not take long for me to fall in love with the city.

In the midst of exploring my new home, I was looking for jobs like crazy and stressing about money and income sources. Interview after interview after interview. Scouring craigslist. Submitting resumes over and over. Painting on a plastic smile and reciting my scripted interview interactions over and over, sometimes five times a day. By the time I finally found a job (which happened to my audible relief and celebrating), only two weeks had passed since I quit my job in Spokane, packed my things and my pets up in my car, and moved across the state. I was so incredibly lucky to have found something so soon after arriving, and I’m happy to say I very much enjoy my place of employment this time. It was hard to believe such little time had passed while I was unemployed; with all of the mental anguish I thrust upon myself in that time, it had felt much longer.

Since moving to this wonderful city, I’ve been through so many adventures that I wish I could list them all. Terrifying interactions with homeless people, camping and trips to the beach, discovering wonderful little nooks here and there in the city. My instagram can probably tell a decent enough story. I love my new city.