P0WeR LADiE$ Pomodoro Playlist

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Y’all. Do I ever have a treat for you today! Aside from lots of amazing animated .gifs, I mean, it’s  a Pomodoro playlist all about the lady and non-conforming gender-fluid love. Sometimes we all need some power ladies in our ears and this is that. Of course there are MANY iterations of this playlist but it can’t be more than 45 minutes, so I could make this a series. Any recommendations? I will always want to know about the ladies that give you an extra dose of life. Today’s mix is all about raw, strong beats, and boss vocals.

{What’s Pomodoro? Good question! It’s a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique which uses a 20-min timer to stay on task and help track time spent on them. You can read more here and here.}

Let Me Hear Your Money Talk

When I filed taxes for the first time as a teenager I remember not understanding what the fuss was about. You get some paperwork in the mail, you fill out the form and then you get money BACK. Seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me! Ah, so young, so naive. I did have a vague notion that it was probably more complicated for actual adults who had more factors at play beyond my basic wages as a swimming lessons instructor.

How little did I know then! It wasn’t until I started this business that I understood how complicated indeed. That most self-employed people or business owners almost never get a refund back and beyond the normal percentage of income taxes that everyone pays, the self-employed also have to pay a steep self-employment tax and our own social security. These are things that if you’re on payroll with a company, they pay *for* you.

It’s also a common misconception that having an accountant means everything is handled behind closed doors. They manage all the books, paperwork, and you send them a hefty check for their efforts none the wiser. While large businesses DO have accountants and bookkeepers on staff for this, most small business accountants require us to manage our own bookkeeping which is actually super smart. It helps understand spending habits and controls costs for both parties. At one point I also experimented with hiring a bookkeeper to manage my expenses for me and I ultimately decided it’s not for me. Not worth the cost & time, because I still had to do just as much admin as I was before.

Only you can know best how you spend your money and what things are a write-off and what things aren’t. But it still requires quite a bit of footwork to keep track of and manage, even with the best tools. So when people like me say we’re working on taxes, it really means going through the last several months of expenses and organizing them. Also means scanning many 1099 forms from various clients, proof of health insurance form (1095A), student loan interest forms, and any other documents from large purchases or investments if applicable. I go into more detail about my bookkeeping habits here in my Skillshare class if you want more! Or ask any specific questions in the comments.

Recently, I’ve found two new-to-me apps that have been making saving money, like, fun actually. Did you just roll your eyes? I did too, but believe it, comrade this is the real deal. The first app is called Digit (iPhone only, for now, Android coming soon) and it’s a delight to use. I mean, they text you animated .gifs like this:

IMG_6798Beyond that, it works by deducting a small percentage out of your account every time you make a transaction. It uses an algorithm that deducts a negligible amount based on your spending habits. Could be a few cents or a few dollars, but no more than $50. This money goes into a dedicated Digit account and sits there until you are ready to use it. It’s great for saving up for upgrades, treats, trips, or other medium level purchase. Did I mention it’s free?

Click here to sign up and get yourself $5.

Acorns

The other app is called Acorns, available for both iPhone and Android, is a slightly more traditional investment tool. Send them a lump sum, or set up a recurring deposit, and their “smart portfolios” invest for you based on how quickly and how much you want to save. Good for helping with longer term savings goals, so you won’t want to withdraw from here if you can avoid it. It’s free for students, 1$/mo for accounts with balances under $5k, and if you have more than $5k, the fee is yearly at 0.25% of your balance.

Get Acorn here!

I should note that while both of these are legit FDIC insured and secure platforms, neither of them will take the place of a financial planner and a retirement fund, but are really great for those with limited means, or who are just starting out and want to get a bit more control on spending. Also, none of this is intended to be a set it and forget it plan. No trustworthy, reasonable financial advice would make that claim. It’s a tempting ideas especially at the beginning to dream of a system we don’t have to think about and just let it do its thing. Ideally, these tools fight that instinct and teach a more empowering way to handle money. Best of luck out there and tell me if you make use of either of these!

{Ps – This post is entirely unsponsored, the links I’ve provided will give us both a slight kickback should you choose to use them. That’s your call!}

Hip-Hop/Electronic Pomodoro Playlist

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This is the first post since I’ve spruced up things around my website (thank you, Debbie, for that!). Much more mobile friendly, so reading on your devices’ll be easier. And comments!! Comments are back if you ever feel like stopping into say hi this is easier than ever. Another cool thing that’s gotten me thoroughly motivated to spend more time on ye old blogge, my newsletter, and on my other favorite socials is the help of Meighan O’Toole’s creative online strategy. Among so many helpful tips and shortcuts, we’ve constructed an editorial calendar, content buckets, and sorted out my boundaries for what goes online and what is better offline. This is something I’ve been meaning to do forever, and hiring someone like Meighan is the best way to affect change for me. I’m not one of those people who can read an instructional blog post from my feed and reliably expect to experience any last effect from it. If you are, tell me all your secrets so I can learn your baller ways!

Anyway, the goal for now is 1-2 blog posts per week and I’ve committed to publishing a newsletter every 3rd Thursday of the month. Why then? Well, no day is going to be ideal honestly so this is an educated guess that just has to be adhered to. Studies do show that open rates for newsletters are highest on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Fridays. So, that’s the plan.

Enough with the housekeeping, eh? As for the actual content today, how about a playlist?! A couple years ago I got really into the Pomodoro Technique for time management that has a huuuuge fanbase, but in short it’s essentially a timer that you set for yourself to block out other distractions for a set amount of time. Pomodoro says 20 minutes = 1 Pomodoro but that’s just not enough time for me to get anything more complicated than an email done. I find about 40 minutes is my sweet spot, and instead of waiting for a timer to go off, this comes with the benefit of funky beats, man.

Upbeat but not too frenetic is the pace I like to set when working. Gets me into a nice flow, sets a pace for a speed that feels breezy and efficient, but not so fast that it feels chaotic or stressful either.

This particular mix is hip-hop and electronic inspired, but variety is the spice of life so they say, so I’ve already got two more other playlists queued up for the next couple weeks if this isn’t your particular vibe today. This one is heavier on the electronic and is mostly free of lyrics if you’re averse to those when you work.

So? Thoughts? What are you listening to these days?

Great things I read in 2015

I realized when putting this together that I haven’t read a book written by a cis man in over two years. Heh. I didn’t intentionally start this streak, but now I know it’s happening, I’m paying attention to see how long it lasts. I do have Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty on my nightstand though, because Steve Martin, but that’s the all in consideration at the moment. There’s definitely an affect that happens placing a priority on writers who are women, people of color, trans, or differently-abled. It fosters more empathy and now when I read these types of characters written by men, too many of them seem one-dimensional and trope-like.

With that, here’s selection of the best things I read this year, including things on the internet:

Everything is yours / Everything is Not Yours Essay by Clementine Wamariya
I was hooked by the third sentence. This split my brain open in about 47 different directions and is still highly relevant given the current chatter surrounding refugees.

Director Jill Solloway writes a call to arms for lady directors
Widely applicable to any creative field. So ready to get up and re-make the entire world now.

Calling In, by Ngọc Loan Trần.
What happens when someone you admire says something offensive? What happens when we ourselves, are that person?

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The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
On being an artist with a non-traditional family and gender identity. Full of intellectual and rich insights on all of the above. Stunning.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Fantastic plot twist. I yelped when I discovered the character Red reading this in an scene in the most recent season of Orange is the New Black. At this point in the show, (very mild spoiler alert) the prison has burned all of their books due to a bed bug outbreak, so it’s interesting that she’s reading a brand new title from 2014.

Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
So, so much respect for her as a musician and artist. I devoured this and consider her a role model for lyfe now.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
I read this in three days. Glad to have her story in her own words.’Nuff said.

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The First Bad Man, Miranda July
This one really rocked my view on what’s acceptable and palatable in a story. it’s equal parts bizarre, repulsive, moving and truly human, in that way that only Miranda July can write. I showed me how to get comfortable with oddity, investigate the absurd, and that I can love her characters even if they’re inappropriate, and frankly, gross at times. I didn’t see the end coming here either. The design of the book is noteworthy too, done by famed graphic designer Mike Mills

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
This underscores a lot of what I read in the Artist’s Way but with Lamott’s witty and self-deprecating voice. Seems like I need to read at least one book on the creative process every so often as a reminder to stay the course and that it’s difficult for any artist. Comforting and inspiring to keep in the game.

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Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
You might know this voice more from her sample in Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, but Adichie didn’t arrive there without a glowing career in academia behind her. This book was one of the gems of 2014, with excellent stunning prose and a truly unique cross-cultural perspective. It’s a love story as well.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / And other lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty
This book is a wonderful effort to change the way we handle death and dying in America. Calling us to see and feel it in candid new ways beyond the bloated, disconnected, corporatized offerings many death processes have become in this country. Surprisingly full of adept humor, it also discusses other culture’s death practices both ancient and modern. Highly recommended.

Introducing Debbie Labedz!

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Beyond excited to announce this lady who is helping me with design, development, and writing!

After reviewing close to 20 applications, Debbie stood out because of her existing experience with the trials of self-employment, but with a flexible enough schedule that it would be easy to find time to work together. I immediately felt comfortable around her, she has a trustworthy and calm demeanor, plus a can-do vibe. My badass 85-year-old aunt gave me some whip-smart advice at the start of this process: make sure who ever you hire, that they are better than you at whatever their role is. Amazing! In this case, Debbie possesses more writing experience, more investment in code, and better eagle eyes for those fine details that make or break a project. Especially under deadline! Already we are both benefiting from her fresh energy and support and can’t wait for more in 2016. Without further ado, here’s more about Debbie!

Let’s start with your background and where you’re from:
I’m a writer and web developer based in Chicago, and I build WordPress websites through my studio, Bibliofille Creative. I studied art history at Michigan State, and upon deciding the traditional PhD path wasn’t for me, slowly taught my self how to code until it became my job. I’ve lived in the Midwest for 12 years now, but I’m originally from Virginia Beach, VA.

How did you get into self-employment?
I’d never even thought about self-employment until it stared me right in the face! After college, I bounced around in several jobs that I enjoyed, but that were never quite the right fit. Finally, it dawned on me that I would never be happy in a traditional 9-5 job, and that I’d have to create this “dream job” that didn’t exist.

Without too much pre-planning (whoops), I made the leap in June 2014 as an independent web designer/developer and never looked back. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road since then, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

What’s your home office set up like? What sorts of tools do you use?
I work primarily from my home office, a sunny den right off the living room that’s painted a fresh mint. I’ve got the usual Ikea desk and mid-century Steelcase chair setup, floating shelves, and LOTS of books. My hardware setup is fairly simple: MacBook Pro, wireless keyboard, laptop stand for ergo purposes, nothing too fancy. For web development, I’m a huge fan of Sublime Text, CodeKit, MAMP (for local development). For general life organization, Evernote, Google Calendar, and Wunderlist keep me sane. I also read a lot of blogs/websites, and Feedly is my new favorite RSS reader (RIP, Google Reader).

What’s something unique or specific about you that we should know about?
That I’m half Filipino! My mom is from the Philippines and I was actually born there, and we moved to the US when I was three (Navy brat!). Sadly, I don’t speak much Tagalog, but I’d like to work on that. There’s a pretty robust Filipino community in Chicago and I’ve definitely got my favorite places like Isla Pilipina and Unimart when I’ve got a food craving!

Like many people who work independently, you have a dog. Can you introduce her and talk about how she affects your day and helps you stay focused?

SadieThis is Sadie, my four year old Wheaten Terrier. She’s teddy bear soft and has quite the spunky personality! Since I work from home a lot of the time, having her around forces me to get out of the house and get some fresh air several times a day, which is awesome. Some of my best ideas appear during her bathroom breaks!

Sweet or salty snacks?
Both! I’m a huge fan of the salty/sweet combo, like chocolate covered pretzels, sea salt caramels, etc.

What did you want to be when you when you grew up?
A paleontologist! I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid. I was, and still am, a nerd at heart.

What are some of your favorite self-care practices?
I’m an introvert, so self-care is a huge priority for me. I’m a huge fan of bubble baths with all the fixin’s (scented candles, oils, soft music, glass o’ wine). Massages are great too. I also exercise as well, usually hot yoga, kickboxing, or spinning. That’s my 100% me time. My work is so mentally focused, that I try and treat my body really well to counteract that.

What made you want to work with me?
I could tell right away that, on top of being an awesome designer, you were a straight forward and kind hearted person, which I appreciate so much!

What are a couple of your favorite podcasts, newsletters?
Podcasts: “This American Life”; The New Yorker Fiction podcast; “Longform”; “Death, Sex, and Money”; “Being Boss”.

Newsletters: Quartz Daily Brief is great for keeping up with current events; The Report from Jen Myers is great for tech ladies and general internet awesomeness;  Ann Friedman’s newsletter makes me laugh AND think on a weekly basis.

Thanks, Debbie!!