7 tips for making the ultimate to-do list.

If I could share my number one piece of advice when it comes to being productive, it would be making a to-do list. I’m actually surprised I haven’t written a blog post on this yet!

Having a to-do list isn’t revolutionary by any means. I’m pretty sure most people have a running to-do list in some shape or form. But for me…it’s a must. A lifesaver. An absolute necessity.

Here’s the thing about having a (well done) to-do list – it doesn’t just help you to be more productive, but it actually FREES you from a lot of stress.

I don’t know about you, but I can have a million and one tasks/responsibilities to do at any given time, and to say it’s overwhelming to think about them all at once is an understatement. But when you have a to-do list that is properly organized (by priority, time, ease, etc.) it makes all the difference in the world and actually removes so much anxiety.

Here are a few of my tips for keeping a to-do list that have literally changed my life.

Tips For Making The Ultimate To-Do List | GirlMeetsLife.com

Pick 3-5 of your TOP things to accomplish per day.

This. Is. CRUCIAL. It goes back to what I was saying about having your list help lessen stress. If you only have a select number of things that you have to accomplish on any given day, it makes them much more easy to focus on and complete. For me, my top 3-5 things are typically work-related, because 99% of the time that is my highest priority.

^ Do those things first.

You can have other tasks on your to-do list for any given day, but they should be smaller, easier tasks. For example, my 3-5 tops tasks are usually work projects, and then my remaining tasks are things like laundry, errands, etc. But once the “hard” stuff is out of the way, it’s like it’s all downhill from there.

Assign certain categories to each day.

So I must admit that this isn’t something I do ALL the time, but it can definitely be extremely helpful. A friends recently told me about this tip and I thought it was genius. The idea is to divide days up into certain task categories. So for example could have something like “Administrative Monday” for paying bills, planning appointments, and so on. And other days focused on things like marketing, new projects, research, etc.

This is very dependent on your job, of course, and probably more suitable if you create your own schedule. But it’s an interesting concept that I think could be tweaked no matter what your role is.

Keep your to-do list in the notes on your phone, iPad, or computer.

There are so many fancy-pants apps and journals for to-do lists, but I’m personally a fan of keeping it pretty simple in the notes on my iPad. The reason I like this is because I add to and edit my list often (see below), and this makes it way easier to do so. It’s simple, straightforward, and efficient. I also divide it up by day, so my list usually looks like this:

MONDAY
blah blah blah
blah blah blah
blah blah blah

TUESDAY
blah blah blah
blah blah blah
blah blah blah

Write down even the smallest of tasks.

If you saw some of the things I have on my list, you might think I’m a crazy person (and probably wouldn’t understand half of it, to be honest). That’s because I add every single little thing I could possibly think of. WHY? Because the more tasks you can get on that list, the less they’re swirling around in your head taking up your precious time and thoughts. Even if it’s something you have to do in a few days or even a few weeks, once it’s on the list you just don’t have to think about it again until it’s time to actually do it.

Edit your list frequently.

This is why I find it so easy to keep my to-do list in my digital notes. Depending on how my day is going (because we all know that days have so many twists and turns), I edit my tasks often. Sometimes I get more done in a day than I thought. Sometimes I have to push tasks to the following day. But instead of giving up on the list all together (which is something I think a lot of people end up doing), I just keep editing it. And you know what? Eventually everything still always gets done.

Want to take it to the next level? Look into Podio.

I’ve tried a handful of different workspaces over the years, and hands down Podio is my absolute favorite. I don’t know if I’d recommend it so much for personal use (we use it to manage NYC Collective) or  just for a to-do list, but if you are in search of a more extensive work space I could not recommend it more highly.

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Do you regularly keep a to-do list? What’s your best advice/method?

a perfect girls’ day out in NYC | Everybody Rise event + book giveaway.

Even after living in NYC for 5 years, those days still come along that feel like a New York fairytale. They’re the days that I literally dreamed of as a little girl. And a few weeks ago, I got to experience one of those days while celebrating the release of the new novel Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford.

The day started when I headed uptown to DryBar in the Le Parker Meridien. I had heard rave reviews about DryBar before but had yet to try it myself, so I was excited for the experience. A handful of other bloggers (including Jessi, yay!) and I were greeted with cookies, coffee and mimosas, followed by being pampered with a great hair wash and blowout.

DryBar

I loved DryBar and would definitely recommend it, especially before a special event or night out.

After DryBar we all headed around the corner to The Plaza Hotel. Yes…THEE Plaza Hotel.

I had only been to The Plaza twice before but only for their spa, so I was pretty thrilled when I found out we’d be doing the classic tea/lunch there.

The Plaza NYC

The Plaza NYC

It was pretty much a girly girl’s (AKA me) dream. Adorable tea sandwiches, mini desserts, and of course delicious tea.

The Plaza NYC

The Plaza NYC

The Plaza NYC

We were joined by author Stephanie Clifford, and it was such a pleasure to get the opportunity to talk to her about the new book. It was casual and relaxed, and she was so easygoing and fun to talk to. We asked her more questions about the book (which we had all previously read) as well as her inspiration, her background (as a NY Times reporter!), etc.

The Plaza NYC / Everybody Rise review

To give you a brief idea of the story, here’s a synopsis in author Stephanie Clifford’s own words from our lunch.

Everybody Rise is a book about fitting in and figuring out who you are…it follows a 26-year-old named Evelyn. She’s from Maryland, she moves to New York and is trying to find her place here. She ends up thinking she’s found it when she falls in with this old, money-set driven job. In order to fit in there, she begins lying–she changes the way she dresses, she changes the makeup she wears, she changes her hair. The lies quickly get bigger and bigger until she has to reckon with the sort of made-up life she’s come up with.

It was important to me have a heroine who wasn’t redeemed or rescued by a man. She gets herself into a ton of trouble, and she’s the one who has to scrape herself out of it in the end. It’s also a story of mothers and daughters. It’s sort of fitting with having tea at the plaza because one of my favorite scenes in the book is Evelyn at age 10 visiting New York with her mom for the first time. Her mom is there to revisit her own glory days, and at tea Evelyn can’t do anything right. Her mom is like, “No. No. No. No lemon in there. Cream in there. Don’t hold it like that, Evelyn.” That sort of anxiousness in wanting to please her mom builds a lot of what happens later on, 16 years later when she’s a young woman in New York. She’s still trying to gain acceptance, still trying to be seen because she was never quite seen by her mom. 

Everybody Rise

I must admit that I’m typically not the biggest fan of fiction novels. But I’ve got to say that I seriously loved Everybody Rise. It was a fun summer read, which was much-needed since I’ve been traveling so much over the past few months. I loved the storyline, especially since I could relate to the whole “newbie in NYC” aspect of it.

If you’re looking for a new read, you should definitely check it out. You can also enter to win a copy of Everybody Rise of your own by leaving a comment below! Tell me the best book you’ve read lately. I’ll choose a winner on Monday 8/31 at 5pm EST and contact them directly. Open to U.S. residents only, ages 18+.

Good luck! :)

*** Congrats Janel – you’re the winner! I just emailed you for your mailing address :) ***

banana s’mores pancakes.

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been on a s’mores kick. Well, of course I know why. S’mores are…s’mores.

The fact that the other day was “National S’mores Day” (according to Instagram, at least) made me love them even more. So I decided to get a little fancy for breakfast yesterday and make a single-serving batch of S’mores Pancakes. But then I added banana because…well, I add it to just about everything. The result was…

Single Serving Banana S'mores Pancakes

ingredients:
* 3.5 tbsp gluten free pancake mix
* 1 banana
* 1 tbsp cocoa powder
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1/4 cup milk of choice (I used almond)
* 2/3 cup mini marshmallows
* 2 tbsp crushed graham crackers
* 1 tbsp chocolate chips

directions:
* Spray a pan with nonstick spray and heat to medium.
* In a bowl combine pancake mix, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and 1/2 of the banana (mashed). Then add the milk until you have a batter consistency.
* Form 2 pancakes in the pan, and press 1/2 of the marshmallows into the batter. Let cook for about 2 minutes per side.
* When the pancakes are done, layer the rest of the marshmallows in between them. Top with graham crackers, remaining slide banana, chocolate chips, and mayyyybe some more marshmallows.

Then…things get messy. In the best possible way.

Banana S'more Pancakes

Banana S'more Pancakes

Single Serving Banana S'more Pancakes

Did you celebrate National S’mores Day? What’s the last decadent thing you made for breakfast?

nyc: MyClean review (+ a killer discount code).

If you know anyone from New York, you’ve probably heard them complain talk about how busy they are.

How’s work? OMG it’s sooo busy you have no idea.
How’s the social life? Well I have a work happy hour, then dinner, then two events. You?
How’s dating? I’m sorry what? I’m way to busy to date right now.
How’s the family? Not sure, haven’t seen ’em since Christmas.

Okay okay, I’m clearly exaggerating. But you get the idea. Life here in NYC is nonstop for most people, especially during the work week. Even as someone who works from “home,” lately I’ve been out every day working from different offices, meetings, and on top of that have been in and out of town almost every other week this summer!

So when it comes to those good old life responsibilities – things like groceries, laundry, and cleaning – it’s nice to have a helping hand every once in a while.

A few months ago my friend Joyce told me about MyClean – a cleaning service here in New York that she had been using regularly. She spoke very highly of MyClean, so Rachel and I decided to try it out to give our apartment a Spring cleaning.

To make a long story short – we were hooked. No matter how much we had cleaned in the past, our apartment was never so spotless.

Recently I went to book our next cleaning when MyClean actually reached out to me and offered a free cleaning. Obviously I was so down for that. So yesterday while I was out running around the city on meetings, my little NYC apartment got another much needed scrubbin’.

What I love about MyClean is that it’s extremely convenient. No need to make any phone calls – you can simply book *and pay* online in seconds and input any instructions, etc.

MyClean is also really affordable, which makes it totally worth it to me. They also often have discounts/promos going on.

The cleaners also bring their own green (eco) friendly cleaning products, which I think is pretty cool.

Some more info:
* All MyClean cleaners and maids are highly trained, background and reference checked, as well as insured and bonded. Our training period typically lasts up to two weeks and cleaners are full-time employees of our company, not contractors. My cleaner Anna was extremely nice, professional, and arrived right on time.
*Unlike other services, MyClean has a service quote, not a time quote. This means that the cleaners will stay as long as they need to complete the clean at no additional cost.

If you’re in NYC, I definitely suggest trying MyClean for yourself. And get this – you can use discount code GirlMeetsLife50 to get $50 off your first cleaning!

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of MyClean. All opinions herein are my own. Please note that I was compensated for this post. You can refer to my product review policy here. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

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Do you ever use a cleaning service? Is it something you’d consider?

you are ready.

You are ready. You are ready. You are ready.

I felt like someone was supposed to hear (er, read) that today. I know I was.

Somehow we always find ourselves believing these lies that we have to wait until “x, y, or z” happen to pursue the things we want in life. But it doesn’t work that way.

You’re not going to be ready when you lose 10 pounds.
…when you get the raise.
…when you can break that habit.
…when someone else tells you you’re ready.
…or whatever that thing in your life that is holding you back happens.

Here’s the thing – it most likely will happen. But I can’t help but think that breaking through those barriers we put up for ourselves and moving forward anyway…that’s actually what propels those things into finally falling into place…

 

What dream/goal have you been holding yourself back from? What small thing can you do today to move in the right direction?

what i learned from my 30 day Instagram break.

You may or may not have noticed, but a few weeks ago I kinda sorta disappeared from Instagram. I made a quick mention of it here on GML, but didn’t really explain why.

To make a long story short – I needed it. Plain and simple. It’s something I knew I should have done for…gosh, over a year. But last month I felt more strongly than ever that God was telling me to fast from Instagram. I had been asking Him for clarity and guidance in a lot of areas of my life, so when I felt like He was saying that, I didn’t hesitate to obey.

This may be a bold statement, but taking 30 days off from Instagram was truly life-changing. It may have been more for me than for most people because I work in Social Media so am on it ALL day (and yes – I still posted for the brands I work for), but it affected me more than I thought it would.

Here’s how.

I missed the community.
I didn’t realize how much a sense of community I got out of being on Instagram. It’s one of the top ways I communicate with people, so that would only make sense. Instagram has become a way I stay in touch with many people in my life, as well as people I’ve met through social media/blogging, and it was a bummer not being able to keep up with them as much.

…but I learned that it’s not entirely a real community.
The strangest part of the fast was during the first few days. This is going to sound really weird, but I felt very lonely. As I just mentioned, I didn’t realize how much I use Instagram to communicate/keep up with what’s going on in people’s lives. But the truth is that most of the time it wasn’t exactly real, genuine communication (voyeurism is probably a better word for it a lot of the time, to be honest). There’s a huge difference between observing and thinking you know what’s going on than actually spending time with people, communicating one on one, and cultivating deep/meaningful relationships.

I suddenly had a lot more time in my day.
I didn’t think that Instagram took up a lot of my day – just posting pictures here and there, mindlessly scrolling through as I do other things, etc. But apparently that all adds up. For the past 30 days I felt like I had so much more time to get things done and wasn’t in as much of a rush.

I felt more relaxed and less scatter-brained.
On that same note, my mind just felt clearer than it has in…years. It took a few days to get there (to clear out the “InstaBrain”), but eventually I remembered what it felt like to not have that urge to grab my phone every 5 minutes. Technology in general has just made everything so fast paced and…well, instant, and it was nice to experience at least a bit of a slower pace + less distraction sans Instagram.

My mind has evolved to think in pictures.
A lot of this is due to working in Social Media, but I found it hard to shake thinking of things in their Instagram form. I admittedly had become that person who thought, if there’s not a photo of it, did it really even happen? The 30 days off definitely helped free me from that, which I’m really glad about. Speaking of freeing…

It’s freeing to not have everyone know what I’m doing.
It’s kind of funny to think about how just about 10 years or so ago, no one really knew what anyone else was doing. Now you can see where your ex-coworker’s grandma is having dinner while she’s vacationing in Maine. It felt good to have a sense of privacy and be “invisible” for a few weeks.

…but I love having Instagram as an outlet.
I’m a sharer – always have been, always will be. When there’s something fun or cool or tasty or pretty, I like to tell people! And I love that Instagram allows me to do that.

I care what people think about me.
Way more than I thought I did.

…but I don’t want to (obviously).
So I’m going to nip that in the bud real fast.

I found myself doing things simply for the experience, and more deeply enjoying them.
I don’t think this is a surprising one. I already knew that my cell phone/social media was the enemy of experience, and the past 30 days just proved it more.

Same goes for enjoying company.
You know what’s better than Instagram comments, likes, Tweets, Statuses, emails, and text? Real, deep, human conversation. Laughter. Talking to strangers. Making new friends. Dancing the night away without a photo to show for it.

So…what now? Well, technically I’m back on Instagram, but I definitely want to make sure that I never forget these lessons I learned. I broke off some bad habits that I didn’t even realize existed, and I want to keep it that way.

Have you ever taken a break from Instagram/social media?

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strategically unstrategic
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