I was only slightly disappointed to discover that Style & Class has nothing to do with helping me become a true lady. Instead, this meetup in Vancouver brings together designers and developers who love to make the web look and function better. I talked myself into going because I only dabble in these topics, but I am perpetually curious about how to get better.

Their first conference took place on Saturday and, if you didn’t know better, you would could never had guessed that this was their first event larger than a meetup. It was head and shoulders above many of the events I have attended in the past couple of years. Here are a few details from that conference that I want to remember, and that everyone else should be aware of.

What Made the Style & Class Conference So Good?

  • More than 50% women speakers. It can and should always be done at every conference. Here’s why I feel this way: I can very clearly see when it’s a women on stage and I will identify with that speaker. It’s very important to represent as wide a perspective as possible. Next time, I would love to see how representation of different races of designers and developers.
  • It started at noon on a Saturday. Not 8am after a party that went into the wee hours the night before. I think it’s a part of that bullshit macho culture to party hard all night and then make it a point to show up in the morning. I found it very thoughtful and showed that the organizers respected everyone’s time.
  • Every speaker presentation was interesting, rehearsed and had beautiful slides. Designers sure know how to give a presentation!
  • The chosen venue was appropriate – comfortable seats for everyone, darkened theatre room and yet you could still use your phone, or even laptop, if you wanted to capture notes or tweet.
  • All the profits from the event are going toward Ladies Learning Code! It’s a perfect partnership that is surprising, but shouldn’t be. When will it become normal for everyone to care about little girls having the same opportunities as little boys?
  • Fantastic flow to the day – just enough time to chat with other attendees before and after the event, with a solid 45-minute intermission in the middle. I also enjoyed being able to grab dinner before the after-party started 2 hours after the end of the conference.

Take into consideration turning around using the playpen or play yard. If the older youngsters have a job that requires protecting from little hands (or tiny components that are choking threats), consider having them build it in the playpen. You may interested to read this toddler playpens comparison. So that's what we did when my now 3 years of age began to crawl/walk, we had a playpen where we put our child in when one of us was by his/herself, however that only lasts till they're 1.5 yr. Otherwise, among us has always kept an eye on him.

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None of the approaches to personal blogging that I have tried have worked yet. For them to work I would have to be writing and publishing on a consistent basis. I have tried to publish twice a week, which usually works for about 1 week, and I have tried once a month, which quickly turns into never. Very well, realizing your own condition, we've for you many astounding genesis crystals mod which any time employed, may be exceptionally very helpful that you can advancement from the game. This fate grand order mod is likely to be you actually saviors in this particular exclusive world. Thus put on your video games truck caps and start the particular journey. This rise of kingdoms android MOD is employed to get resources in game. grepolis android hack is actually coded by way of extremely famous game cracker. Our hack tool does not need private data on all.You only need to provide username in addition to the online hack on https://mergedragonscheats.top will add free resources to your current or your friends account. This hack is cost-free and online you don't need to download anything Fire Emblem Heroes Mod – Unlimited Orbs Generator. As well with epic seven reroll tool may be accessibility from any OS and system To generate videos from android or iOS devices or perhaps PC. Game Generator does never call for any kind of particular approval on the cellular this makes this no jailbreak ios hack one of that kind. Each of our mod naruto x boruto won't ever store your information on all. Graphical user interface is extremely simple to use in addition to this sao integral factor hack apk is invisible therefore put find ban.We revise this hack every day or two to maintain it operational to get users.

I have attempted to theme my months with catchy names and the hope that I would have an easier time of coming up with ideas. But, a lack of ideas has never been the problem. I have more than enough ideas – ideas about what circumstances will help me write, when, where and how. Ideas about how to structure my blog, what kind of writing process to use, and how to gather research. Half-formed ideas that are wasting away in WordPress drafts and Evernotes.

No, the problem is not a lack of ideas. The problem is a lack of writing.

The problem might be the phrase ‘personal blogging strategy’ itself. I can spend hours creating a calendar of wishful blog post titles. I can even get started on the outlines for posts with a solid idea of what I want to write. But without sitting down and writing it all out – everything else is just bullshit. That’s how I feel – walking around, pretending that I’m a writer, while being too scared to actually write anything.

What could I possibly be scared of, you ask? I’m afraid that I will pour my heart and soul into creating something, only to realize that it’s not good at all. I don’t actually feel this fear everyday because I, as a human, have a lot of built-in defences to protect myself from admitting that. My actual excuses, ones that I give to myself and other people, are a good place to start with removing the safety net of my inaction.

My Excuses for Not Writing

  • “I don’t/didn’t have the time”

    This might be my most used up excuse of all time. Who can argue with it? We’re all so busy that most people can sympathize with letting things fall to the wayside. But here’s where it gets tricky – smart people never understand how I couldn’t have time for something that I have deemed “most important.” Instead, how about I try telling the truth: “It isn’t/wasn’t a priority.” I don’t say that because it’s heartbreaking to hear myself say that about writing. But, for a long time, it has been true.

  • “It’s not just something you can turn on”

    I think that this excuse has a long history among creatives who were billing by the hour. For me, it’s something I say to release myself from putting any intention into writing. Like a scarf caught in the wind, I’m at the mercy of my creative urges, just praying that I will gently settle into the perfect writing conditions. I don’t think it’s laziness, because I have literally cleaned the house top to bottom to procrastinate writing. It’s that it’s not easy to do. Sitting down to write amidst a world full of distractions requires discipline, focus and routine.

  • “I’m working on something else”

    This excuse usually fools others because the others things I’m working are tangentially related to writing. Fixing up the design of my blog, reading books, or watching documentaries are common “impressive” ways to procrastinate. All of these things are extremely valuable and essential to my creative outlet, but I’m abusing my interests and hobbies. All of the tasks I mentioned are only useful if they contribute to my creative outlet, not take away from it.

The Blogging Strategy that Worked

The Artist's Way by Julia CameronSince writing this post I’ve read a book that changed my life. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was recommended to me by a librarian who noticed my interest in the craft of writing. He cautioned me not to be thrown off by the book’s sub-title (‘A spiritual path to higher creativity’).

Since then I have encountered a least a dozen other fans of this book. I was meeting my friend Humaira at The Minimalist’s book tour and she had the book in her purse! While waiting in line, 3 other people commented on their love for the book.

Well what did the book teach me? It revealed long-buried reasons for my creative block – things people said to me as a child that I took for gospel and held in my sub-conscious well into adulthood. How my creativity was languishing in many other aspects of my life, not just writing. What else?

  • Morning pages are the cornerstone of creative recovery. Cameron prescribes 3 pages of writing every morning, before your ego wakes up, throughout the course of reading the book (which should take 12 weeks). I still write the pages now, which average about 1,000 words most days, and the effect of journaling every day is invigorating.
  • Artist dates are what Cameron calls a date with your creative self, which she suggests should take place at least once a week. Some of my own have included bike-riding to the beach to watch fireworks, wandering around a bookstore for hours, and buying a new notebook and pencil crayons. Doing those things you find most therapeutic is like fuel for your creativity.
  • Exercise is key to controlling stress. When stress takes over it becomes impossible to justify an artist date or sitting down to write. How can I possibly be so selfish in such a time of strife? But, I found that writing and exercise are two sides of the same coin. They both need to be present in my life in order to control stress and live to the best of my ability.

I fully recommend this book to anyone that loves to create. You will dig up some painful memories from the past, and you may come to the realization that you are your own worst enemy, but you will be better for it. You will be a better writer, a better blogger and a better person.

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{This post is the 2nd edition of The Newcomer’s Guide to Vancouver Startup Community, which I wrote in Nov. 2012. A lot has happened in a year, so there are a few tweaks to the format. The original guide drew it’s inspiration from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Toronto Startup Ecosystem and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Boston Tech Community.}

As always, I hope that this guide helps anyone new to Vancouver, new to a career in startups, or with a new-found vigour for life.

Startup Guide

Let me know in the comments if I have missed any great Vancouver startup resources – and I would love to add them to this post.

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Don’t miss out on fantastic writing on the Internet just because it was published on the weekend! Check out the links below to some great reads to ease back into the work week.

The British amateur who debunked the mathematics of happinessby Andrew Anthony

Oddly enough, Gottman, the psychologist whose research showed that divorce could be predicted by a 0.8 positive-to-negative behaviour ratio during arguments, couldn’t understand the math behind a hugely popular psychology article, which claims a 2.9 positive-to-negative emotions ratio as the basis of human flourishing. But, it took a part-time, retired psychology student to bring the bad mathematics of happiness to wider attention. Interesting read, which reveals the state of positive psychology right now.

Further Reading: Bright-Sided: How positive thinking is undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich

How the Simpsons have secretly been teaching you mathby Indre Viskontas & Chris Mooney

Mathematics was a hot topic this weekend! Simon Singh, author of the book The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, uncapped a fountain of mathematical references and surprises in each Simpsons episode. Not very surprising when you consider the amount of Simpson’s writers who are also mathematicians!

Darkness in August by Buzz Bissinger

Tells the story about the circumstances surrounding the killing of a young Australian baseball player in the small Oklahoma town of Duncan. Bissinger paints a bleak picture of class segregation, racism, and poverty that is all too common. Whatever the motivation the killer(s) had, it’s clear that this story started a long time ago for everyone involved.

Happy reading!

Essay HeaderNothing could have emotionally prepared me for skiing in the Swiss Alps. I’m well aware of the privilege of travelling, even to cold places, but I needed more than gratitude to pad my ego during a Christmas trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland.

St Moritz is a lavish ski village, about 3 hours drive north of the Zurich airport. Standing outside the Kempinkski Hotel, you are surrounded by summits on either side, invoking a sense of sublime that hasn’t been felt in centuries. It was cold, but not for the overly-packed, and it came with all the comforts of a 5-star destination.

It wasn’t as cold as Saint-Anne, Quebec, which I visisted during the Great Road Trip of 2010 (Ontario > New Brunswick > Ontario > Quebec > Ontario). It was my first attempt at skiing outside of Blue Mountain in Ontario, and the elements were not going to take it easy on me. After one easy ride down the mountain I was frozen to the core and itching for apres. After a full-blown temper tantrum, followed by sliding down the mountain on my ass, I was hanging up my skis for the remainder of the trip. This was the moment I realized that skiing, a completely non-sentient, sometimes enjoyable activity, had unearthed the darkest realizations of my id. Skiing had gotten the best of me.

A couple of years later, during Christmas 2012, I was in Whistler, not far from my home in North Vancouver. After only 2 half-days of professional ski training, I was whizzing down slopes with a blue-dot, a far leap from my days of sticking to the ‘easiest route.’ More than technical skills, I felt that my short stint in training equipped me with the proper mindset: fall, get up, dust yourself off, keep going. I ended up with the best vacation of my life.

As I stood at the bottom of St. Moritz’s Piz Nair, 3,000m above me, I knew that I was tackling a much different beast. Whistler had not prepared me for the Swiss Alps, which I so strongly believed in that moment. But, my ski gear was on, and I was travelling up the gondola, so the only way down was strapped to a pair of skis. Everything went smoothly at first, up a gondola, then onto a chairlift, then it was time to ski. Ski down a short run, get on another chairlift – up to the top. Piz Nair is the highest summit in the St. Moritz ski village. From there, you are greeted by a large goat statue, gifted with a stunning panoramic view, and served hot chocolate and schnitzel.

St Moritz Piz Nair ViewThen, respite was over. It was time for paralysing fear. I stared down the run in front of me. It was a metre across sloped gently downward, before curving around a hairpin turn and continuing to parts unknown. On my right side was a wall of snow, while on my left side was a cliff of snow, again to parts unknown. I skied slowly, started to pick up speed, and stopped. I was trembling, but other than that movement, I was completely still. I couldn’t do it. Images of falling over the snow-cliff, prompted images of starting an avalanche, only to be buried alive 100 feet deep.

After a solid 10 minutes of simply standing, I built up the courage to continue down. I had to; save an embarrassing trip going the wrong way on a chairlift, I had no other options. I didn’t feel that I had the skills to navigate the advanced terrain. Whether I was lacking in technical ability, or just mental strength, was impossible for me to discern in the moment.

The rest of the trip down the mountain was white-knuckled, sloppy skiing – the worst kind. I fell more times than I cared to count, and right at the end of the last run, I was faced with a sheet of ice that banked right and paralleled a small river, before crossing over a bridge. I couldn’t handle anymore terrifying scenarios, so I kicked off my skis and started to slide. A women skied over and began talking fast in German, before switching to English in order to tell me that I was in a dangerous spot and she would carry my skis down the small hill for me.

I had reached the bottom of the mountain without a shred of pride or dignity left. Skiing has the uncanny ability to push me to the limits of my ego. First, I’m scared, then I’m angry, then I’m embarrassed, and then I’m over it; those are the stages of ego death by skiing. It’s not the first time it has happened, but will it be the last?

I’m left considering whether I will ever ski again. Like most people, I hear that voice in my head urging me not to give up. Is that my ego? The part of me who cares whether people think I’m a weakling who gives up easily? Or, is that a healthy ambition that desires adventure and adrenaline? All I know is that ego has no business on a mountain.


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3am and still staring at the dark ceiling
Tarot: The Hermit
A dark cloud above my head, filled with all the things I didn’t get done that day, is a bedtime staple of mine. It’s hard to sleep when all you can think about is not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. Saying “I didn’t have time” is my favourite excuse for not accomplishing my goals and dreams.

That’s just an excuse though, it’s not the real reason why I’m not getting anything done. The only reason that something didn’t get done is that it wasn’t prioritized above other things that day. That’s when it hit me.

In just the month of October I have had 14 coffee meetings and attended 11 events, two of which were full-day affairs. Factor in travel, the amount of time that it takes to schedule meetings, and the downtime I require after a heavy dose of socializing, and I can see that a significant portion of my working days are going toward lunches, coffee and workshops.

The Anti-Social Experiment

Starting today I will not schedule any more coffee meetings or networking events until the new year (approximately 8 weeks). For the purpose of my experiment:

  • A coffee meeting is any meeting serving as an introduction, that is primarily career-related, or with someone I haven’t met outside of the Internet before
  • A networking event is a career-related social or professional development event, like workshops or meetups
  • I have 4 meetings and events scheduled for the month of November, which I will remain committed to
  • This experiment will not involve all social activities that I enjoy doing – I will still go see plays and have dinner with friends or family

Why Am I Doing This?

  • Despite an intense focus on productivity over the past couple of months, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m constantly behind – whether it’s piling up laundry, or going days without writing, I’m not making time for my goals…
  • Because – when I make a commitment to another person, like a meeting or an RSVP, it takes precedence over everything else, for better or for worse. I will neglect my boyfriend, my puppy, and myself in order to be fully present for any commitment that I have made
  • Meeting people is very enjoyable – and it’s an extremely low-friction activity that contributes positively to my life, which has made it very easy to replace anything slightly higher friction, like writing, with meeting people
  • Although I don’t plan on continuing this experiment forever, I do know that I require radical changes in order to make a radical difference in my productivity (see: The No Home Internet Experiment)
  • If someone asks for a meeting over the course of the 6 months, I think I could more politely decline by providing the context succinctly with a link to this post
  • At the end of the experiment I will be able to look at my to-do list, the numbers of words I write daily, and my thoughts and emotions right before sleep, in order to gauge the effect of removing events
  • After a few weeks of this experiment I will write a detailed post explaining my methodology for tracking results

I’m really looking forward to giving myself permission to be a recluse. I think that all of my priorities (Misha + Hyde, myself, learning Russian, writing, cooking and my home) will seriously benefit. My measure of success at the end of this experiment is whether I have managed to get rid of the looming feeling that I don’t get anything done.

I’m very curious to hear from people who restrain their social commitments, purposefully or otherwise…

Additional Reading: Most of what you are going to do or say today is not essential – Farnam Street Blog


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I have a hard time maintaining a daily routine. Luckily, I value novelty, and I feel no need to maintain the status quo, but I also am not above changing my behaviour for better outcomes.

One of my goals with lifestyle experimentation is to find ways to slow down my perception of time. Like most people “I can’t believe it’s Hallowe’en already” and I don’t think my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to life is helping.

The Jack Dorsey Approach to Daily Routine

My ears perked up at Jack Dorsey’s approach to running two companies at once, as discussed in Buffer’s The Daily Routines of 7 Famous Entrepreneurs, and I began to explore how I could adapt it to my personal routine.

I had to take my personal and professional life into consideration when planning the themes of my day, just like Dorsey considered Twitter and Square. As a writer my time is dedicated to writing for clients and writing on this blog, but also maintaining my website, (forever) tweaking my blog structure and design, and administrative tasks. Also, I have to factor in major tasks like errands, appointments, grocery shopping, me time and us time.

Here’s the theme-based routine that I have been working with for a month:

Theme-Based Routine Example

In addition to daily routine, I have come up with a monthly routine, specifically tailored to my goal of tracking my finances each month.

The Pros & CONS:

    • Pro: less stressful thoughts! When I neglected a task for a couple day’s in a row – I would have to deal with the unfortunate effect of having to write it again on my daily task list. Now, if it’s Friday I can set aside all thoughts about Wednesday’s appointment making or Tuesday’s errands.
    • Con: I still require more flexibility. I cannot get all my client writing done in one day, so what has happened is that most mornings are dedicated to client writing and my afternoons adhere to the theme-based routine.
    • Pro: more productive! This was another one of my goal’s with testing out a theme-based routine. Despite dedicating only one full day to client writing I’m still able to spend time on all the things in my life that I enjoy. In the past month I have managed to write

It will be easy to continue with this routine in the coming months and I think it is a process well-suited to entrepreneurs, freelancers and people who love juggling multiple projects.

Have you written a post about your daily routine? Link to it in the comments below or send me a tweet: @terakristen. I’m dying to read and share it. 

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zev via Compfight

I undertook my experiment of cutting off home Internet in April 2013. I would love to say it was my idea, but unfortunately I used every excuse not to give up my precious home Internet. It wasn’t until I read “Killing the Internet at Home is the Most Productive Thing I’ve Ever Done” on TheMinimalists.com that I had my last good excuse ripped from my clutches. Surely I could make no home Internet work for me if a man who runs a website for a living did it. I moved into a new apartment and simply did not get Internet set up. The plan was to do my work on the Internet at coffee shops and the library.

When I had resigned myself to the giving this experiment a try, I realized there were a few bad Internet habits I had that may benefit from restricted access…

Continue reading on Medium.com

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No matter how hard I try to be neat and orderly in life, chaos, in the form of unnecessary things, always creeps in. The interior of my car slowly deteriorates into a receptacle for water bottles, coffee cups and damned parking tickets. I love shutting the doors of closets to cover up the mayhem behind. Don’t even get me started on the inside of my handbags.

In “How Clutter Affects Your Brain,” writer Mikael Cho discusses research findings that concluded that “physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.” On the other hand, new research from psychologist Kathleen D. Vohs, discussed in “What a Messy Desk Says About You,” suggests that surroundings that are too neat can inhibit in some ways:

Disordered offices encouraged originality and a search for novelty

Continue reading

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Freelance Diaries Icon

The Accidental Freelancer Diaries will be a series of blog posts published on the 2nd Saturday of every month.This series will chronicle my ups, downs and lessons learned as I navigate the world of being a freelance writer and community manager in Vancouver, BC.

The life of a solopreneur may be tough but it’s worth it. Most days.

How did we get here?

I would have to say that it started when I got my first job at KFC at the age of 16. This is unrelated but I thought you should know that my friends and I were flashed by an old man, while waiting for my interview, who was wearing a trench coat and strange tights, that only covered by above his knee to his ankle. I got the job at KFC thinking that perhaps they felt sorry for me.

After that day I didn’t go very long without work. In university I was in a co-op program, which meant that after my first year each semester alternated between school and work. During school I held a myriad of jobs: psychology labs, hostessing and then finally as a community manager at a local mobile startup.

I still had two semesters of school to finish when I started working at the startup, but I loved the job so much that I was afraid that if I didn’t work full-time I would miss my opportunity. School suffered, but I still passed all my classes and wrapped up my undergrad in December 2011. Then, tragedy struck. I was let go from my position at the startup, which prompted me to look closely at what I accomplished as their community manager. Some, but not enough.

In the spirit of running away from one’s problems

In the spirit of running away from one’s problems, I decided to move to Vancouver to live with my boyfriend of 4 years after 2 years of long-distance. I was terrified. Not just of moving across the country, which I had never done before, but also of having no plan B. I didn’t know what company I wanted to work at, or whether I truly had any skills to offer. So when I had a couple people mention a lead in Vancouver at another early-stage startup I pursued it with everything I had.

Fast-forward 6 months and it’s becoming clear that this startup had jumped the gun in terms of hiring a community manager. But, since I was already working there, I was helping in other ways. Ways that I wasn’t the best at, or the most interested in. Thanks to an all-around ability to communicate, I parted ways with this company amicably.

test-drive the work

I had learned some things from these two jobs, but not quite enough. I knew that I didn’t want to rush into another job, although I almost did, and I knew that the way that someone describes the job and workplace and my reality of it won’t always be the same.

I decided that instead of signing full-time contracts after only a few interviews, I would test-drive the work by suggesting a temporary contract. Most companies are hiring because they have a back-log of things that need to be done and no one to do them. So, in my next interview, I suggested a full-time, temporary contract on the basis that the work will get done immediately, and then we will be forced to review the contract.

After first I was challenged on the basis that there are people who claim that they want to the job, and I am here saying that I’m not sure. From my point of view, anyone saying that they without a doubt would love a job without doing it first is just blowing smoke. I’m being honest by saying that I need to spend some time with a job before I start claiming I love it. I spent 4 months on that first contract, and it was a fantastic learning experience, but I was ready to move on afterwards.

feast or famine

That’s when I really got thrown into the sink or swim, feast or famine, fight or flight world of freelancing. I’ve gone months without paying work, but I’ve also had the opportunity to run my own business, on my own terms.

Freelancing is not the easiest option I could have taken and I’m still not 100% sure if it’s a means to an end, or the end itself. I haven’t been at this for 15 years, and I have made a ton of mistakes, but I have always found that the best way for me to learn is by processing my experiences, intuition and choices and writing them down in a semi-coherent fashion. So you can expect to read another instalment of The Accidental Freelancer Diaries next month.



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To borrow a phrase from a movie I watched once: “Build it and they will come.” I have taken this to mean that if I relentlessly surround myself with information and tactics to achieving my goals, then they will magically appear. What has actually happened is that I’ve tried every tip, trick and app under the sun to give me that writer’s edge. Not everything has worked for me, but what has resulted is that I have come across some of the best help that the world has offered – and most of it is accessible from your computer chair.

Resources for Creating Your Writing Habit


This website was created by Gabriel Pereira after a stint in a Master of Fine Arts program that left her wanting more. She believes that “writing belongs to everyone” and has put together a great un-program around the idea:

You can subscribe for a free download of her DIY Starter Kit, which includes some great information about what you should be reading, or at least how you can think about your reading so that it supports your writing goals. Her “Writer Igniter” provides a random character, situation, prop and setting to help ignite the creativity. Also, check out her latest offering Lit Loft 2013 – an online course taught by top writing and publishing experts.

The Buffer Blog

The Buffer Blog is a goldmine of information on becoming a more productive and effective writer, particularly writing for a blog. That’s not all they write about, with topics ranging from social media, lifehacking and transparency at their company. Here’s a list of my favourite blog posts from the Buffer team:

  • From Ideas to Traffic Results: How we run a blog with 700,000 readers per month
  • How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the Seinfeld Strategy
  • 5 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better Writer
  • 5 Realisations that Helped Me Write Regularly*

*This one is from the personal blog of Joel Gascoigne, one of Buffer’s founders.

The Seinfeld Strategy

There’s a famous story about Jerry Seinfeld’s advice for becoming a better comedian.

“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day…He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.”

- Brad Isaac (Lifehacker)

You could use a dedicated Google Calendar for this, or you could use a web or mobile app.

iDoneThis – an online calendar that helps you to keep track of what you got done each day. I have started using it on my iPhone to keep track of days where I completed writing. I love that seeing that little blue checkmark under each date :)

Lift – an iPhone and web app that will prompt you to check-in to your desired habits, while providing you with encouragement and stats.

**Bonus App**

Brainstormer is a super fun app that will help prompt creative, free-flowing writing by providing a random plot, setting and prop. Try it out – you might be curious to see what you can create with “Conflict with a god,” “Rococo,” and “mad scientist.”


I would absolutely love to hear what tools and tactics you use to maintain your writing habit. Let me know!

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I don’t remember how I heard about 23andMe the first time, but a couple of months ago I found myself spitting in a tube.


23andMe is a company that provides genetic testing easily and quickly for the average person. We ordered the 23andMe packages and received them in a couple of days in the mail. The instructions detailed how to send back our DNA sample properly. It involved spitting (a lot) in a tube, at least an hour after eating, and sealing it up in a bag. We mailed the packages back to California and waited.

In the meantime I really considered the question of whether I wanted to know what my genetic future held?

How would this information impact my life now? Would I take more precautions than I otherwise would, or would I live my life on the edge?

A couple of weeks later I received an email that said my genetic profile was ready. Using my login information on 23andMe.com I was able to access the results of my genetic test.

Results are divided into Health and Ancestry as you can see:


What Did I Learn from 23andMe?

  • I have an elevated risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Kidney Disease and Type 1 Diabetes
  • Smoking exacerbates many of the diseases listed above
  • None of this means that I will 100% have these diseases – I just have an increased risk compared to other people with similar genes
  • I have a recessive gene for Inherited Fructose Intolerance – if my partner also has ones then our child could contract this intolerance
  • There are 2 types of ear wax! I have the wet kind, but there’s also a drier, flakier type
  • My eyes are likely brown – in reality I find them to be mostly brown, with some green and gold flecks
  • Women are unable to have a full understanding of their ancestry because genetic testing cannot determine paternal lines from women
  • My ancestry is 99.9% European
  • I am 39.7% British and Irish, with a bit of Scandinavian, French & German thrown in for good measure
  • An estimated 2.7% of my DNA is from Neanderthals!

Ancestry Overview

Would I recommend this to other people? I really don’t see the harm in knowing your likelihood of certain diseases and traits. For me, it was empowering to know that I am primarily in control of what happens to me. The lifestyle and health choices that I make now will have significant bearing on my future outcome with regard to heart disease and diabetes. I am neither too cautious, or too risky, now that I have this information. Just a bit more informed about my health and genes.

Have you ever had your DNA tested?

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Source: Gonzalo Merat via Compfight

There’s a fascinating mystery in child psychology. Most children do not have their first memory until approximately 3 years of age; this period is sometimes called ‘childhood amnesia’. Even up to the age of 10, most people remember very little even though there are 7 years of memories presumably being made.

Psychologists have a few theories about why children experience amnesia. The brain areas responsible for memories are often underdeveloped in very young children, so memories would not be strong enough to survive many years. My favourite theory concerns language. Since young children do not fully use language they are unable to make memories, or remember them later.

Think about it: you’re trying to remember what you had for breakfast yesterday. You use a combination of relevant words (yesterday, breakfast) and mental imagery (what you saw when you woke up, what is in your refrigerator) to reconstruct your memory.

Trying to remember a memory from your childhood is like fumbling around in the dark. You don’t know how to retrieve it from your memory because yo don’t quite know what you’re looking for.

My first memory may be a false recollection because I would have had to be younger than 2 years old. I remember standing in front of the underwater viewing window at MarineLand, a type of zoo with many aquatic animals, and seeing a killer whale swim by the window. Much later, when I spoke to my parents about this memory, they remembered taking me to MarineLand when my mother was pregnant with my little sister, who was born 2.5 years after I was.

These days, the actual memory of the whale is much weaker than my memory of speaking to my parents about it, and getting validation for my memory. It will be doubly interesting to look back on this post in the future and see how both of these memories have changed.

P.S. In case you’re interested in the topic of memory, one of my favourite blogs put together a great list of their memory articles: How Memory Works: 20 Psychological Insights

Tera Kristen is the author of lifestyle blog “Be Fabulous and Flourish,” focusing on productivity, psychology, happiness, health and professional development. Find her on Twitter or Google+.

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One of the guiding forces in my adult life has been to ask myself: what would I have done when I was a child? This sometimes leads to interesting decisions and a simple outlook on a life that can often be overwhelming and confusing.

What does this look like in action?

Childhood Activities Updated for Adult Life

1. Friday Nights Are Alright:

Imagine yourself on a Friday night. If you were anything like me in my early twenties – this was prime party time. After a full week of going to bed early, I was just itching to do something bad. I felt that I had earned the privilege of drinking long and hard.

These days, after a full week of staying up late working on personal and professional projects, the last thing I want to do is waste my time at a bar. I think back to my childhood Friday nights, settling in with my sister to watch Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, with a bag of chips or a Tim Hortons donut.

How have I updated this to suit my adult tastes? Well, not much had to change. The snacks are a just bit different, I still love a good slice of pizza,  but some nights I’ll go for healthier options. It’s a great night to unplug my mind from the grind, and enjoy a movie or TV show with my boyfriend for the sole purpose of entertainment – nothing too intellectual here. If I’m alone, I’ll brew a big cup of tea and settle in with a good book.

2. Make Time For Playtime:

It can be tough to think of playtime as something you should do as an adult. Quietly playing with Barbies or drawing badly for hours on end might not engage you like it used to. But, you should still make time for playful activities even as a mature and busy adult. One of the greatest additions to my playtime has been my dog Hyde.

Don’t be surprised to find me on all fours, growling like a wild animal, and fighting over  a sock with my four-legged friend. I’m also not above fighting dirty, especially when your boyfriend is the most ticklish person on earth. Seeing him laugh until he wants to die is something I remember being on the receiving end of very clearly. I’m not sad to be the delivering force these days.

Going outside with no clear intentions is another great way to find yourself playing for hours. Whether you walk around and tell jokes, or head to the beach and play frisbee, it can feel so nostalgic: spending time with other people outside the coffee shop and networking events.

3. Create Anything

I have set aside my desire to become the world’s greatest crayon artist, but I still make time for creating something, anything. Trying a new recipe or sitting in a sunny patch with a notebook and a pen are, by far, my favourite and most fulfilling ways of creating something from nothing.

My work habits these days make an empty inbox feel like productivity, and my creative projects often take a back seat. It was never that way as a child, partly because email did not exist, and partly because I had nothing but time to create things. It’s not uncommon to feel an urge to sit down with my notebook, only to find that writing fiction is harder than I remember.

It’s a chicken and an egg problem: starting is hard, but the more you’re out of practice, the harder it becomes. As an adult, I have to focus, practice, and have clear intentions when I go to create something. Just like everything else in my life – my creative process is a work in progress.

4. Eradicate Fear

Boy, do I get jealous of the 7-year-olds on the ski hill. As I’m talking to myself, “you can do it, you can do it,” little boys and girls slip down the easiest hill without hesitation. They’re not playing out a scene of broken legs and avalanches in their mind, they are simply believing in their ability and going for it. They don’t push themselves too much or too little.

I have found that as I grow up, more fears are slipping into my life. Fear of the open ocean, fear of flying, fear of going too fast; my mortality is more salient than ever. I need to find the balance of living a life without fear while still taking care of myself.

Where was this fear when I was a little girl flying on my bicycle and crashing into parked cars and asphalt? It didn’t exist because it would have been unjustified. Getting on an airplane, or on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, are examples of situations where the end justifies the means. Sure, flying is not the most pleasant experience, but arriving in my hometown to visit friends and family is well worth it. Keeping this perspective in mind will keep me moving forward with the momentum of a child.

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I am so prone to inaction in the glorious summer months. Lazing about on a patch of grass, or staying in bed reading, is really all I need to be satisfied in the warm months. But, this year will be different. I have lived in Vancouver for a year and a half, and I have experienced the most embarrassingly tiny amount of experiences that this city has to offer.

Dearest blog reader, please hold me to this list, because without your judging watchful eye, I might let the summer months slip by.  That rhymed.

15 Things On My Summer Bucket List

  1. Either After Hours at the Vancouver Aquarium (June 6th), which is an adult-only late night event, or A Night at the Aquarium (June 13th), which is their signature fundraising gala.
  2. The Grouse Grind – time to get my butt up that mountain. I’ll bring my boyfriend since I have a deep aversion to letting him beat me at anything.
  3. Spend a romantic weekend at the Rockwater Secret Cove resort in one of their tenthouse suites. What an amazing setting for a weekend for two!
  4. Afternoon tea at Fleuri Restaurant in The Sutton Place Hotel – a friend said that it was a very good service and I’m a big fan of tea.
  5. Have a stay-cation in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel – if only for the rooftop pool access.
  6. Check out the upcoming Portraits in Time exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I love a good face.
  7. Finally get around to seeing the Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver permanent exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver.
  8. Beg Sean Orr to reinstate the Walking Tours with the Fighting Flaneur this summer. Orr is one of my favourite Vancouver journalists.
  9. Deep Cove summer kayaking – my hope is that I get good enough to go on a midnight kayak, which is only for the experienced kayaker.
  10. Tan topless on Wreck Beach. What?! It’s a nude beach – that’s what it’s there for!
  11. Catch a showing of Avenue Q at the Granville Island Arts Club Theatre – naughty puppets!
  12. Go on a Sunset Dinner Cruise – bonus points if I spot a whale!
  13. Whistler Village in the summertime – there are so many things to do there: hiking, dirtbiking, pedicures, etc.
  14. I don’t know why I haven’t been, but I should check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge & the Lynn Valley one.
  15. Spend an afternoon thrift shopping at Woo Vintage, The Frock Shoppe, Community Thrift, Nouvelle Nouvelle, etc.

Tera Kristen is the author of lifestyle blog “Be Fabulous and Flourish,” focusing on productivity, psychology, happiness, health and professional development. Find her on Twitter or Google+.


Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD

If you have an interest in the motivational and productivity movements, then you may have heard this little tidbit:

You are an average of your five closest friends

Now, I can neither prove nor disprove this statement, but I still think it’s bullshit. As part of the motivational ethos, it is usually followed by the idea: “so be careful who you hang out with”. If your friends are stinky and lazy, so you will be too. So get out there and find the coolest, richest people to spend your time with.

Here’s where the idea really starts to suck: it completely ignores the very noble pursuit of raising the people around you up, regardless of their life situation. What kind of elitist asshole thinks that only the rich, powerful, and privileged are worthy of time and admiration?

I think that the true essence of “you are who you surround yourself with” is so often lost in our materialistic and power-hungry society. It doesn’t matter whether your closest friends are poor, sometimes unhappy, or uneducated. Do they exercise compassion? Have they patience for the less fortunate? Would they give up their lunch despite being hungry?

So please don’t get it twisted, and ask yourself – would you rather hang out with Mother Theresa or Donald Trump?

Tera Kristen is the author of lifestyle blog “Be Fabulous and Flourish,” focusing on productivity, psychology, happiness, health and professional development.

Moving day

Photo Credit: Peretz Partensky

I was a very lucky child. I lived in the same house from as soon as I can remember until the ripe age of 19, at which point I moved into my university’s residence.

Since that fateful day in September 2006, I have moved a total of ten times, and sometimes the moves were only 4 months apart, and once I moved across the country. Did I always know how to move stress-free? Hell no. But, I was lucky enough to not have to ask the same friend to help me twice.

You too can achieve a stress-free move.

Start Immediately

  • Start with a master plan as soon as you know you’re moving. I make each room into a heading and write out the tasks associated with each. For example, under my bedroom heading I have purging my closets and bedside tables. 
  • Don’t forget to include all the errands you need to do as well – like dropping off old clothing, booking any moving day services, setting up utilities or Internet at the new place, etc.
  • Plan when you are going to do each of these tasks. I’m tackling my closets and bedside tables two weekends before the move.

The Weeks Before

  • Start to book your moving van and your moving boxes. It’s 2013 and there’s no reason to use wasteful cardboard any longer – check out a company like Frogboxes who will rent you sturdy, stackable containers.
  • If you’re moving within the same city, and have some disposable income, consider hiring a moving van + movers. It absorbs the cost of renting a Uhaul, you don’t have to bother your friends to help move, and you can find great deals on Craigslist or Kijiji. I’ll be checking out East Van Moving for my move.
  • Start packing up as soon as possible. You should be able to pack up and collect most of your belongings. Items that I leave out include clothing and toiletries, anything in the fridge and the bedding.
  • Be warned this is the hardest time not to stress out. Your place will be a mess and you’re going to have to try and sleep at night with half your packing done. Learn to meditate.

Moving Day

  • The night before the move will be the time to pack the rest of everything up. I lay out my clothing the night before, and whatever toiletries I use will get packed into my “carry-on” bag.
  • I also try and clean up my new place the night before moving. Sweeping, mopping and wiping down all cupboards is much easier when there’s nothing in the way.
  • Dress comfortable for your moving day! Running shoes and workout clothing are the best since you will be bending and lifting all day.
  • Just because you hired movers doesn’t mean you get to take it easy. I’m not saying you have to try and lift the couch, but make sure you’re helping as much as possible and not just managing and directing. The day will go by light-years faster.
  • I love pretending like packing boxes and loading up the truck is a game of Tetris. Find the sweet spot – where everything just vibes together.
  • Tip your movers – they are likely going to have back, knee or hip issues when they’re older, all in the name of stress-free moving.
  • Try to get all the big stuff set up immediately – beds, couches, shelving, etc. Then you can take a much more casual approach to putting the rest of your items away. Or you can be super type-A and not rest until every single item is in it’s place. Because that’s how I avoid stress.

I know I’m not the only expert at stress-free moving – are any of these tips straight out of your playbook? And if you have some that I don’t know about – don’t hold out! That would be cruel.


In all it's glory...and me trying to smile

In all it’s glory…and me trying to smile

I am not qualified to write about dealing with adult acne physically because I have yet to discover products or a diet that completely rid my face of blemishes. Although a diet free of gluten, sugar and dairy has provided the most results, I have not had the taste-bud willpower to steer completely clear of ice cream.

I feel much more comfortable talking about my emotional journey with adult acne because I have made a lot more headway in that regard. My issues began about 2 years ago when I quit taking birth control in all it’s forms. I was not trying to get pregnant, but I was trying to reduce the amount of substances I added to my body.

Since that fateful day my face has exploded. Most weeks my cheeks have 1-2 blemishes, not too mention all the clogged pores and acne scars that accompany idle hands. Having had idyllic, blemish-free teenage years I was ignorant of the vanity and self-esteem issues that would hit me with full force. I no longer felt like I could leave the house for anything, including exercise or a quick jaunt to the store, without masking my poor skin with full-coverage foundation, concealer and powder. I felt like the victim of a cruel joke that my body was playing.

An understanding of what my body was going through came a bit easier than an understanding of how to deal with my new emotions. Without giving the impression that I’m a doctor or naturopath, I understand that my skin is reflecting the detoxification process that my body began to go through after my lifestyle changes. Everything that my face was showing was previously happening under the surface in my liver, stomach and intestines. I believe that since I stopped hitting my body with unhealthy food, drink and hormones, it now has the energy and ability to push toxins out from within. I am trying to embrace this process as a great thing, not a burden.

Unfortunately, for a long time my mindset was not reflecting the healthy changes I was making. I felt vain and sad that I was focusing on my appearance so intensely. I am still dealing with these emotions, but on a less frequent and intense basis. Some of the steps that I took to change my skin and my mindset included:

  • Talking honestly to many nutrition and health experts that I encountered, like the lovely @nirmalaliving.
  • Being more mindful of the products that I was putting on my skin – less became more.
  • Allowing my skin to breathe whenever I felt comfortable going barefaced.
  • Focusing on my inner abilities – my intelligence, ambition and positive emotions are a more accurate measure of my worth.
  • Reminding myself not to resent others for their beautiful skin, but to simply appreciate the variety of skin types and tones people have.
  • Eating clean and listening to my body’s reaction to the foods that I was consuming – I began experimenting with removing certain foods from my diet and immediately reaped benefits.

I’m far from done on this journey, but I certainly understand how I should be feeling. Clear skin does not have the ability to give someone true confidence, and blemishes do not have the ability to take true confidence away. Here’s to the confidence derived from healthy living!

**Updated** Just a tip: Here’s a list of some of the products that I have preferred on my newly acne-prone & combination skin:

  • Vichy Pro-Even Mineral BB Cream – the colour Medium/Dark has a slight lilac tint, which works wonders on my dull and neutral skin tone
  • Bare Minerals blush – it doesn’t contain any silicones or parfum
  • Avene Cleanance Gel Soapless Cleanser – makes skin squeaky clean
  • Oil-cleansing – typically a mixture of coconut oil and other oils (I’m still tweaking the formula)
  • An apple cider vinegar and water toner to remove dead skin cells after cleansing
  • Almond oil as moisturizer – my skin just soaks it up after a deep clean
  • Baking soda as exfoliant – a gentle abrasive for dead skin
  • Honey and cinnamon as a face mask – I use just a pinch of cinnamon for my sensitive skin
  • La Roche-Posay Effeclar Duo – great as an acne treatment and primer

(I updated this list on September 18, 2013 after learning much more about the ingredients used in skincare, many of which are known carcinogens or hormone disruptors. I’m still working toward replacing my beauty and skincare products with safer options)

I would love to hear any recommendations that have worked for you.

There’s a great TED talk floating around the 20-something crowd that makes some valid points about “Why 30 is not the 20.”

Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, says that just because major life events happen later in your twenties, and into your thirties, does not make an entire decade “developmental downtime.” She inspires people to view “claiming their twenties as one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world.” Jay is saddened that we have “trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood” with names like “kidults” (which I agree is just wrong).

Here is where my opinion diverges from Meg Jay. As a 26-year-old female I do believe that 30 will be my new 20. It’s not because I have trivialized the last 6 years, but because I trivialized those years at first and then came to the stark realization that this is going to be much harder than anyone ever let on.

All of those things that I thought I was going to have when I hit my mid-twenties stride didn’t magically appear. The financial security, the happiness, the health and the professional success that I saw on TV and in movies is looking like it won’t happen for a little while. Perhaps not until I reach my thirties.

The phrase that “30 is the new 20″ is not a cop-out; it’s motivating. It reminds me that I can spend this decade figuring out my own personal path to happiness and success, and, if I’m just settling in to the good life at 30 that doesn’t make me a failure. I will have worked hard to turn my life into the one I envisioned having all along. The roller-coaster ride that was my twenties provided me with the knowledge and grit to know what to change and how to change it. From the outside it might have looked like mistake after mistake, but on the inside I was learning more about myself, and the world, than I ever had before.

Meg Jay’s advice for claiming your twenties still holds true, even though it’s not as easy as it sounds. Watch the video and let me know what you have learned in your twenties that you will carry into the decades ahead.

Image Source: Crystal Sing Photography

A note: I was a co-organizer for the Founder’s Collective event


It’s been one week and I’m still basking in the afterglow of Founders Collective. On Saturday April 20th, over 100 female CEOs, founders and game-changers took over Launch Academy, a co-working space that is usually full of men. Meredith Powell, a Vancouver-native entrepreneur, was inspired to organize a female-centric event when she was attending some of the top networking events in the US. The dismal female attendance was not representative of what she knew to be true. There are lots of powerful business women and entrepreneurs – and she could think of at least 100 in Vancouver off the top of her head.

The first Founders Collective event signalled a shift that I believe is taking place in the business world. I think that this shift is going to have wide and varied consequences – but there were two that I could plainly see from my seat at the Founder’s Collective table.

The New Networking Event

Founders Collective was an event produced by women and for women, and the distinction between this event and others was clear. The day was bright and balanced, with healthy breakfast choices, a gluten-free lunch, prosecco during the afternoon break and plenty of opportunities for conversation. It was far removed from networking over beers in a dim sports bar. The atmosphere of the day influenced things right down to the topics of conversation. I firmly believe that the one-on-one discussion between Lisa von Sturmer and Amy Chan about workplace discrimination could only have taken place during a female-centric event.

Networking and business events will focus more and more on the interpersonal and emotional aspects of professional life. Networking will become less about exchanging business cards that are quickly forgotten, and more about having conversations that lead to friendships. I welcome the change.

The New Workplace

A surprising result of the Founders Collective event was the realization that I could embrace my femininity in the workplace and still be successful. I was reminded by Maninder Dhaliwal‘s talk that we are standing on the shoulders of she-giants; that there are women that have helped pave the way for my success in business. These women may have had to be more aggressive and fierce in the workplace, and I appreciate everything they have done so that I can have the choice to be who I am.

We have reached a level of progress that allows for women to be ball-busters, if they so desire, or to be less aggressive in the workplace. You can say exactly what’s on your mind, or you can exercise some tact and carefully craft your responses. We don’t need to conform to the image of a shark or dragon in order to be successful in business, but thank you to all the sharks and dragons out there who helped prove what women are capable of.


I’m not sure that these ideas are exactly new. There have been wonderful female-led business events in the past. But, I think that Founders Collective is part of a paradigm shift. Soon, we will no longer be surprised that the CEO of Yahoo is a woman, or that some women raise children full-time, while others start their own company. Honestly, I’m surprised that the accomplishments of women are still surprising.

Thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors (SPUD, Whistler Water, Calhoun’s Bakery, Cadeaux Bakery, Wildebeest, Flower Factory, Vancouver Urban Winery, Starbucks Canada)  for contributing to the atmosphere of our day.

A very special thank you to Meredith, Alanna, Kim & Laura for including me in this wonderful journey. 

Founders Collective Organizers

Last week I taught my very first workshop on online community building. It was part of Trade School Vancouver, which is a barter-driven community of people trading knowledge. I signed up to teach this course on community building in exchange for design help and surprises. It was by far one of the most rewarding things I have done lately and I can’t wait to teach a follow-up course.

The slides below are the ones I used that night, with very few edits added. I added some speech bubbles in order to explain the images or text used in slides. It’s a major pet peeve of mine when people post slides, and since I didn’t hear the presentation I have no idea what some things mean.

Enjoy the slides and let me know in the comments if you need any clarification.

Achieving Goals Pic

Photo Credit: kaneda99

Achieving your goals is not impossible, it’s simply a matter of changing your behaviour. 

That’s the trick everyone – just change your behaviour. Unfortunately, I have never really learned a surefire way of changing my behaviour. Last month, I decided to use the Internet and social media to find better ways of changing behaviour and achieving goals.

I’m a bit late with the answer to January’s problem – but I tried out a couple of resources and I have learned a completely new way of thinking about my goals. All of the information is easily available on the Internet, and has made it easier than ever to motivate behaviour change.

Resources for Getting *Anything* Done

Behaviour Wizard

The major source of this month’s answers have been the research done in the Stanford Persuasive Tech Laboratory – run by BJ Fogg, who is a psychologist and innovator.

I stumbled upon a website called the Behaviour Wizard, which asks a series of questions about the desired behaviour change, in order to categorize the behaviour according to their Behavioural Model.

My desired behaviour change was to wake up earlier in the morning. According to the Behaviour Wizard, this is a “Purple Path” behaviour because I would be increasing the intensity of a familiar behaviour for now on. Each type of behaviour has a resource guide that can be purchased.

This is where it gets good: each behaviour change is a delicate balance between Motivation, Ability & Triggers. Rather than try to enhance motivation, you could lower the ability threshold, or increase the number of behaviour triggers and get to the same outcome.

Tiny Habits

Another related experiment I tried was an online mini-course run by BJ Fogg called Tiny Habits. The course coaches in the creating smaller goals and pairing them with triggers. My tiny habits were:

  • After I hear my alarm clock go off in the morning, I will stand up from bed. 
  • After I remove my makeup, I will floss one tooth.
  • After I have sat down to the computer, I will study my to-do list for the day.

I managed to floss my teeth every day of the course – and even though I only required myself to floss one tooth I always did them all. Most days I would stand up from bed when my alarm sounded, and then crawled back in after turning it off. I don’t think the trigger + behaviour is working in this case, and I think I’m going to change the alarm to one telling me when to go to bed.


These are two extra resources that I consulted, and that I often consult with matters of personal development:

  1. StevePavlina.com : A real OG in the world of personal development blogging. He has posts on how to wake up early in the morning, building self-discipline and so many others.
  2. Quora: You can find information on almost any topic or question that you have. This is a great one: How do I get over my bad habit of procrastinating?

What do you think? If you have been experiencing trouble achieving your goals – check these resources out and let me know if they help.


SMA Nominee ButtonThis post is a part of #SocialMediaSolutions, a year-long attempt to use the Internet and social media to solve one problem or challenge per month. I am hoping to earn votes in Vancouver’s Social Media Awards by proving the power of social media to help people.

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Is it reasonable to ask people to never, ever utter another excuse defending their inaction? Is it reasonable to draw raw, emotional dialogue from a crowd of people who have only spent 1 hour together?

Last week’s #UNREASOLUTION event was an engaging and disarming goal-setting workshop that took place in the packed Institute B office. Darrell Kopke, founder and educator at Institute B, took centre stage and then immediately turned the spotlight on his audience.

Like me, most people assumed that they would learn tips and tricks, like writing your goals down in a visible place or telling someone your goal to keep you accountable. Kopke made it clear that you could follow all the tips and tricks, but you’re still going to find an excuse for not doing it.



We were introduced to Institute B’s 6-step process for “Living an Unreasonable Life”. The evening focused on Step One with “Bring Myself to Zero” and questions like “What are my most common excuses?”. It felt weird to write down my excuses because I had been tricking myself for so long in order to not feel like they were excuses. They were legitimate reasons for not doing something. Ok, good for me, I have “reasons” for not achieving my dreams.

But when you hear someone else describe a goal they have, and the “reasons” why they haven’t accomplished it, it becomes crystal clear. Saying that “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have enough money” or “I’m not good enough” are just cover-ups for a bigger problem.

The bigger problem is different for everyone. I walked away from #UNREASOLUTION with a greater understanding of “my bigger problem”, and although I had to give a piece of myself in order to gain that greater understanding, it was well worth it. I half-joke that it was the cheapest group therapy session I have ever had.

The bar has been set higher for events I attend. No more merely sitting and listening to someone talk about their knowledge. I want to be pushed. I want my own knowledge uncovered. A workshop that can teach me technical skills or tactics is good.

But a workshop that can teach me more about myself is life-changing.

Institute B is a high performance incubator and accelerator firm, based in Vancouver, that focuses on for-profit, social impact startups. Follow them on Twitter: @instituteB.


There is so much more to forming a new habit than setting a goal and *hoping* that we will feel motivated every day after that.

Here are some of my tips for setting effective goals and examples of the goals that I made this year.

Tips for Setting Effective Goals

  • Blend seamlessly – set goals that are going to blend into your daily routine. You can tweak goals that you made previously or aim for something higher. For example, after learning the Russian alphabet and some simple phrases, I now want to learn 1500 Russian words this year.
  • Make them actionable – break your goal into the steps that lead to it. If-then planning is very effective to making your goals as actionable as possible. Provide your goals with a time and place for completing them.
  • Remind yourself – put your goals up in places that you look at daily so that you don’t forget about them. I like to keep my list of goals hanging near my computer and I incorporate the goal’s actions into my Daily Routine.

My Goals for 2013


Cleaning Schedule on my fridge

1. Learn Russian – starting with most-frequently used words

  • If AM, then use Memrise website for 10-15 mins
  • If PM, then watch 1 Russian movie or TV show

2. Train Hyde – my 6-month old Yorkie

  • Sign up for puppy training in early January
  • If Sunday, take Hyde to a dog park for at least an hour

3. Keep home clean and organized

  • Put cleaning schedule (Inspiration here) up on fridge and check morning and night


1. Write 2-3 blog posts per week for Internet/Psychology blog

  • If beginning of month, set up blog calendar using Calendar plugin and post drafts
  • If PM, spent at least 30 mins writing blog content

2. Write fiction each week

  • If Sunday, then complete 1 creative writing exercise (see website DIYMFA for inspiration)

3. Enroll in online course for professional development

  • Currently enrolled in Human-Computer Interaction and Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society (Note: goals for each week are going to change according to what needs to be accomplished for each course)

4. Cut down on procrastination

  • If working on computer, then use Pomodoro technique (Pomodoro Chrome plugin)
  • If AM, then limit email and social networking sites to 40 mins.
  • Summarize ‘Procrastination Equation’ book for easy reference


1. Improve volleyball skills and skiing ability

  • If early January, sign up for volleyball skills clinic
  • If new month, make sure to go skiing at least once

2. Run a half-marathon in May

  • Create running schedule (using Running Room calculator) and hang up near computer
  • If noon and I’m at home, go for a run according to the schedule

3. Restrict eating at restaurants

  • If Sunday evening, create menu and grocery list for the week
  • Buy groceries at least 2x per week according to weekly menu
  • Plan restaurant visits in advance

4. Improve yoga + meditation

  • If Monday AM, complete at least 30 min. yoga routine
  • If I can’t fall asleep at night, practice meditation instead


All my goals for the year translate into monthly, weekly or daily goals. I find that this process sets me up for success as much as possible. One thing that I need to get better at is tracking my progress with my goals. I have just started using the Lift iPhone app, which will help to see what goals are being neglected.

I’m sure that my process is not perfect. I would love to hear what kind of goal-setting you do and if you have any tips for motivation.