A Case for Using Facebook – Finding Cool Events

When I was little, my favorite phrase must have been “I’m bored.” I used it all the time. Now I can’t even remember the last time I was bored. I always seem to have something to do, but more often than not that something to do is pretty routine. Maybe I’m not bored, but doing the same things over and over can get pretty darn monotonous so finding new and interesting things to do is important.

Now I can’t take credit for this tip entirely. It actually came from Kendra Wright in episode 83 of the Productivity Show Podcast, where she shared her Facebook “hack”. The one reason I haven’t abandoned Facebook entirely is events, and it turns out, if you take some time up front, the events feed in Facebook can be an incredibly powerful tool for finding cool things to do. Thankfully, this tip actually requires very little interaction with Facebook after the initial set up. (Another bonus given that I’m trying to reduce my time on Facebook.)

So first things first, go to your Likes page and unlike anything you don’t actually like. If you’re like me, you’ll find quite a few things you don’t even remember liking (e.g. that group about how Nickelodeon shows of the 90s were awesome), and quite a few more that you only liked because you had to (e.g. giveaway entries). Whether this actually helps in this tip is debatable, but you’ll need to be in your likes section for the next step, so you might as well clear it out while you’re there.

2016-03-31 screenshot

Go through your Likes page and subscribe to the events for your favorite places, bands, and brands. Not all of my likes had this option, but most did. Now any time your favorite restaurant, band or whatever, has an event nearby it’ll show up in your events feed along with a few other suggestions based on some Facebook algorithm. Chances are going through this process will remind you of a few other places you might want to follow too. If you’re interested in their events, follow them too. (Remember, you’re not actually committing to all these events. You’re just making a list of potential things to do.)

With your events feed pulling in a ton of cool things to do, you’re almost done with the Facebook part. The last step is to grab your events calendar feed from the Events page. It’s on the right hand side towards the bottom and looks like this:

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I use Google Calendar as the backend for all my calendaring needs, so I subscribed to it there, but you can use whatever calendaring app you want. Most should support it. Along with the Facebook Events Calendar, I also subscribed to calendars for my favorite sports teams. Just add them by clicking Browse Interesting Calendars. For added ambiance, I set the color of the calendar to match the team colors. (Note: these are read-only calendars. Information only syncs one way – to you. You cannot change events on these calendars.)

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Now if you use Google Calendar, you likely already know that calendars can be toggled on or off. Kendra’s workflow consists of toggling the Facebook calendar on to check for possible things to do when she does her weekly planning. When she find’s something, she copies the event to her own calendar. If you only use Google Calendar, you’re done here.

I manage my calendars through Fantastical, which lets you make “calendar sets,” to quickly toggle multiple calendars on or off. It’s the calendar sets that makes this tip even better for me. I set up a “Sports & Events” set that toggles off all calendars except for sports, birthdays, and Facebook events all at once.

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Like Kendra, if I’m planning or just trying to find something interesting to do, I just switch to the Sports & Events set. If something catches my eye, I can right click the event and select the “Duplicate” option to automatically add that event to my own calendar, bringing over any event info with it. Admittedly, my favorite part of this workflow is that one of my last remaining reasons to visit Facebook, finding events, is gone.

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March 2014 Favorites

Monthly Faves March

Happy Friday lovelies!

It’s been a while since I did a monthly favorites post, but I’m back today with a bit of a nerdy, tech-centered list of faves.

First up, we have the UP24 band by Jawbone ($149.99). For those of you who didn’t know, the Fitbit Force was recalled due to a nasty rash that it was causing people. Despite using it for months with no issue, I was one of the unlucky people who eventually got the rash and I was forced to stop using it. I was offered a refund or my choice of other Fitbit trackers, but I didn’t necessarily want to downgrade back to the Flex. In the end I opted to go with the Up 24 band which has a lot of fun features like idle notifications and insightful tips that I’ve been enjoying.

Next up, is a terribly addicting game available for iOS and Android, Threes ($1.99). I downloaded it on a whim because it was popular. 12 hours later… I was still playing it… I’m not sure what it is about stacking cards to make combinations of 3s, 6s, 12s, etc. that is so addicting, but I’m sold. It’s a great way to pass the time, but given my 12 hour stretch, I’m always mindful of the time, because clearly I lose track quickly with this game.

My third favorite is BusyCal ($49.99). I have to admit this one is a bit unexpected. For years, I’ve had a Fluid app running Google Calendar on my Mac. I know I could have used iCal, and that would have been my preference, but I make changes to events frequently (e.g. when a student is late for a shift), and I hated that iCal didn’t allow me to make changes without sending an email to anyone attending. It does way more than just that though, so if you’re looking for a good calendar app for OS X, check it out. BusyCal has solved so many of my calendar issues, and I’m kicking myself for not giving it a fair chance sooner.

Here’s where it starts to get nerdy. My fourth favorite for the month has been Keyboard Maestro ($36). I’m a firm believer in the idea that computers should make your life easier. If I find myself doing something on my computer more than once, you can bet I’m going to start looking for a way to have my computer do it. Keyboard Maestro is one tool I’ve added to my toolkit to save me time. I’m still playing with it on a regular basis to tweak and add things, but for now some of my favorite “macros” are the ones that get my computer set up for my day at work and close programs before I leave for the day. My latest addition has been a macro that draws a red circle around my mouse when I hit a certain hotkey because having a 27″ display and my 15″ display on my MacBook Pro equals plenty of room to lose my mouse. {First-world problems…}

And last but not least, we have TextExpander ($34.95) and its iOS counterpart, TextExpander Touch ($4.99). Seriously, why did I not buy these sooner. Working in tech support, I’m constantly typing the same thing over and over. Our support knowledgebase has reduced that significantly because I can now just send customers links to our articles, but there are still things I type constantly, for instance, the links to those articles. I also use it to generate emails I regularly send to people. Another use I’ve found is remembering required information. When we hire an employee, I have a snippet that inserts the list of required information I need to submit to our payroll preparer which saves me having to find the email that has the information in it. One of my most used snippets is my gratitude snippet which gets filled in and logged each night before bed. I briefly described how I use it here.

Signature Update

 

An Updated Look at Digital Planning

Today, I thought I’d share an update about how my planning system has evolved. To my surprise it’s working out great, and yes, I’m still all digital. I’ve made some tweaks and changes here and there, but the main set up of my system has stayed fairly consistent.

  1. Calendar – Google Calendar
  2. Task List – Omnifocus
  3. Daily Habits – Habit List
  4. Information – Evernote, Box, Google Drive

My calendar set up hasn’t really changed much since my last post. I’m still using my many Google calendars, but I’ve gotten rid of some and added some new ones. As of now this is my list:

  • Personal
  • Finance
  • School
  • Work
  • Home (a calendar shared with my mom so that I know when she will be home)
  • Student Employee Schedule

The next part of my system is my task list. I wrote a few posts about how I used Things. For now, Things is no longer part of my system, and I’ve moved over to Omnifocus. I’ve had to sacrifice Things’ pretty UI, but Omnifocus has made up for it with features like due dates with TIMES and perspectives. I’ll save the full Omnifocus write up for another day, but for now, let’s just say, perspectives are life changing.

I keep my habits separate from Omnifocus. There are some things like going to work, working out when I wake up, or flossing where seeing the chain of consecutive days I’ve done the task serves as major motivation {Thank you Jerry Seinfeld}. For tasks like these, I’m using Habit List which seems to offer the best mix of customization and looks that I’ve seen.

All my information (files, reference materials, etc.) are stored in 1 of 3 places. Evernote is my place for general notes (e.g. reading notes, project ideas, random recipes, and other miscellaneous information I want to refer back to.) My university Box account holds all of my school and work files. Google Drive holds the rest of my files that aren’t work or school related. All of these sync to my computer and mobile devices so everything is with me at all times.

Bonus (Journaling and Health/Fitness Tracking):

I’ve been trying to do better at recording things that happen in my life. For those I use a few apps.

Momento serves as my “journal”. It pulls my various social media feeds in automatically, and I try to log 3 things I’m grateful for each night before bed here as well. I’ve found that it’s a nice way to wrap up the night in a positive way, and scrolling back through the days to see the little things that made me happy is also pretty cool.

I track my health using a combination of apps. With the Fitbit Force being recalled, I’ve switched to the Jawbone Up 24 as my primary fitness band. The UP app is pretty awesome, and it records my steps, sleep, and a plethora of other things. I still use my Fitbit Aria scale so I do still use Fitbit, but the scale syncs to MyFitnessPal which syncs with the Up band. I also use MyFitnessPal which seems to offer more options for logging workouts and food. Together these apps work great together. Just this past week, I had been waking up in the middle of the night, and without these apps, I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed that I was waking up at exactly the same time each night presumably due to something happening in my room at that time.

So I hope you’ve found this little overview of how I stay semi-organized. Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to hear more about anything.

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A Month Without a Paper Planner

Hello everyone! Happy Monday!

It’s been about a month since I decided to move from a paper planner to a cloud based system, so I thought I’d give a little update about how it’s working.

It surprisingly wasn’t as easy as I had thought. As much as I hate to admit it, I think I actually went through a bit of paper planner withdrawal which is a bit scary to be honest. There were definitely days where I wanted to have a planner with me {for what reason, I don’t know. I didn’t have anything to write in it, and I wasn’t going to use it. I just wanted to have nearby.} There were also days {or weeks…} where I scanned Flickr, Pinterest, and Youtube for planners, and Philofaxy’s Webfinds are still a staple in my blog reading. I’ve just kept reminding myself that it’s all in my head.

I guess the most shocking thing, after I got the whole withdrawal thing out of the way, is that it actually worked! I did have to tweak Things a bit, but I’ve probably gotten more done this past month than I have in a while. I think a big part of the issue was that before I got rid of the paper planner, I had things scattered everywhere. Some tasks were in Things and others were in my planner, so I was never really using one system fully. Now everything is in Things and Google Calendar. I only have one place to check, and I only have it put it there once.

I’m not sure what the future has in store for my planning situation. Clearly going all digital works for me right now, but I still have some weird attachment to paper planners even if I don’t seem to use them.

Should I decide to go back to paper planners, my next experiment will likely be a Filofax Flex sort of set up with a monthly notebook and either a weekly or daily book that I’d use to implement my Bullet Journal + Life Mapping combo. Size and colors and books are all still up in the air.

Thankfully, for now, I have a system that works. I’ll be sticking with it at least until the end of the year {mainly for my wallet’s sake}.

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Paper vs. Digital Planners

It’s no secret that I love planners. It only takes a quick glimpse at the blogs I read, the pictures I’ve favorited on Flickr, or even this blog to notice.  It’s also no secret that I love technology. I work for an IT department, and have even been referred to as iAndrea for having so many Apple products. {I’m not even joking.}

In high school, I practically lived out of my monthly/weekly planners the school provided. Ever since then though, I’ve been buying planner after planner hoping one would magically solve all my planning needs. Clearly I haven’t come across one yet, because I’m still struggling in the paper planner world, but if I do find one, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.

Before I continue, I want to clear up one thing. I write about planners a lot, and I have a LOT of calendars and a LOT in my calendars for that matter. I have had some people in my life claim they need to book an appointment with me just to hang out after hearing about it. {Think 27 Dresses, where the guy penciled himself in throughout her Filofax.} That’s not me. My Filofax/planner/whatever does NOT rule my life. In fact, I’d say 90% of what I write down with the exception of work related meetings doesn’t even get done. I just like to {pretend to} have a plan about where I’m supposed to be or supposed to be doing. It’s my way of dealing with anxiety, and I also like going back seeing what I’ve done or written down. It is by no means some minute-by-minute guide for my life.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way, I’ve been carrying my Filofax with me everywhere for months even though I rarely even use it anymore. Don’t get me wrong. It makes me feel incredibly fancy when I grab my Osterley out of my bag, and it makes me look crazy organized even though nothing’s written in it, but looking pretty isn’t what an organizer is actually for. Lately, I’ve actually started thinking that maybe I’m not in planner fail at all. {Crazy idea right?!} Maybe I just don’t have a use for a paper planner anymore. Maybe I’m just trying to use it because I’m used to carrying it around. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. I mean, before I got to college, phones weren’t allowed in school, and laptops were almost taboo until senior year. Tablets weren’t even a thing yet. I HAD to use a paper planner. Ever since then, there’s been nothing stopping me from using my phone/iPad/laptop instead.

With that in mind, I started to think about what I gravitate towards when I do need a planner.

  • When I’m at work and have to schedule a meeting with someone, I open up Google Calendar on my computer.
  • When someone wants to schedule a meeting with me, they do it through Google Calendar, and I get an email invitation.
  • When a friend asks me to meet for dinner, I add it to Google Calendar from my phone.
  • All of my recurring tasks are in Things.
  • Anything I think of spur of the moment usually gets put into the inbox in Things.
  • Outside of that, my other to-dos are either in my email or in Pocket/Readkit.
  • And meeting agendas are in Google Drive.

Nothing is on paper. Everything is digital, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t check my Filofax. My Filofax ends up being just another place I have to write things down, and being the efficient person I like to be, why waste time doing that if I’m not getting anything out of it. Even the other things people track like health, books to read, or wishlists are online for me using my Fitbit, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

So here’s what I came up with about why I prefer using a digital calendar instead of a paper planner.

  • One device is all you need. At the very least, I have my iPhone with me, and that’s all I need. My events aren’t in a planner while my contacts are in another.
  • I can color code without toting around multi-color pens and highlighters.
  • I don’t need to rewrite things. Whether I check it at home, at work, on my phone, iPad, or computer, it’s the same everywhere.
  • I can switch between daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly views whenever I want without adding any bulk, having to rewrite things, or spending any money on inserts.
  • When plans change or I make a mistake, I don’t need to worry about whether I wrote it in erasable pen or how I can cover up the wrong information if I didn’t. I just have to edit the event. For a perfectionist, this is a huge win for me.
  • When I need to schedule an event well in the future, I never have to worry about where to write it down until I get next year’s inserts.
  • If I want to remember when something happened, I can search for it immediately rather than worrying about whether I removed inserts and if so where to look for them when I get home.
  • On a similar note, there’s no need to worry about where or how to store inserts or planners that you aren’t using. {I usually end up putting them in an old empty Birchbox and then losing the box in the pile of other boxes I did the same thing for the months before that.}
  • I don’t have to keep writing recurring events. When 90% of your life is routine, recurring events, it’s nice to not have to waste time rewriting them every day/week/month. It also keeps me on a regular schedule for appointments with doctors or when I need to get my hair done. {I will forget and it’ll be years before I go otherwise.}
  • Google calendar reminds me of events I might forget. If I have a meeting after lunch, you can bet I’ll forget about it if I don’t have a reminder, even if I wrote it down in my planner that morning and saw it on my calendar about 20 times. With Google Calendar, I get a reminder 15 minutes before my event which is enough time for me to get nearly anywhere on campus in time for the meeting.
  • It allows other people to tell me when they are available or unavailable. My coworkers share when they are leaving early or when they’ll be out. Similarly, my mom shows me when she’ll be away, and I need to watch her dogs. Simple.
  • I can choose which calendars I want to see. Some days I want to see when the Ravens are playing more than my Workout calendar. Some days I may want to check the dates on my university’s academic calendar, and other days I may want to see how my appointments line up with my daily routine. With Google calendar, I can choose to look at one calendar, a few of them, or all of them. I don’t always need or want to see everything, but it’s there if I ever need it. You can’t say that with a Filofax. It’s either there or it isn’t.

I’m sure some of you planner people are cringing at the idea digital could be better than paper, but for me it works. One of the most common things people mention in the digital vs. paper debate is battery life, but for someone who carries a battery pack and a car charger nearly everywhere, I’ve only once or twice been in a dead phone situation, but that was my own fault for not bringing the battery. Even so, I’m never going in a situation when my phone is dying {usually around 10pm} and I have somewhere to go to on foot. Moreover, phone numbers aren’t an issue for me either, because I rarely use the phone, and for those people I do call, I have memorized their numbers.

So for now, I’m actually thinking of leaving my Filofax home, and the thought of it makes me uncomfortable. Even though I’m not using it, I’ve carried a planner for so many years {since I was in elementary school really}, not having one to carry makes me feel like I’m forgetting something.

However, the point that proved I don’t need to be carrying it was that my first concerns were where would I keep my pen and store reward cards – two things I wasn’t carrying it around for. The pen is now going to live in the pen loop of my purse organizer, and I am relocating my cards back into my Vera Bradley wristlet. Problem solved.

I don’t plan on abandoning the planner world. I still very much enjoy reading about and seeing everyone’s lovely planners, but right now, it’s just not for me.

Signature Update

{Filofax Friday} Confessions of a Planner-holic

I’ve jinxed myself. I’ve tried really hard to not admit it, but it’s true. In March, I wrote How I Got Out of Planner Fail, and almost immediately I started struggling with using my Filofax. I really regretted writing the post after that. {I should really be reading that post though because I am totally not sticking with it like I said to.} I switched up the weekly pages from the Week per Page with Notes to the cotton cream Week on Two Pages layout which worked better, but I don’t think it solved the underlying problem which is that I haven’t been using my daily pages.

Week 9 Filofax

Week-17

I think I haven’t been using them for a few reasons. I almost always have Google Calendar open to the weekly view at work. I’ve grown to like seeing the days events displayed chronologically rather than as a list so that I can see the breaks and such. Now I know I can do this on my daily pages as they are, but then I’m forcing my to-dos into one column which just doesn’t work because of my writing. I could schedule to-dos into the time slots, but I’d feel too restricted. I could give up writing the tasks over and over again into my planner and just keep them in Things like I’ve been doing for the past month, but April was utter chaos for me, so that’s not happening.

In an effort to really stick to my 1 Planner for 2013 rule, I finally got washi tape to try and keep my motivated to use my Filofax. I spent nearly $100 dollars between two or three shops on Etsy (with/free shipping). Will it make my Filofax prettier? You bet. Will it actually work to keep me using the Filofax? I have no idea. In any event, my weekly posts will be more colorful at least.

Something interesting is in store for next month though, and I’m impatiently waiting to share it, but that’s for a later post. 🙂

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{Filofax Friday} Using a Filofax in a Digital World

I work for my university’s Information Technology department. I’m constantly surrounded by all things digital. As I write this, I have my 27″ Apple display, a Macbook Pro with Retina Display, an iPhone 5, and an iPad all within arms reach on my desk. Sitting next to them all is my Filofax though. So how does someone in IT use both?

I’ve already given you a tour of my Filofax. Part one’s overview showed how everything’s arranged. Part two’s diary section showed how I keep track of meetings and due dates, and Part three showed how I use my daily pages. But… there was one thing missing – the backbone and brain of my system – how I keep everything scheduled, and how I remember to do things. I’d be lying if I said that I was super organized and my Filofax did it all. {I wish.} My Osterley does keep my life running smoothly, but it supplements my digital systems. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to use just a Filofax or just digital things. {This post is a little text heavy. Sorry.}

The Backbone – Google Calendar

My university has a contract with Google through Google Apps for Education, so I use Google quite a bit for work, but I even use it outside of work, because this system just works for me. I have calendars set up in Google Calendar for categories similar to the ones in my Filofax:

  • Social (pink)
  • Finance (green)
  • Personal (blue)
  • School (purple)
  • Work (orange)

I also have a few extras that either don’t need to be tracked in my Filofax, or  if they do, they get color coded as one of the areas above in my Filofax:

  • Student Employee Schedule (I make the schedule each semester for our student employees and this shows up on their calendar as well.)
  • Holidays (both my university’s schedule, and general US holidays)
  • Sports team schedules (Ravens, Orioles, Capitals)

The Google Apps suite is essential to the daily workflow of my department. We are all spread across campus so Google Calendar allows us to see everyone’s schedules and set up meetings. We use Google Drive to store the meeeting agendas that get attached to the meeting entry on the calendar, and send out meeting invitations using Gmail. Since Google is such an integral part of how we work here, it’s a good thing that this system works for me.

Each week, usually on a Sunday, I sit down and copy any new events to the monthly and weekly pages in my Filofax.  The calendars automatically sync to my iPhone and iPad. Depending on where I am, I pick and choose which way to view my calendar. If I’m out walking to a meeting across campus, it’s easier {and less attention-drawing} to pull out my phone and figure out where the meeting is than it would be to pull out my Filofax. When I get to that meeting, I probably have my iPad in front of me so that I can follow along with the meeting agenda online, but my phone’s in my pocket. In my office or at home though, I probably have my Filofax sitting close by. Either way, they all have the same information so I’m not missing out on anything no matter what option I choose.

The Tasks

When it comes to recurring tasks, I’d be lost without the Things app. I have it on my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad so everything syncs. I’ll admit I hated the apps when I first used them. Little by little, I found ways to use it, and now that it’s set up properly, it’s fantastic.I use Things as my master list. I know some people like to write down a master list, but I don’t like how cluttered that can get. Pretty much anything I have to do goes into Things first, and then gets transferred to my Filofax each day. If I think of something I need to do, I can put it into Things and set a due date or when to follow back up on it. Every morning, I get a list of “things” that I need to do for that day from Things, and I write them into my daily pages because I like physically checking things off. Once they are done, I get to check them off in both Things which saves them to a logbook, and in my Filofax which looks pretty.

things copy

I have the following areas set up in Things:

  • Blog – Any posts that I post every week {My Filofax Weeks, Filofax Fridays, Sunday Socials} and anything I post monthly like goals are scheduled here. I also keep a running list of post ideas. When I’m looking for something to post, I can look at the list to schedule one of the ideas.
  • Work – I copy over any items from meeting agendas into this list right after the meeting. I also have recurring things like when to submit my timesheet or when it’s my week to complete a weekly review.
  • Personal – I’m a forgetful person, so here I note when I need to repaint my nails, whiten my teeth, change my toothbrush, refill prescriptions, etc.
  • Cleaning – I hate cleaning. Without a schedule, I don’t clean. I’ve tried Flylady, but it was so detailed it drove me crazy. I ended up setting up a less detailed cleaning schedule in this particular section and it helps to keep me on track. Everything is set to repeat “on completion” rather than a specific day, so if I don’t feel like doing something, it rolls to the next day.
  • Pets – Having three cats is a full time job in itself, but mine are spoiled so they get their own category to remind me to cut their nails, brush them, etc. {Random fact: they are toilet trained, *weird… I know* so at least I don’t have to worry about a litter box.}
  • Media (more about this further down)
  • Shopping – I keep a running shopping list and wishlist here so that I can check things off while I’m at the store.

As you can see, some areas mirror whats in my Filofax. Others are broken down a bit more. For instance, in my Filofax, cleaning and pets fall under Personal and are color coded in blue. I don’t know why I do it this way, I just like breaking it down more in Things. Also, since my school assignments aren’t recurring events, I typically don’t put them into Things, because I’ve found it’s a waste of time.

So if any of you are still with me, congratulations. You’re almost to the end.

I have a Media list in Things but it isn’t for recurring events or tasks. I subscribe to Netflix for streaming and BluRay discs. We also have DirecTV at our house, and I happen to have a DVR. Each week, I look to see if anything in my Netflix queue might be coming on TV any time soon. If they are, I set my DVR to record them and remove them from Netflix, that way I can make better use of my subscription. I put an entry into Things with the title and time of day and set the due date as the day it’s coming on. I also remove them from the queue if they are going to be available via streaming soon. On the day it’s set to record or be available to stream, it comes up as a task (which I don’t put in my Filofax). If it doesn’t record due to conflicts or some other issue, I know to add it back to my queue on Netflix.

So that’s the last part of my system that keeps me organized. I like using them both for their own reasons, but a huge benefit is that information is always backed up in two places (online and on paper). I hope you enjoyed reading. Tune back in next week for some Filofax enabling.

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