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Op/Ed

To-do list tips to maximize productivity and lower stress

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.

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To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

Op/Ed

Simplify your feedback loop with this powerful new WordPress tool

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) FeedbackScout is a new data-forward solution for any WordPress enthusiast, consolidating your feedback into meaningful analysis portals.

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FeedbackScout is a new WordPress extension to help your feedback.

Feedback is simultaneously one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of service and one of the most frustrating things to collect—to say nothing of analyzing it. There are innumerable feedback collection tools out there to improve this process, each with their own pros and cons; however, if you use WordPress, a new tool might change the way you implement criticism.

That tool is called FeedbackScout, and its job is simple: To consolidate your feedback in a meaningful, easy-to-analyze format so you can spend less time combing through data and more time implementing it in your next product or build.

The way FeedbackScout works is reminiscent of Trello—something the developers assure you that you won’t need after using their tool. You start by creating a “Feature Request” post on your WordPress site through the FeedbackScout dashboard. Once it’s posted, anyone on your site can comment or use the built-in “Like” button to show their support for the feature.

Once you’ve posted several different feedback requests, you can monitor which ones attain the most input and focus on those—all from within the FeedbackScout dashboard and your WordPress site.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this model is its convenience. Rather than having to leave WordPress to review a spreadsheet, all of the feedback you need is built right into the form you post—and, if you’re using WordPress with the frequency with which one can justify implementing FeedbackScout, chances are high that your product’s users are comfortable enough with your site to leave their input expeditiously.

FeedbackScout also includes a feature called “Roadmap” that consolidates all of your feedback into a board of to-do resources. This feature can be shared with your user base to keep them invested in your progress; after all, if they know you’re working on features they requested, they’ll be more likely to come back frequently—and that’s good for you.

Collecting feedback and helping users feel heard is an exceptionally important process. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of feedback tools available for free these days, and most users are relatively comfortable with at least a handful of them (looking at you, Google Forms). If you use WordPress, though, FeedbackScout is a new and improved way of collecting, analyzing, and reporting progress on the requests you receive—regardless of your industry.

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Op/Ed

Working from home? Watch out for these taxes this year

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Thinking you’ll save money on taxes this year due to working from home? Think again.

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Taxes and paperwork zoomed in on pen and papers.

With what seems like everybody working from home—for what seems like the last decade—you would be well within your rights to question the tax implications for employees this year. While logic would dictate that taxes would skew to the lower side due to fewer commuters overall, several states have different plans for their at-home workers.

Even though you’re probably working from home, the office in which you work still has bills and costs associated with it. That same statement goes for the public transportation system you might use to reach that office, the roads on which you would travel, and other public amenities that support a commuter model and the basic infrastructure on which we depended pre-COVID.

As such, you may need to anticipate some related taxes this year.

Primarily, many states plan to tax workers based on their employment location, not their residential address. For some, this may not make much of a difference (I live less than a mile from my place of work); however, anyone hoping to avoid a city-based tax by working at home in the suburbs is in for a rude awakening.

This isn’t actually a new concept. The process, known as “convenience of the employer”, relies on the understanding that these large, city-based businesses need the support that taxes offer, and anyone responsible for working in those locations is also responsible for maintaining them in that context.

If you think that sounds contrived, buckle up—some states are also looking into a 5% tax for public transportation. Since public transit options aren’t getting the same level of use that they were pre-pandemic, they aren’t receiving the level of TLC needed to maintain them; this carries serious implications for the safety and convenience of those public transportation options once lockdown ends.

As mentioned previously, the roads which public transportation uses and things like lighting, demarcation, and sidewalks also need upkeep—something they aren’t receiving with the same level of funding they did prior to last March. The same can be said of highways and the like.

It’s easy for people making these recommendations to justify them; if you’re still employed and you haven’t had to take a pay cut at all, your expenses have probably decreased. However, this is clearly a time in which people need to save every penny possible—something for which these tax proposals clearly don’t account.

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Op/Ed

5 fun and easy ideas for a remote holiday office party

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As with many things in 2020, the holiday office party is going to look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

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Remote holiday office party at home around laptop with festive decorations.

In many companies, the holiday office party is something to look forward to. But as with most things in 2020, holiday office parties are changing. And if you want to continue the tradition, you may have to pivot and go virtual!

Try these remote holiday party tips:

At first glance, a virtual holiday party sounds pretty suspect. But it’s 2020, so what else do you expect? And the truth is that a virtual holiday party can actually be a lot of fun when everyone has the right mindset. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Plan ahead

We all know how busy the holiday season can get. And even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s amazing how many events and gatherings there are. You’ll also find a lot of families making new traditions. All of that to say: You need to plan ahead.

The sooner you get your holiday office party on the calendar, the more likely it is that people will show up. And the good thing about doing a virtual event is that you can be flexible with your dates. Want to host it on a random Wednesday night? Go for it!

2. Create a detailed agenda

Why do you need an agenda for a Zoom holiday party, you might be wondering? Because things can get pretty awkward if you don’t.

While it’s possible that your team is close enough to spend an hour or two politely chatting while sipping on eggnog, an unstructured free-for-all event can get messy. People will talk over each other, there will be awkward silences, and you’ll start losing people as the event stretches on.

A detailed agenda sets the expectations for the event and creates a sense of “flow.” It helps people know what to expect and gives you clear next steps when things feel like they’re boring or stale.

When creating your agenda, leave room for things like “happy hour” and other casual buffers of time. Too much formal structure will make this feel like a meeting and not a party. But not enough structure leaves people confused. Do your best with this balancing act.

3. Get everyone involved

The best way to get people excited about the holiday party (and to increase attendance) is to involve as many people as possible.

Consider giving different people responsibilities for the event. One person might be in charge of music, another in charge of games, and another in charge of making sure the technology works. When people have a stake in the event, they’re less likely to tune out.

4. Plan games and activities

There are a lot of unique ways to get groups of people involved on a Zoom party. Games and activities are especially fun. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • If you’ve ever played the game “Werewolf,” you know how much fun it can be. It’s a social game that involves everyone and creates a sense of mystery, suspense, and fun. And with a little planning, you can play Werewolf over Zoom! (If your team is open to online gaming, the game Among Us plays very similarly for free on mobile or $5 on Steam!)
  • Sign up for a virtual cookie decorating class and have your team decorate cookies via Zoom. (You might even consider sending each individual a care package with all of the ingredients they need ahead of time.)

You know your team best, so choose something that will fit their interests and personalities!

5. Build anticipation and excitement

You never want your holiday office party to be something your team sees as an event they “have to” attend. You want it to be one of the highlights of the year. But in a year like 2020 where you’re relegated to virtual gatherings, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

One of the keys is to begin building anticipation and excitement early on. Talk about the party frequently and often. Make it a priority rather than something that you’re doing just to go through the motions.

Celebrate the Holidays in (Unique) Style

What better way to cap off what has been a strange and unique year than by having a virtual holiday celebration where you can all relax in the comfort and safety of your own homes? The key to making this work is to plan ahead, have fun, and laugh at the weirdness of it all. This isn’t going to be a black-tie event. Relax and roll with the glitches. If you do it right, this will be something you look back on in the years to come with great fondness.

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