Never More Than One

NoMoreThanOneTask_SimplyPutStrategiesWe all feel overwhelmed sometimes. We are responsible for many things, we have steps to take towards goals, we have homes and jobs and people we care for. When I feel stressed by my To Do list, or my mind spins into panic about what I need to do RIGHT NOW, I remember this quote by Byron Katie:

“There’s never a task too great or too small, because the only task to accomplish is the one in front of me. It might appear that there are a thousand things to do, but in fact there is never more than one.”

We can only complete one task at a time. There is never more than that one thing to do, the thing right in front of us, whether it’s to put on pajamas, proof a pitch, submit an application, or give a hug.

There’s never more than one thing to do.

(photo by Eva Jannotta)

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Minimize: Instead of “One & Done” Think Change Over Time

Minimize_ChangeOverTime_SimplyPutStrategiesI first heard of minimalism on November 5, 2011. I was in school then and that winter break, I went through everything I had in my parents’ house and purged, purged, purged.

It felt great, and I seldom missed anything I gave or threw away. Still, I kept most of my things. I did not join the 100 club, or even dramatically change the way my space looked. Most of the stuff I let go was stored under my bed, in my closet, or in the basement, out of sight and out of mind. When I let it go I felt better – buoyant and relieved and accomplished. But things didn’t look very different.

When I learned about minimalism and took a critical look at what I had, I thought I would minimize and organize once and be done. I’d get rid of things, feel great, and never need to do it again. But after that initial purge, it didn’t feel done. I still had more stuff than anyone needs.

Of course, need is subjective. We all have more than we “need,” and that’s beside the point. Do we like what we have? How does it make us feel? People like things – they remind us of people and places, or we like how they look, or how they make us feel when we use or wear them. Yet my things often make me feel crowded.

For many of us, there will be an ongoing tension between too much and too little, between keeping what we like and creating homes that are spacious and uncluttered. It’s not a one-and-done process. Rather, minimizing and organizing take multiple passes. It’s change over time. Items you can’t bear to part with now may be easy to donate in six months. Your mind needs time to get used to the idea of letting go, especially if they are things you feel emotionally or intellectually attached to – my grandma gave me this, I should read that book, those earrings are pretty.

Some people go through their things at the same time every year, as part of spring cleaning or similar. Others go through sections of things every few months. Whatever you prefer, try the following next time you tackle your stuff:

Establish criteria: create guidelines for yourself as you minimize and organize your things, such as only keep four black shirts, no more books than fit on this shelf, no doubles, no more photos than fit in this album. 

Put it away for a time: if you’re unsure whether to keep something, put it away for six months and see if you notice its absence. Mark your calendar with an end-date for the experiment – if you haven’t thought of it since January, it’s time to let it go.

Take pictures: even if you haven’t thought of something in a while, a rush of feelings and memories may return when you see it again. If you feel attached but know it’s time to move on, take a picture of the item so you can access those feelings and memories any time.

What are your minimizing or organizing challenges? Are you content with what you have, or do you feel crowded?

(photo by Eva Jannotta. Going through things in my room for the nth time)


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The Right Words Are Worth A Thousand….

IMG_1178There are many personal and professional situations when we’re not sure what to say. Power dynamics, compassion, fear, discomfort, respect, time, and much more play a part in the words we choose. Like everything, practice makes better. We will all have times when it will be hard to know what to say. Here are several phrases and responses to keep in your back pocket for such situations:

“It won’t be possible.” This one I learned from Jen Dziura, and have used effectively. It’s hard to argue with it won’t be possible (what can you say? Make it possible?), and it makes you sound in control of the situation. After all, you know what is and isn’t possible. You know the facts.

“Do you mind if I finish?” Interruptions! Some people are so good at them. Respond to interruptions by (politely) asking if you may finish your thought/sentence. Often people don’t realize they interrupt, and once it’s pointed out are quick to remember that interrupting is rude, and to give you back the floor. What’s their alternative? Yes, I do mind. What I have to say is more important. They may think that but they probably won’t say it, especially if there’s an audience.

“Did you say…?” a friend’s colleague gave her this advice: if you’re in a situation and you’re not sure what to say, repeat the other person’s statement. It buys you time and, if the other person’s statement was absurd, exposes the absurdity to their own ears. Say someone backs into your car (I hope not). If the other person gets out and tries to blame you for the accident, don’t apologize! (This actually happened to someone I know.) Instead, try “did you say this was my fault?” You know, semi-politely.

“What?” Another recommendation from the same colleague-of-a-friend. This is another time-buying device. More politely, “what was that?” or “can you repeat that?”

“What is the next step?” This neatly places the ball out of your court. If someone is asking you for something, say your piece and end with “what’s the next step?” Sometimes people will try (consciously or subconsciously) to get you to do all the work. This simple question turns that around (another one from Jen).

“Good fit.” This is a good phrase when asking for things. Say you’re negotiating, and you have requests. After stating them, leave the conversation on terms of a good fit. Given these requests, please let me know if this position is a good fit. We all want situations that are mutually beneficial. “Good fit” is an easy way to communicate that.

“Uncivil.” This is a great word. It’s unusual, a old-fashioned (I’ve only come across it in Jane Austen novels), and snappy. Because of these characteristics, it gets peoples’ attention. Use it when situations (or people!) are uncivil.

“That’s not an bullish-blog-networkappropriate way to talk to a woman.” This one is also from Jen, and it’s for street harassment. I’ve tried it once, and it didn’t work too well (the guys kept talking to me. I think my delivery was more disgusted than morally superior/disappointed. Is it stupid that I need to practice my tone for responding to street harassers? Yes. Such is life). But it gave me something to say, and I will keep practicing.

What are your favorite words or phrases? (Buzzfeed collected some great ones such as limerence, vellichor, and syzygy!)

This post is part of The Bullish Blog Network.

(photo by Eva Jannotta)


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Travel: People, Places, Ancient History

Back in the muggy swamp that is Washington, DC, it’s been six days since I was in Italy. The trip was incredible: it exceeded all my expectations.


I love traveling to other countries. Most of them have physical evidence of ancient history all over, in a way the United States does not. This was a huge treat in Italy. Roman and Greek ruins are casually everywhere –  aqueducts besides train tracks and temples in the middle of bustling cities.

Still, the most meaningful part of our trip was the people.

Liz and I planned this trip as kids, promising each other we would travel to Italy together and see the village where our great-grandfather grew up. We had no expectations of finding family there. Not only would they be distant cousins, but what were the odds that any would still live there, and that we would be able to find them?

Our Airbnb host was undeterred. She took us to the town municipio where we saw our great-grandparents’ marriage record! We learned that we do indeed have family still living in town. So we visited them! They were generous, warm, and very Italian. They talked loudly over one another, urged us to “mangia,” and used dramatic hand gestures. They had photos of our great-grandparents, our great-great-grandparents, even letters my great-grandfather wrote to his sister in Italy. I teared up when I saw them. It made our family history so real.


We also saw the house where he grew up. It’s empty now. It sits precariously on the hill that makes up the historic town, surrounded by cobblestone and winding staircases. Walk a few streets over and there’s a beautiful view of the mountains and valleys of southern Italy.

friends_Italy_SimplyPutStrategiesWe also made friends in another place we visited. After getting lost on our walk to the next town and ending up somewhere different, we landed, hungry and worn out, in a spagheterria for lunch. Two men entered the restaurant shortly after, and helped translate what the waiter was trying to offer us (frittelle, basically Italian hush puppies). They ended up offering to show us around town, which made our visit much more exciting and enjoyable. They were friendly and generous with their time. Thanks to their car, we were able to see parts of the town we would have otherwise missed. They introduced us to their friends and the local nightlife. They even took us to their beach house! Thanks to them, we felt right at home.

Italy is a spectacular place to visit – there is much to see and taste. Yet making the personal connections we did reminded me how important relationships are. They bring unique meaning to experiences, no matter how long (or short) the relationships last.

One of my professors once said,

“The beautiful thing about being somewhere for a while is how it gets into your skin. It makes it hard to leave, even if you know it’s not quite “home.” But it’s a part of you now and you will more than likely go back. And it’s also always good to come home, even if that makes you sad to leave at the same time.”

I feel energized and grateful and curious in new ways, and it is nice to be home. Yet every time I travel I feel like I leave a little part of myself behind. There’s some grief (in addition to gladness) that I’m home again. We’re already talking about going back. Fingers crossed for summer 2016!

(photos taken by Eva Jannotta)

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Live on < $20k: May


Spending in May was higher than April, because of booking Airbnb hosts for my June trip to Italy. Another oddity was that due to poor planning, I ended up spending a $35.18 on two taxi rides!

CategoryThis Month: MayLast Month: April
Year to Date
Coffee Shops$15.44$0$40.99
Public Transit$28.46
Personal Care$180$80$290.89
Home stuff$0$8.47$33.47
Miscellaneous0$$10.43 (shipping)$34.03
% of $20k6.9%5.7%27.9%

Remainder to spend: $14,400.6 of $20k

I bought a shirt and two new pairs of pants. I made a few donations. I saw The Avengers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Progress is good. The year is over a third through, and I haven’t spent a third of $20k. I am hopeful that this means I won’t exceed $20k for the year, despite two possible big purchases coming up (a car and new computer). How was your May?

Want more? Check out Live on Less Than $20k and recaps for JanuaryFebruary, March, and April

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Eyes on the Prize (Money & Time)

eyesontheprize_SimplyPutStrategiesA friend once confided in me that she was broke. She’d been working longer than I and made more. She lived by herself in a one-bedroom apartment. She drove a nice car which took premium gas. One day she showed me the vintage coat she found for $150 at a thrift store. When she hurt her ankle, the doctor’s copay made her late on her cable bill.

“I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle,” she insisted. “I have the car, but I only go out to brunch on occasion and I don’t buy a ton of stuff.”

I made sympathetic noises while being quietly horrified. Cable? Living alone? A vintage coat!?

The situation doesn’t sound extravagant to me. It sounds like an emergency. Though my friend’s lifestyle is tame compared to some, a medical copay makes her late on monthly expenses. Here’s her margin: nothing.

Instead of living on no margin, let’s talk about paying it forward:

You’re borrowing from your future self.

“Maximizing your Luxury and Convenience right now may feel like a reward to your present self, but the belly full of expensive food will be converted to a turd on the conveyor belt by the time your future self retrieves the results. You leave your future self poorer, fatter, and with fewer skills. You may create a pleasant memory or two, but memories of hedonism are less satisfying than those of hard work.

In fact, if you’ve ever blown a dollar on frivolous spending, and years later find yourself a dollar short due to the arrival of hard times, it’s not the hard times that broke you. It was that dollar blown long ago. Because a dollar is not an ephemeral phenomenon like today’s weather, it is a permanent accessory that sticks with you for life if you allow it to do so.

All this may sound harsh, it’s really just an expansion of one of my favorite concepts in personal finance: the idea of a present, past and future self.” – Mr Money Mustache

If it isn’t extremely productive or pleasurable, stop.

“A lot of career-related writing targeted towards women emphasizes work-life “balance.” So you should really take some time out and nurture yourself, right?

Actually, I’d keep that to a minimum right now. “Balance” is not for the young and sprightly — instead, think of work-life balance over the course of your entire life. Do you intend to retire some day? Would you like to have a baby and invest substantial time in caring for it? If there is some phase of your life during which you will be working 15 hours a week, then maybe you should work 60 now.

This isn’t as difficult or unreasonable as it might seem. In 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam points out that, of the 168 hours each of us has every week, spending 56 hours sleeping and 60 hours working still leaves 52 hours left for other activities — over 7 hours per day. So, cut out all the fucking around, and you can easily step up your career and life.

Here’s what I mean by “fucking around”: I mean anything that is not extremely productive or extremely pleasurable. For me, that happens when I feel like I’ve been online long enough to read everything interesting … and yet I am still on the internet. Or when I am on the train and have read all the guilty-pleasure articles and find myself perusing announcements about the weddings of actors on shows I have never watched.” – Jennifer Dziura

Watch your sense of entitlement.

“It all starts, I think, when a voice shows up inside your head one day and whispers, “You deserve it.”  I remember the first time I heard that voice.  Big Idea was booming, and I was beginning to hire real “executives.”  Coming from companies like Kraft and GE, they were used to being paid like executives and living like executives.  They drove executive cars, lived in executive houses, and ate executive meals.  Up until this point, I had always lived modestly, though more out of necessity than deep philosophical conviction.  But now I was hanging out with executives, and their lives looked like fun.  And then that little voice showed up in my head and said, “You’re an executive, too, you know.  After all, they all work for you.”  Good heavens.  The voice was right.  I was more than just an “executive”- I was the CEO of a successful company! I was the executive of the executives! “Look at all the hard work you’ve done,” the voice continued.  “Look what you’ve built.  Don’t you deserve it?” And suddenly my cars started getting nicer and my meals fancier.  I started eying nicer houses in nicer neighborhoods- “executive” neighborhoods.  And suddenly everything at Big Idea started costing more.  Meals, travel, equipment, everything- because we were successful, and we deserved it.

The little whisper- “You deserve it”- comes, I believe, from the worst part of our sinful natures, the part that always wants another cookie, a bigger house, a nicer TV.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same voice that told Hitler he “deserved” Poland.  Advertisers know the power of that voice, and they use it relentlessly.  The new car, the ridiculously high-fat dessert, the fantastically overpriced watch- do you need it? Of course not.  But youdeserve it.  I have come to hate that voice.  I will avoid any product that tries to influence my purchase decision by telling me I deserve it.” – Phil Vischer

Every dollar and minute you spend now is a dollar and minute your future self doesn’t have. This goes two ways: doing the hard work now of learning skills, setting up projects, establishing contacts, and investing in good products, means that your future self will be spared these efforts and expenses. And every dollar spent on retail therapy, mediocre pleasure, and time wasting nothingness is money and time your future self can never get back.

Make your choices: extravagant and modest ones, and know that whatever you choose, you’re paying it forward.

(photo taken by Eva Jannotta)

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You: Vitality, Energy, Quickening


“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.” – Martha Graham

What blocks you? Fear, clutter, money, disorganization, activation energy, the unknown, impressing others, overwhelm, boredom, complacency?

The odds of your existence are one in four trillion. That’s what scientists have calculated based on the chances of you being born when you were, where you were, to your particular parents, with your DNA. Does that feel like a lot of pressure?

It’s not about compare and despair, it’s about you. What do you bring to the table? What lights you up? What do you want? What do you enjoy? What can you share? What’s on your bucket list?

Keep the channel open.

(photo by John Moore here)


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If You Suffer From Acute “Lack of Focus”

focus_karahunj_SimplyPutStrategiesA few months ago I met Duane Carey. He asked where I see myself in five years, and I described a number of possible Future Eva’s. He understood. He said, “nobody knows what they want to be when they grow up.”

I know plenty of professionals who say that semi-jokingly, and are unsure how much longer they will stay in their current jobs, or who work in a different field than their previous one. But perhaps it’s more accurate that everyone has multiple ideas of what they want to be. People are interested in more than one thing. We have many (sometimes competing) goals, and our choices and extenuating circumstances determine what we end up doing.

But having one million ideas makes it hard to get things done. Here you are, energetic, tenacious, brimming with ideas. How do you choose one focus when you want to DO THEM ALL? When they’re all full of potential? How do you divide your time between your goals?

A lot of career advice is to specialize: become an expert in something and create your career around it. This makes sense, but there are so many things to choose from! Sometimes the options lead to paralysis.

I have ideas all the time. Do I focus on financial education? If so, where do I start? How do I package what I offer? Do I focus on my organizing business? Do I focus on designing and building WordPress sites? Something else? I don’t know yet, and sometimes the lack of focus feels scattered. How to decide what to do everyday? How to set goals if they all compete with each other for time and attention?

Part of the challenge is that it takes patience to make this kind of decision. Sometimes you need to mull over the options until the answer becomes obvious. Maybe you need to try a bunch of things to eliminate some. I’m not suggesting avoidance, but patience and a methodical way of trying out the options.

The Internet, as always, has ideas:

How Successful People Achieve Goals: Write down your goals. Be flexible with them – except that they will change. Schedule your goals daily. Be open about them for motivation and encouragement. Dig Deep: how do your goals relate to your values? What’s the why? Use “If, then” statements to keep yourself accountable to your goals.

Find Your Purpose: Look around you: what could you make better? Probably lots of things, so focus on one or two of your values. Then, take small, strategic steps.

Be More Decisive: If your answer isn’t a clear yes, say no. Take your time – are you rushing a decision out of a sense of urgency? Ask who you’re trying to please. Don’t rehash past decisions ad nauseum.

My professional muse Jen Dziura made a great suggestion in the webinar Better Brain, Better Life: choose a goal for every quarter or month. I’ve written about themes for the year, but this is different. If you assign an idea or goal to each month, you automatically know what to do with your free time and what to include in your agenda each day. It ensures that you give each idea/goal attention, and may help you decide which ones aren’t worth your time. I want to try this!

I’m focus-finding – I’m testing the waters and don’t know what will happen yet. How about you? Did you decide how to steer your career? Do you feel torn between ideas and goals?

(photo taken by Eva Jannotta)

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In Sight, In Mind (Make It Easy To Do What You Want)

InSightInMind1_SimplyPutStrategiesThis is about activation energy, and doing what you want.

Everyone wants to do a lot of things. This year I decided to do more art. I want to hand letter the quotes and words I love. So I created a space on my bookshelf for art supplies, in plain sight. Easy access.

Then my art supplies got covered by one million pieces of paper. My designated art spot became a catch-all for loose papers.  It became easy access for my working notes and projects, because there was nowhere else to horizontally stack the papers I need too often to file. My art supplies quickly became out of sight, out of mind. I had to make some storage system changes.

I had the right idea and wrong execution. Do you want to do something? Start a new habit or activity?

Put your new thing in plain sight: create an honored, accessible, visible place to put what you need for your project. Maybe it’s in your kitchen, living room, or office. I created a section on my shelf just for art supplies, which ended up being overtaken by work notes. To change this situation, I created a second spot for work notes. Give a place of honor to your new project so you see it and are reminded that it’s important to you.

Lower the activation energy: put the art supplies by your bed if you want to do the project in the morning. Put them on the kitchen table if that’s your workplace. If you tend towards TV, put them on the couch and hide your remote. Make it easy for your Future Self (your this-afternoon-or-evening self) to pick up the project and do it. Do you need a certain playlist? Reference books? Colored pencils? Whatever it is, set up your supplies now so it’s almost effortless for your future self to get to work.

New habits take time and discipline to adopt. Make it as easy as possible on yourself by lowering the activation energy and putting what you need in plain site.


(photos by Eva Jannotta)

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I Used to Think Social Media was Stupid

socialmedia_simplyputstrategiesI resisted social media for years. I started using Facebook later than many, though I did have Myspace and Xanga. (My pages probably still exist. No one should be held responsible for things said before the age of eighteen. Or their current age. Imagine how different life would be for for politicians and celebrities.)

I resisted for three reasons: 1) the self absorption that seems inherent in documenting and publicizing your thoughts and moments, 2) the addictive quality of being glued to social channels during all hours and types of experiences, and 3) the voyeurism and lack of privacy that comes with following peoples’ lives and displaying your own.

I deactivated my Facebook numerous times, recently for several years. I noticed a tendency in myself towards competitiveness and insecurity in comparison to Facebook friends. I would lose time scrolling people’s walls and pictures, silently judging them for seeming self-obsessed and myself for caring and wishing I had their clothes and vacations. It felt toxic and gross, so I quit.

I loved not using Facebook. Getting online felt less like falling down a judgmental rabbit hole without the temptation of my newsfeed. My cousin once remarked that she didn’t feel insecure compared to her Facebook friends because she was secure in herself. That wasn’t my experience. Facebook led to compare and despair, regardless of how I felt before logging on.

But when I started my business, I knew things had to change. I knew that sharing my brand and services through social media was important because it’s all about connections. It’s about relationships with people, working together and supporting each other.

Although social media channels can be self-aggrandizing and voyeuristic, people have those tendencies already. Humans love to compare. Social media may enhance these qualities, but it doesn’t create them. You can use social media without feeling like a creep or failure.

Use social media without hating it
Social media allows you to share your content, but more importantly to share others’ content. It’s about relationships (sometimes it’s even about job hunting!). You can exchange resources, images, or funny content to connect with your followers, mentors, and community.

Use a tool: social media can be addictive, but it doesn’t have to be. Tools like Hootsuite let you schedule content weeks in advance, so you can connect with your followers without being in front of a screen 24/7.

Treat your social media channels like everything else: Set limits for your usage. Organize your time and schedule social media like you would email or a project for a client. The strategies you use to segment your workday, complete tasks at home, prioritize your to do’s, all these can be applied to social media. If you’re socializing and it’s a bad time to Instagram, excuse yourself to do so or wait. Set boundaries.

Curate: this year I unsubscribed to almost every individual on Facebook. My newsfeed now consists of businesses and organizations I want to hear from. If your social media channels lead to comparison, remove the temptation. Unfollow people.

Connect with influencers: if you want to invest in your field or community, or network in a new one, social media is a place to start. Find and follow influencers on Twitter. Engage with them. If you want to make a name for yourself or share your brand in the field, start by making connections on social.

You can share information with unprecedented speed and ease using social media. You can build community, rapport, and humor through images, quirky observations, and suggestions. It’s about connecting with people, supporting them, learning from them, and having conversations. This was the part I didn’t get when I fell down the competitive rabbit hole. Now using social media as a brand, I feel focused on information, ideas, and learning rather than myself.

Are you considering social media for your personal brand or business? Feeling overwhelmed? Let’s talk. Also, consider Your Social Media Strategy, the 5-3-2 Rule, and Small Businesses that Instagram Well.

(photo source here)

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