May 30, 2017

Know Thyself

Are you sick of hearing about Better Than Before yet?  Obviously it was a good book, as this is the 3rd post it's inspired.

I talk about self actualization a lot.  I use the word "I" probably more than any other on this blog.  It can feel a bit conceited or self-centered to spend so much time talking about myself, even though the focus is usually on self improvement.

Similarly, my adoration of personality quizzes seemed a bit self-indulging.  More time to think about me, hooray!

What was the point of spending so much time on self-analysis?  Maybe I should quit and spend that time doing things instead.

But it matters and now I can articulate why.

Knowing yourself is the path to self improvement, to reaching your goals, and to happiness.  The better you understand your own emotions, the way your brain works, what motivates you, and so on, the better you can work with, instead of against, your natural inclinations.

For example, my inclinations are...

...obliger, so if I want to build a habit I should focus on giving myself accountability or framing that habit such that I can see the benefits towards others.  (Ex. If I get enough sleep, I'll be nicer to my husband and more patient with my song.)

...lark, so when there's an urgent deadline looming, it actually makes more sense to put it down, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and then get up early to finish it once my brain has turned back on.

...sprinter, so attempting to schedule a few larger blocks of time to tackle tasks will save my sanity.

...abstainer, so I'm better off giving things up than trying to be moderate.

...centrovert, so my energy needs will differ, but when I'm swinging to the introvert side I need to not overschedule myself and it helps to come prepared with conversation topics and a memorized elevator pitch.

...detail-oriented, so I need to make sure I have a clear end goal and purpose before diving into the minutia.

In addition to using this self knowledge to make effective habit strategies, it helps with making choices for your own happiness.  This is from The Happiness Project and Gretchen's commandment to "Be Gretchen."

But you can't be yourself until you know what you are.  So self discovery is crucial to integrity.

On the topic of knowing myself, I've been trying to "Be Jenn" and get clear with myself which things I like, despite not wanting to like them and which things I don't, despite wanting to.

Now that I know myself a little better I can let go of my own misconceptions about myself and admit...

...I like YA, historical romance, and fairytale adaptations.  My standards for quality are low.

...I don't like classical music nearly as much as electronica, rock, and show tunes.

...I like listening to music but I'm not "into" music.  It's nice but not deeply important to me.

...Similarly, I'm not a "dog person."  I like my dogs and dogs that are well behaved.  Kind of like children.  Mine and other people's if I know them and/or they're not screaming.

...Just because I like doing something once doesn't mean I like it as a hobby.  I'm a novelty-lover so trying new things is more fun than sticking with one.

...I'm not spontaneous.

...I'm not that into science.  Online article = yes.  Entire book = no.

...I like the idea of video games/computer games more than I like actually playing.

...I don't like drawing or painting as much as I used to.

I suppose none of this seems like a big deal to anyone other than myself, but some of those things are almost painful to write down.  My identity as an "artist" was one that I held onto for a long time and that made me feel special in high school.  Admitting that I don't like art the same way anymore is hard.

Meanwhile, there are things I wanted to be that I'm not.  I want to be intellectual so I push myself towards classic books and music and science.  But I'm really not that interested and it can be a drag to force myself.

Being myself means I can stop wasting time on habits I pursue only because of these false identities I've built for myself.  At the same time, it means I can use my self knowledge to work on improvement and reaching goals.  I talked about this one already - working with my nature instead of against it.

And now that I know my nature a little better, I can do everything else better too.

What are some of your tendencies?  Do you feel like understand yourself?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 25, 2017

Some Thoughts - Blogging, Social Media, Writing

I'm just gonna ramble today.

I Deleted My Blog-Related Social Media

The Facebook page was starting to worry me.  For a couple reasons - the first being a crazy ex who was contacting me last year and while she (long story) only found my business page and not this one, I still hate the idea of all this personal information being so easily accessed.

The other is that I've had an influx of business connections who use their personal Facebook pages for connecting, so my FB isn't completely private anymore.  Especially with some of my ranting about MLMs and that one unpleasant meeting, I don't really want them wandering over here and thinking, "Huh, this Jenn person is actually kind of an asshole.  Maybe I'll find a more professional website designer to work with."

I had a couple people ask me why I was deleting it and, honestly, I was surprised, as I always am when I find out people actually read my blog.  I gave them directions and, hey guys!  Hopefully you're here and you can see this.  But I suspect the jump from Facebook page to RSS subscriptions will prove too onerous.

I considered making a private group for it, so people could still see new posts but I could control who had access to it.  But, especially after making the private baby group, it just felt like too much, even though logically I wouldn't have to do anything to it or maintain it.  And I think that "blah this is too much effort" feeling is part of the reason I deleted my Twitter and removed my personal Instagram from my phone.  I actively do not want to promote the blog and the tiny bits of time I do spend browsing those channels is time I should probably put to use somewhere more productive.

So my social media has gone primarily business-y, with the exception of this one blog because it would make me sad to not write here anymore.  Although I did remove the about, optimization, and self actualization pages, to give myself that tiny bit of extra anonymity.  I couldn't bring myself to delete them, though, so it's entirely possible that they'll be back at some point.

Enjoying Business Topics

On the plus side, the amount of time I've devoted to my business social media and RSS feeds has finally, FINALLY managed to pique my interest in various business-related topics that I was struggling with.  What I mean to say is, I've been trying to write business blog posts and come up with things to say on my Jenn Wells Design social media accounts and it's been a struggle.  Because I wasn't interested in it.  But now I am and it feels good and I like it.  (I just wrote a post defending the Oxford comma and I'm kind of proud of it.)

Some Grammar Things

I feel like everyone has their pet peeves and also their exceptions.  Meaning that one, or 10, things make them rage like a bull with a freshly branded backside while there's 1, or 10, things that they let slide, because surely those things don't REALLY matter.

My pet peeve is apostrophes in plurals.  Basket's, egg's, ladder's.  I don't mind nearly so much when people forget something that should be there, but adding that unnecessary apostrophe makes me cringe.

Also "me" vs "I."  "They gave it to my brother and I."  No, no, no!  There's such an easy rule to remember this, which might be why it bothers me so much.  Just take out the extra person and however you would refer to yourself, "They gave it to me" stays the same, "They gave it to my brother and me."

My exception is run-on sentences.  And fragments.  They're stylistic, I've decided.  My sentences are almost all too long or too short and it's quite intentional.  But who could possibly be annoyed by my whimsy?

I Wrote a Post About...

I've caught myself saying this phrase a lot lately.  Something will come up - a social issue, something household or health or clothing related, and I could just give my opinion.  But sometimes it feels like too much effort because I already wrote about it.  Doesn't the whole world read my blog and memorize my opinions so that I only have to say them once?!

It also feels like too much effort because IF I wrote a post about it then I spent a fair bit of time either researching or just formulating my own opinion, so I have more than just a quick comment to contribute to the conversation.  So if someone else says, "The media is so biased - I don't even know what to think anymore" how can I just shrug and say, "Yeah, bruh, I feel ya." when I have all the contents of this post floating around in my head???

So a lot of times I wish I could just refer people back to the relevant blog post.  Sometimes I even reread them myself so I can remember what research I based my knowledge on.

Here are some of the topics where I most frequently say, "I wrote a post on..."

Introvert Overload

I did a bad thing.  I have a couple client projects that I'm trying to finish up and I scheduled a couple fun social things for this week, which was already going to be a challenge, but then more and more things popped up that I "couldn't" say no to.  Or didn't want to.

I have 9 social events scheduled. NINE!  That's more events than there are days.  Ridiculous.  Here's what my week looked/looks like:
  • M - Harry Potter escape the room
  • T - Networking event, feminist book club
  • W - Dinner with a friend
  • Th - "Free day"
  • F - Client call, visiting a friend/watching my mom practice with her scuba gear, birthday party
  • S - Bridesmaid dress shopping
  • Su - Birthday party
PLUS working a full day on Wednesday, a half day on Monday, a marketing webinar on Thursday, and trying to finish up 2 websites and draw a concept sketch of a car by Sunday.

What the hell is wrong with me?!  Seriously.  Not rhetorical.

I'm not sure how I'm going to survive, but at the time of writing this I'm planning on pulling an all-nighter on Monday and paying a friend to watch the baby on Thursday so I can work all day.  Wish me luck!

What grammar things bother you the most?  Which are you exceptions?  What blog posts do you find yourself referencing in conversation?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 23, 2017

The Sugar Problem - a Different Perspective

I've written about sugar addiction and my various plans to try to tackle it.  A couple years ago I had a pretty successful run for 2.5 months.  I was exercising, putting good food in my body, keeping a strict limit on my sugar intake, tracking it all, and even losing weight.  This wasn't my main focus, but it's an easier result to measure than "feel more energetic" or "be healthier."

When I slipped back into my old habits, I wasn't terribly upset.  But the past year as I've tried several times to get that momentum back and nothing, not even pregnancy and breastfeeding, was enough to keep me motivated, I started to get disheartened.

I thought, "I only did it once because it was a challenge.  Now I know I can and I never will again."  "If even having a child and being a role model isn't enough motivation, what will be?"  "When is it going to click?"  "Why can't I get this?"  "I guess I'm never going to do it."

BUT then I had an epiphany!  (As I do.)

I didn't give up alcohol all at once.  I toyed with the idea for YEARS.  I tried it out first, with a 1 month abstinence challenge.  Nothing really clicked.  I just gradually pulled away from it and quit altogether when I was ready.

This is a huge mindset change.  Instead of calling it, and myself, a failure every time I "fall off the bandwagon" I can see an overall pattern emerging.

I have spent more time pursuing healthy habits in the last few years than ever before in my life.  I might not always make it that long, but the time in between healthy bursts is decreasing.

Maybe instead of trying and failing, it's similar to giving up alcohol.  Maybe I'm slowly gearing up towards it.

Right now the idea of giving up sweets forever sounds awful.  Incomprehensible.

But maybe one day it won't.

One of Gretchen Rubin's habit strategies was identity.  I've been thinking of myself as a failure for not following through with good habits.  But if I instead think of myself as a generally healthy person who occasionally backslides, this will help me return and gradually decrease the frequency and magnitude of backslides.

Like Gretchen said, our habits are very tied to our identities.  So thinking, and knowing, that I'm a healthy person who occasionally needs help to get going, is going to be way more useful than kicking myself for being a failure who doesn't care enough.

I'm starting another "good burst" right now.  I'm going to apply as many of Gretchen's strategies as I can to make this not an occasional thing, but the regular.  (Primarily planned exceptions, paired activities, and accountability.)

For whatever reason, I see it as a scatter plot in my mind.  A linear curve.  All I see at one particular time is that particular data point, and on the chart they can look scattered and random, but the average is trending up.

Why the heavy focus on "giving up" sugar?  Because I'm an abstainer.  Gretchen says, "After the first bite, moderators want something less and less.  Abstainers want it the same amount or more as they continue to eat."

So I'm not worried about the sugars in fruit, or putting a blanket rule on carbs.  When I talk about giving up sugar what I really mean is giving up the foods that trigger cravings for me.

And, like I said, I'm not ready right now.  But I now believe that I will be at some point, and until then I just need to keep working at it, little by little.

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?  How does your identity tie in to your habits?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 18, 2017

Better Than Now

I just finished Better Than Before (by Gretchen Rubin) and it's interesting and insightful and, as per usual, I'm perfectly willing to turn my own life upside down to experiment with new possible optimization techniques.

Only this time I think some of my takeaways were probably not the ones the author intended.

As Gretchen was classifying herself and listing the different distinctions, I was mentally ticking off my own as well.
  • I'm a lark rather than an owl.
  • Sprinter not a marathoner.
  • Overbuyer, fo' sho'.
  • Simplicity lover (which seems contradictory but really it just means that after I overbuy, I purge everything but the best solution).
  • Finisher more than a starter.
  • Abstainer not a moderator.
  • Novelty lover.
  • And big, grandiose changes appeal to me far more than small ones.
I'm also an obliger (motivated by the feeling of obligation to others rather than myself) with just a hint of rebel or maybe that's self sabotage.  Either way, I tend to do best when I have some form of accountability but it's not too oppressive.  Think gentle encouragement.

So sifting through all that information to find a pattern, I realized that, while I do want to make habits and lessen the willpower it takes to make good choices, I also am unlikely to stick to anything too rigid or boring.  Not a "flexible" routine, per say, but one with variety built in.

I feel like my strategy for meal planning accomplishes this pretty well.  I've got my Trello list of all the recipes Ryan and I know and we can rotate through systematically, or randomly pull something out if we're in the mood for it.  It's still planned, with ingredients purchased on Sunday, but it's not the same exact food every week and we're not stuck in a rigid rotation.  Small amounts of brain power needed, but really just the fun part - the "work" aspect is taken care of by having the cards (with ingredient lists) set up in advance.

So naturally I took this one step further and came up with lists for exercise, meditation/mindfulness, and relationship goals.  The "initial setup" concept really works for me because I enjoy organizing things.  So I have fun getting it ready even though I wouldn't have enjoyed looking up a recipe when it was time to cook dinner, and then I save myself the willpower needed to complete that task later.

The "routine" for exercise will be cardio Wednesday and Saturday, and whatever else I want the other days.  But by picking them out at the beginning of the week, I take the choice out of it when my willpower is the weakest - when it's actually time to work out.
I also used this strategy to build my chore/routine list for each weekday to make sure I didn't overload any one particular day too much.
Oh, right, as for what part of this Gretchen Rubin wouldn't approve of?  Well I get drained making tiny, incremental amounts of progress every day and having to come back to the same projects day after day.  I much prefer great bursts of effort and taking out a huge chunk of the project all at once.  But I have a baby, which means frequent interruptions.
So if you'll take a look at my Sunday "routine."
You'll notice the last item is "Catch Up Night."
My current plan is to completely break all healthy sleeping habit rules and give myself one grandiose all-nighter to rip through whatever is currently on my plate.  I've only done this once so far but it was glorious!  Then I'll do as little as possible on Monday and catch up on sleep as best I can. (This was actually kind of nice because it gave me permission to not try to squeeze any work in in the evening.  Instead I played with the baby, napped when he napped, and generally relaxed a bit until bedtime.)
You're probably thinking, "This is a horrible plan."
It is.  I'm not going to argue that point.  But I got excited the moment I had this idea.  Because this is what I like to do.  I LIKE the late-night rush of adrenaline, the coffee-fueled focus, and heading into work the next morning with my hair still looking good from the previous day.  I LIKE the feeling of making a serious dent in my workload and knowing I can slack for a day or two without concern.
You know what I like most of all?  Working with instead of against my nature.  It is a relief to quit fighting with myself to adopt moderation, have regular, consistent work habits every day, and stay calm despite my lack of safety net if the baby doesn't allow me to get enough work completed.
"Moderation is for weenies!" has been unanimously accepted as the Wells family motto and in this one, small way, I'm happy to finally embrace it.
So is that all I got from the book?  Oh no, there's so much and at least one more blog post to write about it.  But consider this post a celebration of my decision to "know myself" and build habits that go with instead of against the grain.
Wish me luck!

What are your tendencies?  Are you an obliger, questioner, upholder, or rebel?  (Quiz here)


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 16, 2017

Some Sneaky Baby Pictures

As you know, we're mostly not sharing pictures online.  But...

Since these ones made it onto the somewhat public Facetube, and my blog is no longer promoted on any social media channels, I feel less bad about sharing them here.

This was our first 5K with Orion!  We had an iffy couple minutes at the beginning when he decided he wasn't happy but the running lulled him back to sleep and all was well.  Ryan kicked ass and ran the whole way pushing the stroller.  (Which doesn't seem like that big a deal, but I can go barely 1/10th of a mile with that thing.  It suuuucks.)

And, obviously, this was for Mother's Day.  Look at my little cutie patootie!!!

I got all excited and said to Ryan, "You had to use fonts to make this!"  His response?  "You're giving me too much credit."

Alas, Internet photo theft.  Still cute, though.

Side note: Ryan then told me he has NO METHOD FOR ACCESSING FONTS on his computer.  Whaaat?  How can anyone live that way???

In other baby news, Orion is huge now.  It's inconceivable to me that he was inside my body at one point.  He chews on everything and is getting pretty good at grabbing (and hair-pulling!).  He laughs, which is adorable, especially at Ryan doing heavy metal imitations (whatever works for you, kid) and me doing crunches while he's sitting on my stomach.

He drools so much!  It's ridiculous.  Lifting him over your head is pretty much asking for some slobber on your face.  We have burp cloths and receiving blankets everywhere because it's not even worth the effort of putting them away anymore.

Orion is getting close to rolling over.  People keep telling me I shouldn't be excited for this, but I am.  Ryan and I are like his cheer squad, "C'mon baby, you can do it!  Just let the weight of your giant head pull you over sideways!!!"

I am also gleefully awaiting the day the pediatrician oks "people food."  We've given him tiny tastes of things already (apparently the advice used to be to start babies at 7 weeks - crazy!  Now it's 4-6 months) and I laugh every time at the scrunched up face he makes.  So far he doesn't seem to be a fan of anything edible, just burp cloths and his own hands.

I could go on but I'll cut myself off here.  The short summary: he's cute, he drools, and he's changing so fast it's hard to keep up.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 11, 2017

Optimizing All the Things!

So I had a baby and everything went to shit.

That's a little melodramatic, but let's just say I wasn't prepared.  I thought I could work from home while the baby napped.  I thought he'd sleep more, that he wouldn't need so much stimulation for his brain to develop, that he'd cry primarily when there was a real, solvable problem like hunger or a wet diaper.


You really just don't know until you do it.

And since I wasn't prepared, I had no plans in place for how to be more efficient with my time or to step back from all the projects I had been working prior to baby.  But after almost 3 months of running myself ragged, I'd had enough.

Some changes required saying no to things and setting down some of my commitments.  Boo!  But necessary.

And some changes were centered around the much more fun topic of optimization that I based my blog name on.  So let's talk about those!

Optimization Strategies

1. Meal Planning

I have been trying to do this for years and failing, but I finally found a system that works for me!  Rather than sit down to a blank slate every week, I made a list of all the things Ryan and I currently know how to cook.  It's a short list.

Because I'm currently obsessed with Trello for my business, it was no great leap to make myself a personal board with various life things I want to organize.  It is fantastic for meal planning because you can drag and drop.

So I have my "cards" with each recipe that I can quickly scan, click and drag the 2 or 3 I want to eat this week over to the "This Week" list, and then open them up to get the ingredients we need to buy from the store.  Maybe 5 minutes.

One of those meals is a crock pot meal that'll give us lots of leftovers for lunches.  Breakfasts we can get by pretty easily with smoothies and the occasional omelet.  And then after the other meal or two, we have a few nights open for frozen pizzas or scrounging, which, let's be honest, is going to happen because we're still new to this and we're lazy.

2. Clothing Rotation

What started as adoration for Steph's capsule wardrobe series quickly turned itself into a productivity tactic.  I came across more and more articles about not wasting energy on simple decisions, like what to wear, and how the most productive humans, like Obama, don't bother with wardrobes that require matching or effort.

If I believed in that sort of thing, I'd be thinking the Universe had a vested interest in finally seeing me with a capsule wardrobe.  Since I don't, I'll chalk it up to timing and synchronicity and just explain what I've done.

I put together 12-ish outfits (enough for 2 weeks, figuring I'm not going to leave the house every day) and I hung them in sets.  Literally pants, shirt, blazer, shoes.  As soon as I figure out how to hang jewelry, I'm going to do it with earrings and necklaces, too.

When I get dressed in the morning, all I have to ask myself is, "What level of formality does today's activities require?"  Fancy - grab a dress outfit.  Business-y - grab a t-shirt and blazer outfit.  Casual but still leaving the house - tunic and leggings.

No brainpower and very little time needed.  AND I don't have to wear only blue or grey suits - sorry Obama.

3. Business Automation

Everybody loves to talk about automating things for your business but until recently I had trouble figuring out what, if anything, I could automate.  I'll save the details for my business blog but I've been adding all sorts of things - digital contracts, contract and design questionnaire templates, invoicing, you name it!

I've never been a "work IN your business instead of ON it" person because I LIKED working on it.  It was fun to organize things and rearrange things and spend far too long setting my business goals and priorities for the day.  But now that time is at a premium, I can't do that anymore.

I need to be efficient and effective, and it's just a side benefit that these processes make me look more professional to my clients as well.

4. Weekly Family Discussion

Ryan and I have toyed with the idea of implementing some kind of regular family meeting for a while.  But even when we agreed to do it, ultimately it was easier to just handle issues as they came up.

These days we're more frequently pressed for time and, even when Orion doesn't need something immediately, we're not always in a mood to productively solve problems.  So we're making Friday nights our family discussion night, a tradition I hope to continue as Orion and any future kids get older and can take part.

I stole the format from this article but it's basically "What went well?  What could have gone better?  Do we have any specific issues to talk about?  Now let's end on a positive note and say nice things to each other."

Friday night is a good time for it because A) It's Friday and everybody's happy! B) No bedtime constraints so... C) We can play video games and do fun things after.

5. Turbocharged To Do List!

I've always been pretty organized with my to do lists, and they change over time as my needs change.  Since having a baby my memory is terrible!  And our communication hasn't been as strong as usual either.  So stupid, routine things like "feed the dogs" gets forgotten or Ryan and I both assume the other has done it and obviously that's not a good way to live.

So I finally found a task app that syncs with both Google calendar and task list AND lets me do repeating tasks.  Repeating tasks is the most important thing here because I need routines and I need to remember those routines.

I made a list of all the basic chores we need to do, tried to arrange it so that each day has only 3 or fewer, in addition to general work stuff, and then set myself a bunch of repeating tasks.  I can view my daily tasks quickly and easily and check them off when they're done.

And that's it for now.  I've stretched my creativity pretty thin trying to think of other opportunities for optimization.

Got any ideas?  Anything that saves time or brain power welcome and needed!

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 9, 2017

"The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel...

...must be intolerably stupid."

-Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Only 2 books this month - whaaaat?!  It's crazy, I know.  To be fair, I did randomly dive back into the 3rd book in the Shadowhunter Series and I didn't count them because they're a reread and I talked about them last year.  Why the 3rd book?  Because I can't stand Clary and Jace.  They're so stupid and the whole, "My teenage love for you burns so fiercely that I will stop the sun and live and die for you" drives me nuts.  My favorite character is Simon, or maybe Isabelle, and their various romances are more fun for me because it's not as predictable.

Anyway, the books!

♥♥♥♥♥ - Loved!


Throne of Glass Series book 5 by Sarah J. Maas (ebook)

I barely reviewed this because the end had me so flabbergasted.  Talk about a cliffhanger!!!  Anyway, I'm sad that I have to wait for the rest, and I'm still loving the series.

♥♥♥♥ - Liked


How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You by Leil Lowndes (library audiobook)

My library picks can be pretty random because I'm just trying to find something that's interesting and available right away.  This was both.  The tone of the book and the narrator grated on me sometimes, but it also made me laugh (advice on how to make your pupils larger, bahaha!) and some of it was applicable to improving/working on a current relationship.  While I wouldn't necessarily recommend taking a lot of this advice, I do think it's worth a read (or listen).  Because it's all about how to make someone fall in love with you and what goes into us falling in love and you don't necessarily want to just pick someone and work at it.  You probably want to ascertain that they're someone you want to love first.  That being said, there's a lot of good information on body language and how to tell if someone is interested/indicate interest that would have come in handy back when I was still dating!

♥♥♥ - Ambivalent-ed


♥♥ - Mildly Disliked


 - Did Not Finish or Wanted to Burn in a Fire


I just got not 1 but 2 Gretchen Rubin books from the library!!!  So I'll be listening to those and maybe continuing to reread the Shadowhunter Series because why not?!  At least they're free.
WILD TANGENT: Have you ever noticed how authors have certain phrases they'll reuse?  You'll get 5 books in and think, "How many times is someone going to cut their palms with their fingernails from clenching their fist so hard?  Is that even possible???" (Shadowhunter series)  Or "Why do these people do so much purring in their communications with each other and what does that even sound like?" (Throne of Glass series)
Semi-related, there's a Reddit thread where people talked about what authors should "cover" other authors, kind of like musicians do.  The one that made me laugh the most was 50 Shades of Grey by Dr. Seuss, "Would you like it in your mouth?  Would you like it further South?"

What have you been reading?  Have you read anything from my list and what did you think?

Hosted by Steph and Jana
Life According to Steph

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 4, 2017

Sponsored Posts and Referral Groups

I don't really read many (if any) blogs who do sponsored posts.  I'm mostly here because I like to write and to check in with the people I've come to see as friends.  But I remember this being a topic I was much more concerned with a couple years ago.

Do you guys remember when I got the free dress?  I was intrigued by the "look at this awesome free dress!" posts going around and deliberately commented on a few to see if I'd get an offer.  I was pretty excited when I did and decided to make an exception to my rule about not posting for stuff.

I thought I could do it and be genuine and still get a free dress and everything would be awesome.

And I think I even convinced myself that this was the case.  The dress arrived, I decided it was awesome, took photos, and wrote a glowing review.  But you know what?

I don't have that dress anymore.

Because it was really just ok.  It wasn't my style.  The fit was good (because that's what eShakti does - they have you send measurements and make you fitted clothes) but it wasn't a flattering cut.  The option to customize was cool, but the fabric wasn't what I had expected.

And as much as I told myself I was being totally honest, I do remember feeling somewhat obligated to write something nice.  I mean, it was free!  How can I bash a free item?

And that's what killed sponsored posts for me.  I do not think it is possible for most people to write truly unbiased posts when they're sponsored.  Being given free stuff makes you feel like A) You got so much value because it was free! and B) A sense of obligation to return some of that value by not trashing the item.

So I stopped reading sponsored posts.  And then certain bloggers started doing this truly horrendous thing where they buried the promo at the end after a somewhat interesting story.  This killed all credibility for me because I was being tricked into reading a sponsored post and, now that I think of it, isn't it interesting that that particular blogger has never mentioned fitness before but is all about when a free product is to be had?

So I stopped reading "big blogs" and stuck with the people who felt more like friends and less like profiteers and all was well and I haven't thought about it until this week.

Because Tuesday I went to a networking lunch with a referral group.  And you know, I had a really good time.  I made good connections that I like.  But...

The group requires 1 referral every month.  I need to go to that next meeting with a name and phone number of someone I have talked to and prepared to buy someone else's services.

Not only do I have to be actively looking for people who might be good referral candidates all the time, but I have to refer them to people whose services I haven't even used.  Sure, I might have enjoyed that person's conversation but if they didn't take my photos or write my will, how do I know they're good at what they do?

And if I can't find someone who's genuinely interested, do I just write down a number and hope for the best?  Throw other people's products and services in front of my friends and family members regardless of interest?

It feels so forced.  It feels like a sponsored post.  And I don't think I can do that.

Have you ever participated in referral groups or written sponsored posts?  How do you feel when other people do?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

May 2, 2017

Finding My Style - Fantasy Classic

I have been fascinated with the idea of the capsule wardrobe for the last couple of years. Along with anything minimalism, it appeals to me while remaining something I don't enjoy as much in practice. Which was tough to swallow at first - because I like the idea of it so much, but having finally taken Gretchen Rubin's advice (to basically be yourself and not what you think you should be), it's freeing to admit that I prefer a little excess.

For example, I like my crafting supplies even though they get used maybe once a year. I like keeping extra fancy paper around in case I decided to do a print project. And after regretting donating unused organizers, I've learned to hold onto those bad boys, as they can be re-purposed pretty easily.
As for clothing, I don't struggle with what Alyssa calls "analysis paralysis." I do get ready pretty slowly in the morning but that's due to my zombie morning brain, not an overwhelm of choice. And I like having the extra clothes and flexibility to try out new things or attempt the occasional "everyday cosplay."

So why define a style at all? Since the arrival of Little Dude, I've been struggling to find a balance between comfort and feeling put together. I feel like I have to choose being presentable or being able to breastfeed without getting completely undressed. More and more often, leggings have been winning, makeup and hair brushing have been losing, and I feel just... sloppy.

With absolutely perfect timing, Steph started her capsule wardrobe series and the post about finding your style really called to me. I watched all the Lauren Messiah videos on style types. None fit that well, though I liked the silhouettes of the tastefully timeless look. I also took Steph's suggestion to make a Pinterest board (side note: I heard my dad mention using Pinterest the other day and my heart just about stopped) and started pinning anything I liked, hoping a pattern would emerge.

I searched my favorite celebrities, only to realize the reason I like them has nothing to do with their clothing. I searched Once Upon a Time because I like the fashion from that show. And then I dove into a strange direction and realized I had pinned almost entirely fantasy based clothing. Ridiculous, beautiful medieval gowns. Elven jewelry. Everyday cosplay based on Legolas.

I was pretty stumped at first. A ball gown simply does not fit into my life, in any capacity, no matter how pretty the fabric is.

But I thought about what I wanted - to feel more put together on a daily basis, and what I need - low maintenance clothes that don't conflict with dogs and babies and general comfort. And I did come up with a style that I have dubbed Fantasy Classic.

It consists of 2 main looks: 1) Fitted - jeans and nerd t-shirts, dressed up with a blazer, nice shoes, and accessories and 2) Loose and Flowy - tunics with leggings, sandals or flats, and minimal jewelry

The best part about this is that I don't need to do a huge overhaul of my wardrobe. When I started brainstorming I got carried away with all the different things I could buy and the different color variations and so on. And I realized that, while I love color, I don't usually mix and match it, and a blue blazer would never get worn. Just ask the electric blue slacks I purchased and finally donated after they gathered dust in my closet for 3 years.

So I'm saving the color for the tops (and scarves/earrings) and sticking with black and neutrals for pants, jackets, and shoes (with a couple exceptions because I have teal flats that I love). I also thought about what my weekly clothing needs are and how often I wanted to repeat outfits (every 2 weeks seemed good) and I came up with this base wardrobe:

Fitted Look aka Dressed Up Nerd Shirts


This will be my look for the 2 days I work in an office, and/or the days I attend networking events.  I LOVE that I get to wear my favorite nerd shirts and comfortable t-shirts without feeling like a bum. Once I get home, all I have to do is strip off the outer layer (blazer, jewelry, shoes) and then I've got a reasonably comfortable outfit for home. The amount of effort (not a ton but more than I'm currently exerting regularly) is worth it since I'll be out of the house for a longer period of time.

Loose and Flowy aka I'm Secretly Pretending I'm an Elf or Forest Sprite

This is for the other days I need to wear real clothes - running errands, social events, casual coffee date/networking things. Any time I don't want to be bothered with spending more than 10 minutes getting ready or putting on a real bra because it's not worth it just to leave the house for an hour or two. Like the other outfit type, I kind of want this to have the inner shell that I wear at home (basically workout clothes) and then I can just throw on the outer layer to go out (loose top, shoes, etc).

This is also the category that needs the most work since, despite my love of tunics and panchos, I really don't have that many. I figure I'll intentionally buy 2 or 3 tops and then see if that's enough (I suspect it will be plenty since errands and coffee dates usually only add 1 or 2 "out of the house" days to each week).

Pretty Dresses aka I'm Going to a Wedding or Something Equivalently Fancy

I don't imagine wearing these all that often, but I like my dresses and I have definitely already honed in on the style I'm comfortable in and that looks good on me, which is a fitted top with an A-line skirt. These clothes don't need to be especially quick to put on or convenient for breastfeeding because they'll outlast that age of Orion's life anyway.

I couldn't bring myself to purge the things that don't fit in these styles, so I made a box to set aside for now and if I end up craving more variety, I'll starting dragging things back out. I purge regularly, so I really didn't have much I didn't like which is why I'm reluctant to get rid of them now, but if I can be happy with less, I'd like to get rid of things that don't fit my current lifestyle.

Obviously I've also got workout clothes and stuff for other specific needs: swimming, painting/yard work, etc, and I'm not going to try to keep limits on those or minimize them.

And that's it!  Do you have a defined style?  Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design