April 2016 archive

How to Prepare for One Month of Working Remotely: The 3 Most Important (and Potentially Obvious) Things to Take Care of Before You Leave

DSC_5913Working from home seems to be more common these days, and it make sense that those of us doing so would want to make the very most of it.

Whether you take the opportunity to stay home with your kids, work odd hours, or travel the world, being ‘location independent’ is a tremendous opportunity that should be appreciated for the rare gem that it is.

Currently, I have one friend who teaches online like I do (we pretty much have the same employers and resume), who works from various places in the U.S. during the year, and will be working remotely from Europe for two months during the summer. After an inspiring conversation with her some time ago, I decided to follow suit, so I’ll also be working remotely for an extended period of time this summer from Thailand and California.

Amazing.

It’s quite a change from my usual schedule in the classroom during the last few years, and it takes some organization and forethought to make sure things go according to plan when you’re on a vacation that’s not really a vacation. However, in the end, I have no doubt all the extra work preparations will be worth it.

Here is a brief list of things that naturally felt like they needed to be high on my priority list when preparing to work from the road, and I believe it’s the perfect starting place for anyone considering doing the same:

  • Be sure your computer is in great shape.

I almost packed my PC from grad school for this trip (I didn’t feel fully comfortable taking my trusty MacBook Pro), until my husband pointed out that it’s over 5-years-old and may just die for good when I’m in a different country- not the best scenario. So instead I’ve decided to take his PC because it’s the newest laptop we own (but also one of the cheapest- so if something happens to it, we won’t be heartbroken), and it runs all the programs I need to grade papers and hold webinar meetings (Which reminds me, be sure the computer you choose to bring can run everything you need it to! I almost forgot that part, and I would have died with Adobe Connect for holding required exam reviews with one school.).

  • Stay in hotels with wifi.

I don’t think I necessarily need great wifi while I’m gone (although I might change my mind post-Thailand), but I do need to be online for 1-2 hours each day until I can put in some more serious time when I’m in California. Knowing that the hotels I’m staying in have wifi just makes life a little easier- I don’t have to be preoccupied with tracking down a coffee shop each day, and I can leave my laptop in the room.

  • Put all important (and even unimportant) work dates in a calendar and/or on an organized list.

I’m not a calendar person. I would love to be a calendar person (I currently have one unopened on my desk at the moment), but I’m not. However, very detailed lists in my iPhone’s Notepad app work like a charm for me and keep me incredibly organized (and I can print them out, if needed). I have written out every assignment due date, when announcements need to be sent out, and when I need to have certain grades submitted. For me, the more detail the better, and the more deadlines I give myself, the better.

At this point, those are the 3 key things that have helped me feel prepared for whatever might happen during my travels.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be taken care of, and I’m sure I’ll learn as I go. Once I start realizing my mistakes and learning new tricks, I’ll be happy to share.

Here’s the last little thought I’ll add: be creative about working from home.

It can take some time and effort, and it’s not as comfy as working from the couch in sweatpants, but I urge you to take trips, plan around deadlines, and find a way to translate this unique type of work into a million little once in a lifetime opportunities.

Happy learning, living, and traveling!

3 Things I’ve Gained From 3 Minutes of Daily Meditation

DSC_5912I started meditating daily about a month ago, and just 3-5 minutes a day (yes, 3 minutes) has significantly improved my day-to-day life. The simple act of trying to clear your mind, observing when thoughts creep in, and then gently pushing those thoughts away, is surprisingly impactful.

Here are the top 3 things I’ve gained from just a few minutes of daily meditation:

  1. Better control over thoughts and emotions: I’ve gained control over what I think about and when I think about it, which is empowering, reassuring, and calming. If it makes me anxious to think about something when being anxious would be counterproductive, I’m better able to set it aside. When I feel a twinge of frustration about something, I now have the ability to look at it (without letting it become a part of me) and say, “You know what, it doesn’t really matter,” and then dismiss it. I love having this new skill, and it’s surprising how much easier it makes every part of life.
  2. Better sleep: I know I’m not the only person who wakes up in the middle of the night, or has trouble sleeping, because I have too much on my mind. Knowing how to effectively clear my mind has helped me get better sleep than I have in years.
  3. A new sense of calm: I like making life simple and organized. The only problem is that as soon as you assume you’re ‘getting a handle on things,’ life throws more complications your way. Instead of frantically trying to manage it all, meditation is my loophole: I’m now okay with the idea that I can’t, and I never will (nor will anyone else), and it’s okay to have a bunch of little loose ends. As someone with a Type A personality, I never thought I’d be able to loosen up enough to sit down and clear my mind for 3 minutes, much less take on this type of carefree attitude toward tasks that don’t necessarily matter a whole lot. I’m just a little bit proud of that.

Happy meditating.

5 Books to Read When You’re Figuring Out Your Next Move

DSC_5856Since the beginning of the year I’ve been purposeful keeping myself from getting too wrapped up in any one hobby. I can easily get swept up in projects, so I’ve focused on just ‘being’ for the past 3 months to see what it would be like (basically, it requires a lot of reflection and questions about life in general, which can be pretty mentally taxing).

Since I’m not fixating on books about teaching, or about creativity, or music, I’ve busied myself with reading some books that I think are the perfect fit for taking a step back from life to observe, reflect, and reconfigure to get ready for your next move:

  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a great book to read when you’re feeling inspired, or between creative/inspired periods in life.

  • Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

If you’ve ever read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (and maybe leaned in a bit too far, as a result), this is a great follow-up book to establish a better balance in life.

  • Bonjour, Happiness! by Jamie Cat Callan

I read a few pages of this book every morning, and it’s such a simply happy and uplifting book; this is a book every type of woman could read during any stage of life and thoroughly enjoy.

  • Considerations by Colin Wright

Colin Wright is always good at helping readers bend their perspectives and question their assumptions; this is a good read when you want to get out of your comfort zone.

  • The Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

A girlfriend and I call books like this one ‘brain candy;’ it’s a quick, easy, fun read that just feels good (think Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? with the same number of laughs and quality writing, but more inspiring words and wisdom to walk away with).

So whether you’re stuck in a rut, completely content, between moments of inspiration, or knee deep in a creative project, these are my 5 must-read books. And for anyone contemplating their next project, or just experiencing the all-too-common ‘in between’ moment, sit down with one of these gems and consider what your next move might be.
Happy living.

The Art of Adding Color and Design to Online Courses

DSC_4984 copyAs I’ve been working this afternoon, making some big changes to my online courses here at the public library (my new favorite place to ‘work from home’), and also trying to come up with something to write about on the blog today, it occurred to me that maybe I could blend the two (why is the obvious solution never actually obvious until you’ve stared at it for long enough?).

In my online courses, I’ve been wanting to make some changes, but wasn’t quite sure where to start, which is why the meeting I had this morning with a colleague/supervisor was timed perfectly.

She had some suggestions that I’m excited to work on. To understand why I’m excited, you have to understand that this is the only school where I dream up and develop every detail of my course from scratch- so there’s a lot of creative freedom that comes with it.

Here are just a few things my friend had to say that may not mean a whole lot to you, but made me feel incredibly inspired (I like to think it’s the artist in me getting revved up to create again):

  1. Use more color in every part of my course.
  2. Incorporate visuals and pictures into weekly announcements.
  3. Give my students a short quiz/assignment using a creative internet-based software of my choosing to be sure they watch my online lecture videos.

It’ll be a long road to making the changes she suggested and incorporating what works best for me personally, but here’s a sneak peak of some inspiring educational quotes I plan on incorporating come Summer term (along with some snazzy fonts and colors, of course):

“Strive for progress not perfection.”

“What we learn becomes a part of who we are.”

“You learn something every day if you pay attention.”

“Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.”

“There is always more to learn.”

Here’s to inspiration, education, and creativity. Happy teaching!