Not Just Another Productivity Hack

The inspiration for this post came from researching ideas for blog posts. Write about a productivity hack! Several blogs said. Everyone wants to be more productive!

So now seems like a good time to inform you: this is not another blog post about productivity. This is a blog post about overcoming deeper things to be productive. I will give you a hint: it’s not time that holds me back.

I have always been organized. I make lists, and then I make lists for my lists, and I get a productivity high when I check boxes. Despite how organized I may seem, I am in fact a normal person. And like most people, I am afraid of failure.

This has the biggest impact on my productivity, and I am guessing it impacts yours as well.

For me, it comes in the form of holding back. I could probably do more, but I am afraid. So I don’t put my whole heart into projects, and I am not surprised when they don’t succeed. But then I can tell myself that I did try (but did I really?). For other people, this takes the form of procrastination. You’re afraid to take action because you are worried you will fail, so you are paralyzed until the last minute.

Unfortunately, planners and sticky notes can’t solve this problem.

The good news is that failure is completely normal. In fact, failure is the key to success. It teaches you lessons that reading simply can’t. Too much preparation is the same as collecting too many underpants. You can keep collecting underpants, but what good does that do you?

Confused by that sentence? This blog post was an eye-opener for me:

So, here is my productivity hack: just do something. Do it and move on. Don’t dwell on mistakes, don’t dwell on what others will think, just start. Done is better than perfect, and failing is better than not trying at all. If you’re still hesitant to get started, set a goal so easy it would be embarrassing to fail. A goal is no good if you don’t actually take steps toward that goal, am I right?

Read more about setting fool-proof goals:

So to send you off, here is a list of some of my favorite quotes about failure.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” -Thomas Edison

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” —J. K. Rowling

“You always pass failure on your way to success.” —Mickey Rooney

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” -Lance Armstrong

“If we learn from the experience, there is no failure, only delayed victory” -Carrie Chapman

Remember that every time you try again, you are starting from experience.



Making the cut

This is a vintage Deidre post from an old blog I used to have. I thought it would be fun to dig up, since I got my hair cut short again.

As I will mention later in this post, cutting my hair usually has an emotional aspect to it. Growing up, I wanted to have ’emo’ hair, but I was too nervous to get such an edgy cut. So I’ve lived out the dream of 13 year old me, and I finally have my emo hair. I did what I wanted and what made me happy because that has been the theme of this year. No more prolonging my happiness or worrying about other’s opinions.

I was really proud of this post when I wrote it back in 2016, and my thoughts surrounding my haircut were a big revelation for me at the time. Without further ado, here it is:

(November, 2016)

This past week I made a decision: I was going to get my hair cut really short and I could not back out (into a pixie, but my hairstylist corrected me and said it was actually a short bob).

I have had long hair almost my entire life, with a few above-the-shoulder length flings with short hair. As a female, you are expected to have long hair. Hair is your beauty. Without it, we are told (or at least it’s strongly implied) we are as good as one of those cats with no fur.

I have always kept my hair long without questioning it, even though it would get caught on my backpack, caught on my boyfriend, bugs would get caught in it, and sometimes I would accidentally sit on it. I was never good at styling hair, and never particularly interested in learning how. I just knew that to be a girl, I had to have long hair.

My few flirtations with short hair always happened after big moments in my life- a falling out with a good friend, my first breakup. There is something cathartic about cutting one’s hair. This time when I cut my hair there wasn’t a negative impetus; for me it was symbolic of growing up. I’d been dating my boyfriend for 4+ years, I landed my first real job, got a 401k, and made an investment into an awesome bike to have as my main mode of transportation.

Back to the main point here- I thought cutting my hair was about me. To signify an important change in my life. I WAS WRONG. Apparently cutting MY hair was a big deal to everyone else who has to look at me, and they felt free to share their feedback.

Results: Overwhelmingly positive! (except for my dad, but that will never change. Hi dad!)

Everyone at work loved my new hair. To my shock, the men in the office complimented my new cut, and the women commented on how freeing it must be. I was shocked! I thought my hair was my beauty! It is and isn’t.

See, there are many definitions of beauty. I’m getting a bit ramble-y, but I wanted to impart that you shouldn’t keep your hair a certain way because you think it is what is expected.

I realized that I was keeping my hair long for fear of other’s reactions to it. Now I get to be part of a secret society of women who know how great short is. We have an instant bond.

Those women know it’s freeing. They know you save shower time, style time, and money on product. They know they made a choice about their body that was for them and not to please anyone else (if you like long hair that’s great too, but do it for you and no one else!) They know that people will look at you differently, and it’s an awesome feeling.

And surprise, no one’s eyes have melted yet because my new hair isn’t their idea of beauty. Over the last week I’ve felt respect, admiration, and even jealousy. To the one girl who said “I wish I could just cut my hair like you” the good news is, you CAN. I did. JUST DO IT!

Can you bike in the winter?

Can you? Yes. Should you though? Sure, why not.

Unfortunately this is not my bike.

Winter biking is about preparation and discipline. So is a business. The same traits that prompt me to try winter biking also prompted me to open an Etsy store. So, this still relates to Quest for Cute 😉 I dare you to challenge yourself and bike once this winter!

I wrote this post in November, which is fully fledged winter in Minnesota (Wisconsin, I miss you). You may have thought good biking weather ended in September. WRONG! You can bike all year, except for maybe December-January (depends how snow covered the bike lanes/trails/sidewalks are).

Well my friends, I am about to demystify winter biking! The key is layers. Here is a list of what I wear:

  1. Sweatpants

That’s right, sweatpants! The kind you get from college. You could also probably purchase them from any superstore for a reasonable price. Notice how I didn’t write spandex?

2. Leggings

Sometimes when it gets chilly (around 10 degrees) I will wear leggings under my sweatpants.

3. Athletic shoes

My feet actually don’t get very cold while biking, but if your toesies are prone to freezing, you could wear boots, or plastic bags over your shoes (seriously, bags are great) I wear normal athletic shoes with some socks!

4. Socks!

I wear crew socks until it drops to the notably chilly temp of around 10 degrees, then I will wear my wool socks.

5. Shirt

Ever heard the expression ‘cotton kills’? Cotton won’t keep you warm or dry- it will keep you wet and and cold though! My bike commute is short enough that cotton doesn’t pose a danger (about 7 miles, takes me about 40 minutes) so I still wear cotton sometimes, but otherwise I wear a long sleeve or short sleeve dry wicking Nike shirt. You can definitely tell the difference in the quality.

6. Sweatshirt

Ok again cotton kills, but I alternate between a cotton and polyester sweatshirt depending on my laundry situation. The shirt helps buffer the sweat, so no dying during my 7 mile ride.

7. Windbreaker

You know those 3 layer jackets you get from Columbia or Northface? I just use the outer shell over my sweatshirt. I found the inner fleece to be itchy, constricting, and gross after biking. The sweatshirt is roomier.

8. Gloves + Mittens

Hands do get cold, and you need a little more mobility to effectively shift and break. I wear a pair of wool gloves underneath loose, soft mittens. This gives me the warmth and mobility I need.

9. Balaclava

I wear a face mask when it hits between 10-20 degrees. It keeps my face toasty.

10. Hat

I always wear a hat, starting around 55 degrees and under, otherwise ears get chilly! I wear it on top of my balaclava too.

11. Glasses/Goggles

I wear cheap safety classes I got for $10 off Amazon to stop the wind from freezing my eyeballs at zero degrees. They do fog up a little bit, but for the price and the infrequency of me biking in 0 degrees, it works just fine. My husband got a pair of ski goggles for $40 from REI on sale, which seem to work well and don’t fog up. Also, he looks a lot cooler than I do. But otherwise, cheap glasses will do, especially when paired with the balaclava and hat.

So that’s all my gear. But gear will only get you so far, and you may be wondering- what about the ice???

I did in fact hit a patch of ice last year and slid off my bike. The good news is, there was so much snow it was like landing into a snowy cushion. I only had a bruise where my saddle hit my thigh, but other than that, it was a pleasant fall. Also, my multiples layers padded me as well. As long as there isn’t a foot of snow to bike through, you can bike! 🙂

Additional accessories to consider:

A safety vest ($10 at Menard’s)

Here in Minnesota, it gets dark at 4:30PM in the winter. That means I am always biking in the dark. I noticed a visible difference when I started biking with a high visibility vest- cars gave me the space I needed, they were like “Whoa this girl is safe! Here’ s a 20 foot buffer!”

Front and rear light

We never see the light of day in the north. I like to have front and rear lights to increase my visibility and spot and patches of ice.


This is a given! I use it for every season to carry my crap around. It’s waterproof and can hold alllll my layers, for those last minute Midwestern weather changes!

Bus Pass

In case there’s a last minute snow storm and you actually can’t bike home :0

Cell phone

So you can call your friend to pick you up if you beef it on the ice 🙂

That’s it for now! Give it a try and let me know how it went. Remember to take it slow, keep an eye out for ice, and enjoy the freedom of winter biking and the trails all to yourself.

My Mantra

If you couldn’t guess already I think a lot about life. I love self help books and self improvement. Probably (definitely) a little too much. I just want to be the best Deidre I can be =^.^=

In one of my favorite books ever, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it has you write a mission statement for your life. It is both scary and simple; forcing your to think about what you have accomplished so far and what you have yet to do. But don’t be intimidated by the title of the book; it’s not about how you can squeeze in more meetings or be more productive- the key word is effective for a reason.

He encourages you to be effective in life. That means in your relationships, community, and contributions to society. How do you want to be remembered by your friends and family? It could be as simple as being remembered for always showing up, or for bringing the best cookies to the bake sale, or for volunteering in the community. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking- I actually think it is better if it isn’t, because then you’re not paralyzed by the pressure of trying to become rich/famous/super innovative.

I really believe that small things add up, and if you are known to your friends as being generous, who knows what kind of impact that could have on the world? Maybe you inspired your circle of friends to be a little more generous too, and their generosity inspired even more people.

~Back to the mission statement~ other than keeping me on track, this exercised has helped me become a more grounded, decisive person. If you know what your values are, no one can question that. So here is the recipe for how I try to live my life:

  1. Always grow. I think this started because I always felt like I had to overcompensate for my quietness and femaleness. But now, growing is essential in redirecting the course of my life. Also, what else do I have to do with my time?
  2. Fail Brilliantly. In order to actually do anything with my Etsy shop, I had to fight my perfectionist tendencies and be okay with messing up sometimes, because failing is better than being inaction caused by fear. Launching a Kickstarter was the most stressful thing I did this year- the first one didn’t quite make the goal, but the experience I got was invaluable, and my second Kickstarter went much better. It didn’t matter how many articles I read before I launched, failure was the best teacher.
  3. Try. I will try most things. I attribute this to my dad daring me and my brother to eat the strangest thing on the menu whenever we went out to eat. Also, who wants to miss out on things? Try and it could be great! Try and it could also not be so great, but then you have your answer 🙂
  4. Include others. My heart pangs when I see someone being left out. You can just tell in their face. I may be quiet, but I will talk to anyone.
  5. Be choosey. As an artist, I felt like I had do to every creative endeavor. I painted, I did photography, I sewed, I sculpted, I made candles. I did a lot of things. And I am grateful I tried all of them. But now that I am focusing only on illustrating, I feel relieved. I have more time to excel in one thing, and ignore the things I still enjoy but am less passionate about. By eliminating things, you are actually freeing yourself to work what you love most.
  6. Be inspiring. By working on myself, I hope to inspire others to do the same. I know it’s no fun to be in a dark place, and I want everyone to know it is possible to pull yourself out.
  7. Have faith. Life is weird. Life is confusing. Why are we here? I don’t know. But I accept that there is probably a higher purpose, and as a human I will never be able to mentally or physically comprehend what the bigger picture is. So I have faith that life is good, life is worth it, and it will all be ok in the end. And that makes me happy.
  8. Be brave. In order to make things better, you have to be brave. Your quality of life depends on how brave you are willing to be, and how many difficult conversations/situations you are willing to have. You can do it. It is scary to change a job, it is scary to have a conversation with your boss, it is scary to share your innermost thoughts on the internet. But, my life has improved each time I’ve done something scary. It’s a necessary and rewarding part of life.

Whew! That was a lot for a Saturday morning. This time, I’m drinking Chocolate Truffle pu erh tea while writing this post. I think it will replace my chai for a bit 🙂 so, what is your life mantra? Or, if you prefer something lighter, what is your favorite warm beverage?