Apps and Extensions for Ultra Productivity

 Photo by  Saulo Mohana  on  Unsplash

Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

 
"The man who grasps principles can successfully handle his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble." - Harrington Emerson

I'm strongly of the opinion that technology should simplify your life, not complicate it. So, before I offer a list of apps and extensions that have been incredibly helpful to me, take the above quote to mind first. Adding more apps and extensions won't automatically make you more productive. Like any tool, apps and extensions are only helpful if they solve a problem that you're facing. Otherwise, they're just another thing to look at, learn, deal with, and keep up with. Just like how reading a self-help book won't automatically make changes in your life, adding a bunch of bloat to your browser and mindlessly checking apps won't supercharge your productivity. 

That's a longer way of saying -- if you just throw more apps and extensions into your daily work mix without first having a solid working foundation, they will make your life worse. 

That being said, I don't install apps and extensions willy nilly. In fact, perhaps a more useful list might be the apps that I don't have installed or the ones that I've uninstalled in anger. At any rate, the apps and extensions that I've listed here have been on my browser or phone for at least 6 months (some 6 years!) and have brought me much value. 

Lastpass

Lastpass is a godsend. It's a password manager that I use as both a Chrome extension and an app on my iPhone. What's my bank account password? I don't know. Lastpass does, though, and it's 64 characters long, full of all sorts of different types of characters, and is completely encrypted, hashed out, and stored in the cloud. Lastpass generates and stores all of my passwords for me, except for one -- my master password. This one password (or my thumb on my phone) unlocks my Lastpass Vault, which grants me access to my accounts. Lastpass is exceptional for sharing passwords between me and my husband, too. He also uses Lastpass, and all of our joint accounts are Shared Passwords via lastpass. If I need to get into, say, our health insurance, which is in his name, he just hops into Lastpass and gives me permission to login with him. Same goes for business sharing with team members. There is a learning curve to Lastpass. I suggest taking it slowly and manually updating your existing passwords with it and including any new accounts you might form during the process. The free version is decent, but I've found it to be well worth the $13 a year. 

StayFocused

StayFocused has been a mainstay on my browser since about 2012. Here's the deal, you load this baby up on your browser, input a list of websites that you don't want to waste time on (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, News...), and set an amount of time you're allowed to spend on them per day. Mine is 10 min. Once you hit your allotted amount of time, StayFocused blocks all of your listed sites from opening on your browser until the next day at midnight (or whatever yours is set to)...and there's no way to undo it. When I'm in ultra focus mode, I use The Nuclear Option that they offer. You set a few criteria depending on what you need to do, and it blocks EVERYTHING or even certain types of content for a specific period of time. This baby is free, but they do take donations. 

Newsfeed Eradicator

How many hours have you spent mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, only to learn that the girl who sat next to you in sixth grade social studies recently went on a trip to Ireland? Like it or not, you've likely spent an embarrassing amount of time learning such stupid and pointless things about people who don't really matter to you. First of all, I always suggest a Facebook friend purge, but Newsfeed Eradicator helps keep the mindless scrolling in check. It literally just blocks the Facebook Newsfeed from your browser view. You still get messages and notifications, but you won't start going down a click hole to see what your freshman year homecoming date's wife wore to their oldest kid's birthday party. Instead, Newsfeed Eradicator will feed you a quote about the fleetingness of precious time and remind you to get back to working on something important to you. This is free. 

uBlock Origin

It's an ad blocker for your browser, plain and simple. It's great. It lets you pause it when a site won't let you do something with an ad blocker installed. You can customize what types of content come through or don't. You can get really technical with it and dig into some code and specific elements of sites, but at the end of the day, it blocks ads and does a damn good job of it. This is free. 

MixMax

This is the most expensive recommendation on the list. It's a Chrome extension for Gmail, and the version that I use is $24 / month and worth every penny. MixMax is what you wish regular email was. You can see when people open your messages, from what device, and where. You can schedule emails to go out at specific times. Share your availability for a meeting. Invite people to meetings. Make templated emails. Share a poll to get answers from people. Send self-destructing messages. You can schedule follow ups and clear an email from your inbox until a specified date. You can UNDO A SEND! I'm excited to get to the point where I want or need the Enterprise package because you can do all sorts of neat things with rules that dictate what to do with some emails automatically. 

Clue

Clue is an iPhone app (maybe Android, too?) where you track your cycle, symptoms related to your cycle, and your sexual activity. Well designed and intuitive to use, you won't be left wondering when your last cycle began or if you are experiencing something atypical for your body. Clue can send you reminders and let you know when you're (likely) ovulating or about to start your period. Clue learns as you use it more, so the more you log and keep track of the more correct it gets in its predictions. I've been using Clue since 205 so I have 3 years worth of health data on myself. If you're cool like me, you can also run a bunch of reports based on your selected criteria to get big picture looks at what's going on with your body. You can also grant your partner access to your data should they need to plan something around your cycle. There's a paid version, but I use the free. I also opted into anonymously sharing my data with the Clue team to help them better understand women's health --- because someone should be doing that. 

Moment

How much time per day do you think that you spend on your phone? I can 100% guarantee you that it's more than you think. I estimated my daily phone usages at about 90 minutes...BOY was I wrong. Try an average of 4 hours and 20 mins...per day of my life staring at a rectangle in my hand. That's 30 hours a week, BTW. Your number is likely similar. Moment runs in the background of your phone, doesn't hog battery, and just tracks how often you're on your device. Moment let's you set thresholds for notification so that you...I dunno...look up from your phone and enjoy the world around you. The free version is good and sends you a daily report notification of your phone usage. The $3.99 app, which I purchased, will ping you with reminders and gentle nudges. You can also get hardcore with the premium version and have your phone lock when you hit certain time limits. 

What about you? What apps and extensions do you love? Tell me in the comments

My No Makeup Skincare Routine

 Photo by  Logan Nolin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Logan Nolin on Unsplash

I recently mentioned in my newsletter that I haven't worn makeup in well over a month. This included time spent in New York City taking business meetings and socializing with friends. During this time, no one has said anything or noticed. For brevity's sake, I'll copy and paste an excerpt from the newsletter for my whys, observations, and thoughts: 
 

I haven't worn makeup in over a month. No one has said a word or looked at me funny. I haven't been treated differently. My friends still like me.  My marriage hasn't crumbled. If fact, I told my husband this morning that I haven't so much as swiped on mascara since June, and he commented that he hadn't noticed. I skipped makeup entirely while I was in New York seeing friends and attending business meetings. I get that some people find makeup fun or a way to express themselves creatively. It's none of that for me. It's something I started doing in college because other people around me were. Spending money on makeup isn't how I want to spend my money. I hated feeling like I was behind a mask all of the time. I felt like I was afraid to show the world my face as it is. I hated spending time applying it. It's not fun or confidence building for me, it's a compulsory construct to womanhood. So, a month ago I stopped. It's way more comfortable - especially in the heat. Better for me and my body - make up is made of petrochemicals and you are smearing it on your face and around delicate mucus membranes and your airways. It's made me feel way more confident in myself as I am. I take better care of my skin and find nourishing the face I have is the ultimate in self care and love, which helps me feel more beautiful than I ever did slathered in foundation. I'm probably not completely done with make up, though I think long term I might like to be (it's a journey), but I'm interested to see the role it plays in my life longterm. 


Maybe you like putting on makeup, that's fine. Personally I think we all could stand to be a little bit more comfortable in the skin that we're in. If you feel the same way, or just want to learn how to take better care of your skin in general, keep reading. Since I got a few emails asking questions about this, here's how I nourish my skin so that I feel confident and glowy without any makeup.

#1 Food, Water, Sun, Sleep, and Exercise

Basically these things are everything in life -- your mood, your will power, your discipline, the thoughts you choose to think, annnnd your skin. Quick breakdown of what I do for each that makes a difference for my skin

Food: ~70% of my daily calories come from good, high quality fat. What does this look like? A lot of pastured eggs, pastured bacon, avocado, pastured steak, coconut oil, grassfed butter, raw cheeses, whole fat yogurt, and some nuts sometimes. Good fats in your body mean healthy oils making up your skin.  I don't eat grains, fruit, vegetable oils (cottonseed, soy, canola, grapeseed, etc), and barely any sugar. Personally, I do really well with dairy, but a lot of people seem to have better luck with their skin when they cut it out. My hunch here is that most commercially available dairy is garbage and barely recognizable as dairy, so your body is like WTF when you eat it, but that's an entire blog post in and of itself. I also drink a lot of bone broth that I make from pastured cow bones, and cow liver which is super high in vitamin A (a good skin vitamin). Cow liver is the original superfood.

Water: Drink a lot of water and add some Himalayan pink salt to it.

Sun: Most people will tell you to run from the sun to keep your skin looking good. I'm not suggesting that you never use sunscreen again (TBH I don't use much, tho), but it's important that you let your face feel sunshine without sunscreen on it. Sunkissed skin is healthy skin. Vitamin D from the sun is a precursor to so many vital physiological processes -- including testosterone production. My diet of at least 70% of my calories from good, high quality fats also helps prevent sunburn -- but again, we could do an entire blog post on this.

Sleep: Beauty sleep, doy. When you sleep your body releases a ton of regenerative hormones and does maintenance work all over your body. Sleep is essential to doing anything worthwhile with your life.

Exercise: Exercise literally keeps you young. Heavy compound lifts - deadlifts and squats --- release IGF-1 which is a growth factor that helps build muscle and repair tissue. You'll also sweat a lot during exercise which will help keep your skin clear and getting your blood flowing is how you don't look pale and dead without makeup.

#2 Skincare Products

Here's my general rule for anything that I slather onto myself: If I wouldn't be willing to eat it, I won't put it on my skin. This doesn't mean it would have to taste good, of course. Your skin is your largest organ and it absorbs all that you put on it. This goes into your bloodstream. Conventional beauty products have been shown to disrupt hormones and some ingredients in beauty products are also used to degrease jet engines sooo I'm not about that life. Also, no need for fancy stuff. Simple ingredients and low prices.

Trader Joe's Face Wash - I use this in the morning after the gym and in the evening before I go to sleep.

Feather, Eagle, Sky Luminous Face Scrub - I use this once a week on Sunday evening before bed with a dollop of jojoba oil.

Egyptian Magic - I wear this on the daily. A tiny bit goes a long way. I will also wear this at night some nights. If I want to make my eyelashes pop a bit, I dunk an eyelash brush in this oil and apply it to my lashes. It's also great lip balm. It's so multi-purpose. I love it.

Rosehip Seed Oil, Vitamin E Oil, and Vitamin A Drops - About 3-5 times a week I layer on these three components before bed. This combo for me has been a game changer.

Arcona's The Eye's Have It - This one is the most questionable ingredient wise, but it's not terrrrible. I originally bought it on sale as an eye cream, but randomly discovered that it does a good job reducing the redness that pops up on the end of my nose. The end of my nose always gets red and flaky -- especially if I've been drinking, eating too much sugar, or if I spend too much time in the sun. This one is used as needed.

#3 The Routine

Morning:
Sometimes before the gym, I'll toss cold water onto my face, but that's about it. Pre-gym a light coating of Egyptian Magic. Then, wash with Trader Joe's Face Wash in the morning after the gym. Apply another light coating of Egyptian Magic. When you don't put on makeup, you don't need to wash your face as much IMHO, seems to be working for me so far.

Evening: Wash with TJ's Face Wash. Then, about 3-5x a week I'll roll my face with this micro-needling derma roller for about 2 min. Then I layer on rosehip seed oil, then vitamin A drops, and then vitamin E oil (which is super thick). The vitamin A drops will turn your face orange, FYI. I wait about 20 min to let it soak in a bit before bed -- otherwise you'll get orange all over your pillow and lose your skincare goodness. Once a week, on Sundays, I use the Luminous Face Scrub and follow with Egyptian Magic. If I'm not doing my custom mix of oils at night then I'm using Egyptian Magic. If my nose is red, I'll apply the Arcona eye cream in the evening as well. 


That's it! None of the above links are affiliate, I'm just a big fan of the products. How do you care for your skin? Tell me in the comments. 
 

Getting Everything You Want and Being Pissed About It

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My parking garage empties out into an alley behind my apartment building. I live in downtown Santa Monica, so it's a pretty tight fit between a bunch of apartment complexes and both big and small stores. The alley is used by those of us who live in the buildings for parking, for deliveries to the stores (West Elm and Pottery Barn in particular), and for utility access. There's also been construction directly across the alley on a new building for the entire year that I've lived here. 

The gym classes that I attend are in the mornings at 9:30. The gym is just under 2 miles from my house, so usually if I leave around 9:15 that gets me to the gym at about 9:25. Recently, the addition of a boxing class to my 9:30am gym schedule means that I also need to factor in some extra time to wrap my wrists before class, so I've been leaving around 9:05. This is going somewhere, I promise. 

For the last few weeks, each time I leave my house in the morning the alley is a total, and this is a technical term, clusterfuck. Without fail I wind up behind a garbage truck collecting trash, or West Elm and Pottery Barn would stagger their delivery trucks on either side of the alley making it nearly impossible to sneak through, or, as it's been the last few days, they're ripping up all of the concrete to do something with the utilities. Between this alley mess and general traffic, I kept rolling into class right as it starts or late, feeling rude and rushed. I was pissed that even though I was trying to give myself enough time, it was never enough time to actually get there on time. And, to make me even angrier, it kept happening day after day. 

Awareness was the first step, and after literally sitting in my alley for 20 minutes one morning trying to get to the gym, I knew I needed to change my approach. I hated feeling rushed, rude, and like a spaz, so I decided that I'd leave the house the next morning before 9am. So, one fateful Thursday morning before boxing class, I headed to the elevator and made it to my car 3 floors underground by 8:55am. 

Getting out of the parking garage was a cinch. I checked the mirrors to enter the alley, and, to my surprise, it was completely empty. There wasn't a utility crew, delivery truck, construction dumpster, or garbage truck in sight. I cruised through the alley, and upon entering the street, I made a difficult turn without any traffic. I caught the light right by my house, then every light down Fourth Street, which was also mysteriously empty. Even where Fourth Street crosses Los Angeles's infamous "The Ten" freeway, there wasn't a car or red light to be found. I pulled up to the gym at 9:08am. 

I was pissed. Thoughts raced through my head, "Are you freaking serious? The ONE DAY I give myself so much time to get here, and there's not a single hold up!? Of course that would happen..." 

What? This makes no sense. I caught myself in the moment. Hold up, gurrrl. I literally got exactly what I wanted. I set out to get to the gym without being late or held up, and that's exactly what happened. This was victim thinking at work. Instead of being grateful to myself for identifying a problem, committing to a solution, and then getting blessed by the Los Angeles traffic gods to get to my class on time, I decided to throw a pity party because things went too well. NONSENSE. I was looking for reasons to feel victimized and on the whim of the nefarious world, and I was determined to find them --- SO I FOUND THEM EVEN WHEN I GOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED. 

It was never about the thing I wanted. It was my mindset and thought patterns falling back into a negative, victimy, and lazy groove. It was about feeling like shit no matter the outcome, and rationalizing my shitty reaction. It was a choice to be empty and pissed off rather than fulfilled and happy for the outcome - whatever it may be. 

I quickly changed my tone. Felt gratitude for myself, felt gratitude to the LA traffic gods, felt gratitude for getting to the gym safely and quickly, felt excitement at the added opportunity to chat extra with my coach and fellow boxers, and my day turned around. Interesting side note, if not for this whole little episode, my coach wouldn't have told me that he was interested in becoming Totem's first Ambassador. 

Shifted mindset = more open to opportunity. Better mindset and thought process = ability to see the awesomeness standing right in front of you. 

What I've learned over and over again is that if you're doing something on the micro, you're definitely doing it on the macro too. What I mean is, how you think about the day to day stuff you encounter shapes the big picture life stuff you're trying to build and create. So if you're getting pissy about traffic, you're definitely getting pissy about your love life, career, businesses, friendships, diet...whatever. 

It's important to learn how to observe and track your own feelings, behaviors, and emotional responses in real time, so that you can figure out when you're operating against your own best interest. The easiest, most in your face way to do this is to watch how you handle simple day to day tasks, bumps in the road, and mild annoyances. It's hard to zoom out and see how your thought processes and reactions might be sabotaging your big picture goals, but you have nearly constantly opportunity to see what you're doing in the minutia of your life. 

There's a saying that goes around that says, "How you do one thing is how you do all things." Although I think there's some limitations to this, context matters, it is just an aphorism after all, I think it holds some merit when it comes to your emotional responses to situations. Without realizing it, you might be sabotaging long term efforts for short term self-righteousness or victimhood, which might feel like a victory in the moment but will leave you feeling empty, hopeless, and apathetic long term. All of which then validates your short sighted reactions and continues the cycle of pity parties and being miserable no matter what outcome you might create for yourself. 

Fixing this underlying thought process is critical to happiness, fulfillment, and a joyful life. You can get everything you want and the lights might all be in your favor, but if you have a shitty mindset you'll still be pissed and empty once you have it. On the contrary, if you shift your mindset to find ways to support and love yourself and the opportunities in the world, not only will things you want come more easily, but once you have them you'll feel amazing about it. Content, even. It's a choice - choose to be empower yourself or choose to blame, project, be angry, and victimize yourself. 

This is all a long way of saying: Keeping an eye on day to day reactions, behaviors, and emotional knee jerks can often paint a clearer picture of the same reactions, behaviors, and knee jerks that are actually guiding your big picture goals. Then, once you identify what you're doing that's holding you back, you can adjust accordingly. Finally, once you realize that starting with gratitude is the key, you'll always be happy for what you create for yourself. If you start with a victim mindset, the thing you're chasing or building will never bring you what you think it will.