Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

The two minute rule

the two minute rule to get shit done // a thousand threads
It’s no secret around here that I’m a list maker… an organizer with a penchant for itineraries and planners and 40 different apps to schedule my day. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

But this one little rule might be so brilliant as to shatter just the tiniest bit of a corner of my list-loving regime.

I’ve heard the tip before, but applied to email, and for some silly reason I never thought to apply it to everything else. Essentially, the rule is that if you think of something you need to do that would take two minutes or less, do it right then. Don’t wait, because all of that planning and organizing and putting it on your list will take longer than the task itself. Not only will you save time, but you’ll get the productivity ball rolling in the right direction.

What do you think? Is this something you already do? Or, if you’re a list-maker like me, would you consider making an exception for the two minute rule?

Photo by Sharon Radisch.


Setting a workday schedule (so you can relax)

breathe // a thousand threads
I’ll admit, lately I’ve been repeating that phrase a lot, trying to remind myself to take a break. When you’ve got a lot going on, it can be easy to fall into the busy trap and never stop to come up for air. And I’m always looking for a way to squeeze just that much more in — which can be terrible if you fill the available time with more work, but amazing if you use that free time to take a breath and enjoy a few moments of silence. So, in honor of silence, here’s one new way I’ve managed to squeak out a little extra time, and leave work at work.

By setting a schedule and sticking to it, I’m able to cut down on a lot of the distractions I’d normally get lost in — Pinterest, I’m looking at you. And once I’ve ticked everything off the list, that’s it. I can stop and relax, knowing that everything is done.

Of course each day varies with its own more specific tasks, but with my work flow all laid out I’m able to concentrate on my to do list and actually get something done, instead of falling into the black hole of social media that can suck me in for hours.


Morning //
// Finish anything urgent or on a tight deadline.
// Read the news, catch up, and schedule tweets for the day. (30 minutes)
// Post blog post to Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest. (5 minutes)

Daytime //
// DO NOT continue to stare at social media. It’s hands off for now.
// Respond to ALL email. (30 minutes)
// Get shit done. (Exactly how it’s worded in my schedule.)

Evening //
// Read blogs, say hi to friends. (30 minutes)
// Play on Pinterest. (30 minutes)

For me, this schedule runs from train time in the morning to train time at night (the biggest part of my commute). Once I’m home, I usually circle back to work on the blog — such is the life — but if I’ve stuck to my schedule I can do it without any worries hanging over my head from the day. I know I have my emails out of the way, my social media under control, and I’ve made a big dent in the rest of my work. If there’s something left over, it can wait until the next day when I’ll do it all again.


5 things I wish I knew when I started a blog

5 things I wish I knew when I started a blog // a thousand threads
When I started this blog I knew next to nothing. I didn’t know how to edit a photo, or promote my posts, or change even the most basic design elements on my blog… and I’d definitely never heard of anything like SEO. Looking back, I marvel at how long it took me to learn some of the simplest things. But sometimes it’s the simple things that can be the hardest. I can’t tell you how long I struggled with branding, or how much and what I should share (and to be honest, it’s a process… I still do) so even though there are tons of nitty gritty details I wish I’d known when I started this blog, these are a few of the really big basics that stand out…

1 // You have to tell people about it.

I don’t care what you do for a living, be proud of this other more creative side of yourself and tell everyone you know what you’re up to. You have every reason in the world to be proud.

When I first started out, I was afraid of what other people might say — now I’ll admit I feel a whole lot more like this.

2 // Read other blogs, but set a limit.

Too much obsession with what else is out there can breed insecurity and box you in. We all need a little inspiration or a kick in the ass now and then, but too much can stifle your creativity.

3 // You can’t fool please all the people all the time.

You can’t be everything to everyone. No matter how badass you think that chick over there with the diy craft blog is, if you’re not Martha, you’re not Martha.

But you are passionate about something else, right? That’s why you started a blog. (And remember I didn’t say good at, I said passionate. You can always learn.) If you focus on the things you’re passionate about, it will show in your work. You just can’t fake it in this industry. You have to be comfortable with your brand and let it shine, limitations and all. Letting go of all of that extra stuff is the only way you’ll ever find your own personal brand.

4 // Natural light will be your best friend and your worst enemy.

Okay this is sort of nitty gritty, but it’s important. Photographers often specialize in one thing… still life or portraiture or landscape. If you have a lifestyle blog, you’ll need to be an expert in all of the above. So the sooner you figure out how light works, the better off you’ll be. Watch out for direct, harsh sun and dark rooms with artificial (yellow) lighting. Seek out the shade when you’re outside on a sunny day and seek out the sun next to a window when you’re inside. I can’t even tell you how long it took me to figure out how to work with the light, and I’m still learning every day.

5 // You will learn, you will get better, and you will grow. Work hard and have faith. It will happen.

I still remind myself of this every day, and when I look back over time I can see that it’s true. You don’t have to do everything right right away, and you won’t! But that’s okay, half of the fun is in improving every day.

Those are my top five… but like I said, there’s so much more.

What have you learned along the way, and what do you wish you knew more about? Are there any questions or topics you’d like to hear more about from me?

P.S. I’m sort of obsessed with Waterlogue, you too?


Getting organized on the go

getting organized on the go / a thousand threads
With Alt coming up in just two weeks and a full plate right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to get and stay organized on the go. Even though the conference will be a little bit of a vacation — I’m so excited to see everyone, attend some great parties, and learn a ton of new things — I’ll also be working hard to keep up with everything at home. Luckily, that’s something I’m used to. So I thought I’d share a few of the ways I prepare to stay organized on the go — both to remind myself, and to give you all some ideas if you happen to be looking!

// Decide which device(s) are best to take. Major project? Bring your laptop. Just keeping up & taking notes? Use a tablet with a keyboard (this is what I’ll be using at Alt thanks to Lenovo’s generous sponsorship). Do you need your Kindle or can your tablet do double duty with a Kindle app?

// Check for wi-fi on the plane, and prepare accordingly. If you don’t have it, it’s a good time to sit down and write or read that paper that’s been nagging you.

// Use a cloud. It’s the best way to keep all of your work in one place, and to access it on the go. Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive are great options that cost little to nothing.

// Make a list. Nobody wants to get to the airport and realize they’ve left their phone charger at home. And if you really hate packing (like me) try Packing Pro to make the lists for you!

// Make a folder. Organize all of your flight details, appointments, etc in an email or other folder on your device for easy access. TripIt is a great option for doing all of this on your device.

// Use your commuting time to work, but don’t overdo it. You still want some time to relax and take it all in. Even if it’s just a business trip, it’s an opportunity to travel. Try not to take it for granted.

// And speaking of a little bit of time to relax — download GateGuru to find the best food on your layovers. (You know I’m always thinking about the food.)


How to organize your blog’s editorial calendar

how to organize your editorial calendar / a thousand threads
I’ve gone through a lot of different types of editorial calendars. Lists, yearly calendars with just a quick overview, monthly planning alongside the rest of my work… but it’s only recently that I’ve found something that really works.

Of course, I share this with the caveat that this is what works for me. Everyone is a little bit different. But what I’ve found is that there are a few very specific (very detailed) things I need to keep an effective editorial calendar.

1 // It needs to be separate from the rest of my work. Even from my blog-related appointments.

For a long time I tried to keep everything together, and it was just too easy to let the editorial planning fall by the wayside.

2 // It needs to be all-inclusive.

That sounds like a contradiction, but what I mean is that everything involved in my editorial planning needs to be contained in one place. That means the brainstorming, the scheduling, and the planning.

First, I’ll brainstorm a list of posts based on a pre-set list of topics. Then I’ll use that list to fill in my calendar, and adjust the topics accordingly. Last, I’ll plan when any prep for a post needs to take place. Scheduling is only half the battle, after all.

3 // I still need a to-do list and an appointment calendar.

Such is my busy life and obsessive compulsive planning problem. The editorial calendar happens in Google Docs, the appointments are recorded in my Google Calendar, and the to-do list is updated in TeuxDeux.

Technically, I love to keep a paper planner… but I’ve finally given in to the fact that they’re just too much to carry around.

And if I can’t carry it around, it’s not any use.

Here’s an example of my own editorial calendar for November.

It’s pretty rudimentary, but it works just perfectly for me. And I’m so excited that I’ve finally found something that does that I just had to share.

Photo via.


3 effective writing habits that work for me

effective writing habits / a thousand threads
I don’t write nearly as often as I’d like to. Life always seems to get in the way. But I’m always fascinated by the writing habits of others. James Joyce apparently wrote just a few sentences a day, while Ernest Hemingway made it a point to get in 500 words… and Stephen King goes all the way to 10 pages, even on holidays. Truman Capote wrote lying down, and Alexandre Dumas wrote for decades only on one particular shade of blue paper. Some wrote in between errands, some during (Gertrude Stein wrote while her wife drove them around in their Model T Ford.)

Some habits make sense, some not so much.

Here are a few of my own that I’ve found to help…

1 // If you can’t write something good, write nonsense.

Lately I’ve started using to get out the bugs on the days I’m feeling less than inspired. The idea is that once you’ve written 750 words of nonsense, your head is all limbered up and the ideas will flow. So far I’ve found it to be really effective!

2 // Read

An hour or so with David Sedaris and my brain is buzzing with ideas. Of course, my storytelling ability doesn’t hold a candle to his… but at least I can try. Practice makes perfect, right?

It’s all about reading the folks that inspire you.

3 // Walk

When all else fails, take a walk. Sitting (I sit – anyone here stand or lie down?) for too long in front of a computer will fry anyone’s brain. Moving around gets things going again, and for me, it usually works to break the block.

What are some of your writing habits? Do you use any tricks to break you out of a slump?

Photo via.


Optimize your pictures for the web

how to optimize your pictures for the web / a thousand threads
Hey bloggers and creatives, do you optimize your pictures before putting them on the web? I’m guessing you do. But if you have no idea what I’m talking about (because until yesterday, I was with you…) then do I have some news that will blow your mind.

For months (years) now I’ve been struggling with an irritating grey tone… one that wouldn’t show up on my laptop, but damnit if it didn’t show up every single time I pinned something I’d posted. I thought it was something in my editing, maybe my screen (I needed a desktop, desktops are always better for photo editing!)… or what if it was the light, the shot itself? I was one step away from an asylum when I came across this article on the Alt Blog.

I thought, “Huh, what is this “save for the web” thing? Maybe I should try it out…”

And then, as Emeril would say

But tell me now, is this one of those super simple things I was already supposed to know? Or are you with me? Because I’m feeling a little silly for all of these years of un-optimized, sad, grey little photos like the one on the top left.


So you’re engaged, now what?

so you're engaged, now what? / a thousand threads

I know you’re so excited, and you should be, but don’t run out and start booking your vendors right away. You’re going to want to get your bearings first, create a plan… you can’t do anything until you’ve got a guest list and a venue anyway. So sit back, relax, have a glass of wine with your new fiancé. You have time.

Read More »


The End is Nigh

how to move your google reader / a thousand threads
Just a few more days! Have you started the move?

I have to admit that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Feedly, but there are lots of great options out there — including Bloglovin’, of course, along with an upcoming reader from Digg that promises to be pretty great.

And because of the mass exodus, nearly all of these services have made it crazy easy to move. For instructions on moving to Bloglovin’, click here. And for Feedly it’s as easy as signing in. They do all of the work for you.

So if you’re still holding out (I know a few of you are) don’t be scared to take the leap. You can even try a few and see which one you like best.

And while you’re at it (because what would this post be without a little shameless self-promotion?) you can add A Thousand Threads to your list!

// To add A Thousand Threads on Bloglovin’, click here.

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The 5 Best Things I Learned at Alt NYC

alt nyc / a thousand threads
Where to start? I’ve heard a lot of things about Alt over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience itself. My head is still reeling from the events of the day, which were entertaining, enlightening and — most of all — empowering.

My mind wasn’t necessarily blown. I didn’t come home with the secret password that unlocks the door to bloggy success… but I did come home with something that’s, arguably, a lot more important. Confidence.

And come to think of it, I suppose that kind of is the key to bloggy success.

Despite hearing from so many different voices, speaking from so many different perspectives, there was a constant that ran throughout the day. You have to have confidence in yourself and your goal to succeed. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, to take risks and to suffer the consequences with grace, and willingness to turn around and do it all over again. Because that is the only way you’ll make it.

I feel so lucky to have heard from such inspiring speakers as Grace Bonney and Garance Doré, and to have the chance now to take their lessons and run.

The five best things I learned at Alt NYC are more specific than the lesson above, but they all ultimately hold the same truth.

Believe in yourself, and others will begin to believe in you too…

Read More »

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