A Super Simple way to pull yourself out of a funk

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We all go through times when we feel like our job is the pits. We’re uninspired, going through a dry spell, or a project that we worked on didn’t live up to our expectations. While hopefully these down times are few and far between, sometimes it can really come out of nowhere and leave you feeling a little lost.

After getting back to working full-time since I was freelancing all spring, I was feeling a little scatter-brained and mildly unproductive with my personal goals over the past couple weeks (I think I went to the gym a grand total of 3 days out of 14 and I haven’t written a blog post in 2 weeks). Then I remembered a small ritual I had started doing before I left Toronto (that I learned from Sarah of Yes and Yes fame) and I hadn’t really picked up again since returning to Halifax. This is where my notebook, pictured above with my favourite Winston Churchill quote, comes in.

At the end of each day, I find a few minutes to take out this notebook and open to a new spread. On the left side, I write a list of all the things that made me happy that day including, but not at all limited to:

- What my favourite part of the day was

- A conversation that was meaningful

- Something I ate that was amazing

- Something new that I learned, or that I taught myself

- A thing that I accomplished

- An act of kindness that made me smile

- Something funny that happened

- An opportunity that came up

- Anything that I am grateful for

This list recharges my brain if I find myself drowning in a pool of negativity at the end of a long day. Some days the list is longer than others, but it’s still uplifting, no matter how short. Finding the goodness in every single day can be tricky, but it’s so valuable.

On the right side of the book, I write a list of goals that I’d like to accomplish the next day. This list really varies in length, some days there’s only one goal in mind, other days I like to break down every single task I want to achieve the next day and use it as a sort of checklist to guide me through the day.

It’s an astonishingly simple act, yet reflective, and still productive which makes it a perfect end-of-day task to make sure I’m going to bed with my head in the right place.

 

 

 

Why Entrepreneurs Should Have a Blog

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Sometime around mid-February of 2011, I was a design student about to graduate from university and I knew that I needed to have a place on the internet where potential clients and employers could find me and view my work.

My website began as a portfolio site for my design work and my blog was something that I just considered an “add-on”. However, after about a year or so, I started to notice that it wasn’t my actual portfolio that was bringing me in my client work – it was my blog posts. Clients felt way more at ease in reaching out to me because they had already “gotten to know me” in a way via my blog.

People are only now beginning to realize that blogging isn’t the navel-gazing, ego-centric pastime that it’s often made out to be and that blogs are actually really important tools for communication. Beyond just being a place where I post interesting/relevant content that I think other people might like as well, my blog is pretty much my only form of marketing and PR as a freelancer. It also serves as a community-building tool: I’ve found so many people with similar interests or people who share some of my experiences by blogging. It kind of boggles my mind to think that if I never started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have this community.

The most common response I get whenever other freelancers and entrepreneurs ask me if I think they should start a blog (the answer is “yes”), is “But I have nothing to write about!”

To answer that, I have a theory (a completely non-scientific, 100% anecdotal theory that has absolutely not been vetted by anyone ever, but a theory nonetheless). That theory is that by age 25, everyone is an expert in something – anything. You may not be an expert in any “this-is-so-practical-must-immediately-apply-knowledge-this-changes-my-life” kind of way, but you do have some sort of knowledge that you can share with others and someone will find it useful, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Sharing your knowledge via blogging also isn’t “giving away your secrets”. If you don’t share it, someone else will.

The second most common response I get when I tell other entrepreneurs how valuable blogging can be to their business is, “But I don’t have time like you do to put into writing.”

Contrary to what some people may think, I do not spend my days waxing poetically about my next blog post. I am a reasonably busy person as much as anyone else. Blogging is the same as going to the gym, you just gotta do it and stop complaining about not having time for it. Often I’ll publish a blog post when I’m half-asleep and my post will be riddled with spelling mistakes. But who cares, this is the internet. People will either not notice, not care, or they tell you that you goofed up your grammar and then you can change it. Win win win.

Publish something, tweet about it, build a community. Don’t overthink it.

This is Home

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I’ve been back to living in Halifax for just over 10 days now and I’m pretty sure time moves faster on this side of the country. I finally feel like I’m starting to get back into a groove of working and finding a new routine. When I moved to Toronto in January it was just after I had moved into a new house in Halifax, so I never really had time to fully settle in. The past week and a half has been spent getting my bearings around this city again and remembering what I loved so much about it.

Things that have happened so far:

  • - Lots of running near the ocean on sunny days, I’ll never get tired of that smell.
  • - Found a dreamy-perfect road bike on kijiji that was only ridden 6 times, was my frame size, came with bike shoes and was half the retail price.
  • - Knew that I’d hate myself if I let it slip away.
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  • - Drove to the ‘burbs last weekend and bought said bike.
  • - Have barely seen a drop of rain since I’ve returned – UNHEARD OF in these parts.
  • - Hanging out with my Mom and Dad since they’ll be in town for the next few weeks, it’s been amazing to catch up with them in person and not over the phone.
  • - Spent a sunny day at the farmer’s market with some best friends catching up and eating a cinnamon roll the size of my head. No regrets.
  • - Ran a half marathon less than a week after getting back to the city.
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  • - Here’s a photo of me and my pal, Laura after we finished the race. We both took ten minutes off our times! I finished with a 2:05 which was my goal. Next race I hope to do in under 2 hours.
  • - Cleaned out a TON of clothes from my closet – turns out after living out of 1 suitcase for 3.5 months, you’ll return to your regular closet feeling pretty overwhelmed.
  • - Bought tickets to see St. Vincent at the Halifax Jazz Festival in July.
  • - Became a Chapter Co-Lead for Ladies Learning Code in Halifax! Our next event is Intro to Photoshop on June 14th and it will be an amazing day of photo editing, creating, and designing. So if you’re in Halifax, you should really register. I’m so excited to be working along with Ladies Learning Code. They’re an amazing organization doing great work and their workshops are what made me become a developer.
  • - I also was featured on the TechGirls.ca website in their Portraits of Strength series. I feel so honoured to be a part of this, because reading the other portraits in the series blows my mind. There are some seriously smart and savvy women featured on the site and it’s awesome to be a part of this community.

Tons of things are happening and everything is amazing. This is home.

Goodbye Toronto!

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When I came to Toronto to attend HackerYou on January 21 of this year, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. The only other time I’d ever visited Toronto was four years ago during winter break from school. It was freezing cold / snowing / hailing the entire time and my best friend (Rachel!!!) had pneumonia. Needless to say, we didn’t see much of Toronto and we mostly spend the weekend watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics (I still had an amazing time! I guess it was the good company I was in!).

I remember one of my first thoughts after landing in Toronto being, “Well, 3 and a half months isn’t that long.” I had a full week before classes started to get settled, and in retrospect, coming to Toronto a week before the course started didn’t help me out with getting adjusted. That first week in the city, entirely alone, and in the dead of winter felt like the loneliest and longest days of my life. After 3 or 4 days I already found myself mentally counting down the days until I could move back to Halifax (which was over a hundred). Toronto in the winter isn’t a welcoming place and it isn’t the type of city that feels like love at first sight, either.

Once the course started the weeks began to breeze by. I guess when you’re doing an intensive learning session for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and then plugging some additional hours of homework over the weekend, the time tends to go by pretty quickly. Torontonians kept asking me my opinion and first impressions of their city and for the first few weeks the most I could muster was, “It’s…nice…”. Toronto was not nice those first few weeks where it was -25 every single day and totally dark by the time I got home on the subway. Over time, I’m happy to report that I got to really love this city. It took some time, but once I found my friends, my regular places, and a sense of routine, Toronto started to feel like a home away from home.

So here, in no particular order are some of the things I’ll miss about this great city:

1. Running on one of Toronto’s many trails in the giant trail network. I think my favourite was the Leslie Street Spit, where I took the photo for this post. This is such a Toronto hidden gem (let’s face it, it’s really out of the way) and on weekend mornings it’s so quiet. Best of all: no cars allowed for the whole five kilmetre stretch.

2. Hanging out and being a part of the community at The Lab. The Lab was an incredible work environment.  Being entirely surrounded by awesome people who know about what you’re learning and attending the tech events that happened in the space was amazing. HackerYou and Ladies Learning Code have mastered the tough art of making web development inclusive and welcoming and part of that comes from The Lab itself. Toronto’s tech community is incredibly diverse and it’s growing so fast. It’s a great time to be in this city if you’re a developer and I’ll miss that exposure to new things.

I remember leaving my house in Halifax 3.5 months ago, standing in my porch and just feeling so sad. I felt like it would be so long before I would standing in that porch again. On Friday as I was leaving The Lab for the last time, I had that same feeling. The Lab became a home for me over the past few months and I’ll miss that inspiring environment so much.

3. My wonderful neighborhood. I lived in Riverdale, which is in East Toronto, meaning that I had about 45 minute commute each-way to downtown every morning. While this is typically the idea of my own personal hell, I really didn’t mind. The neighborhood has such a community vibe and doesn’t feel at all like the city. Plus, I discovered my favourite café, Rooster Café, just down the street. The view of the Don Valley and the city skyline really can’t be compared to.

4. The Toronto People. Let me just say right now that I had the wrong impression of Torontonians going in. I thought everyone in Toronto had to be like the New Yorkers of the North – like they just don’t  give a shit about anyone and they’re kind of snobby and maybe even mean at times. This was so wrong. Torontonians are super nice, incredibly optimistic for the future, and they want you to have the most fun ever in their city. Last night before going to the Wye Oak concert, my friends and I stopped into a little bar in Parkdale called Local Kitchen and Wine Bar. When our server heard it was my last night in town, she gave us all a free shot. “If it’s your last night, then you’ll have to make it a good one!”

5. In a similar vein the Toronto energy. When the Raptors made the playoffs this city went bananas with home-team pride. Suddenly #WeTheNorth was all over twitter, spray painted on walls, and plastered on t-shirts like an internal rallying cry for a city that was always the underdog. I feel like the other not-so-sportmanslike “F*ck Brooklyn!” trend still united Torontonians in a great way. The energy in Toronto felt different for those couple of weeks, the city felt alive in a different way than it typically does, and you felt a little more united with the people on the street wearing Raptors hats.

6. The Food. Everyone in this city is a foodie. Everyone knows an awesome little hole in the wall that “you just gotta check out while you’re here.” It’s amazing, but also really difficult to try all the food. There are SO many restaurants in this city and by the time you eat your way through all of them you could start all over again and have a completely different experience. I did my best while I was here, but I definitely didn’t make a dent in the food scene.

7. All the quirky only-in-Toronto things.  Like how the busiest restaurant in town may only take cash or you can only purchase tokens with cash at a subway station. Or how while walking down my street, I’ll see at least 5 enormous squirrels within a 10 minute walk. Or the way Torontonians still talk about how embarrassing it was when they called in the army for assistance when they had like a foot of snow about 15 years ago.

I was doubtful of Toronto when I moved here, but this city was quick to prove me wrong. I’m not sure how soon I’ll be back again, but I hope it’s not too far from now.

Where to Start Learning Web Development

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After attending a full-time Front-End Development Bootcamp at HackerYou this past winter, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about learning to code. Hearing this is one of the most exciting things ever for me, because I think it’s amazing that more people are taking initiative and getting interested in how the digital world works on a fundamental level. Knowing how to code helps provide so much context to our daily lives – think about all the digital interactions you have in the run of a day – it’s so amazing to be able to understand how things are built. Coding is inherently creative and diverse: when you know how to code you can build anything and just put it out there in the world.

The world of programming and web development can be pretty intimidating if the only time you’ve encountered any form of code is when you accidentally do something wrong on your computer. While programming languages on their own can be overwhelming and unapproachable to people new to programming, there are lots of resources out there that are totally beginner-friendly. My list of resources include online tutorials, in-person workshops, free programs and paid programs and it’s not a complete list. There are so many resources out there and programming has never been more accessible than it is now.

1. Code Academy

I love Code Academy because it was such a valuable resource to me when I was just learning the foundations of HTML and CSS (codecademy.com). Code Academy is a really awesome and free resource that makes learning how to code a game where you are the only player and you’re trying to best yourself and earn points every time you complete an exercise. Code Academy also has an amazing way of putting development terms into layman’s terms.

2. Code School

Similar to Code Academy, Code School (codeschool.com) is another online resource for learning how to code. They offer some free lessons as well as paid lessons and have a bunch of tutorial videos as well as exercises. The videos can be a little hokey/campy at times, but that’s also part of the fun!

3. Treehouse

Treehouse is a paid online program that allows you to have access to thousands of tutorial videos, exercises and forums for a monthly subscription (treehouse.com). If you’re a little more serious about learning to code and you don’t have access to any in-person workshops then this might be a good route! I’ve actually never used Treehouse’s services, so I can’t really speak from experience on it, but it seems like a really well-respected resource.

4. Ladies Learning Code

I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for Ladies Learning Code I would have never taken my development skills to the next level and signed up for a full-time bootcamp. Ladies Learning Code is a perfect way for absolute beginners to dive straight into coding in their day-long workshops. If you’ve never done any coding before, Ladies Learning Code is an amazing introduction – and there are chapters all across Canada! Ladies Learning Code is such a warm and welcoming environment and I just get warm fuzzies whenever I think about it.

5. Part-time/Full-time Courses

Tons of community colleges and universities offer web design and development classes under “Continuing Education” if you’re looking for some more structured learning. Of course, I’m way more biased towards classes at HackerYou, although they’re currently just in Toronto, because I think it the best place ever to learn if you want to change your life and become a developer full-time. However, it’s a pretty good reason to move to Toronto!

Start anywhere!

I feel really strongly that learning to code is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself today. It’s not just about making cool stuff and putting it on the internet – it’s also about understanding how many of the products and services you interact with each day work and how they’re built. It’s such an amazing and important piece of knowledge to have. It’s amazing how far understanding even small bits of some basic code can get you.