Documentation

Guides, Lifestyle

Y’know those workouts we all skipped during quarantine? Well… they’ve come back to haunt me in the form of household administrative tasks. My spouse was among the hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs in 2020, and this has unfortunately created a need for a massive paper trail for each individual on this journey. My prior homelessness has granted me what I feel to be a rather unique skill set — one of which deals specifically with documentation. So I decided to create what I hope is a helpful crash-course with reference to current events. If it helps you, please let me know.

Journaling for Personal Success

In my early adulthood, one of the best pieces of advice I was given was, “When things happen, write it down.” This led to me journaling as things occur in our lives, be they finances, promises made by entities outside the home [such as the housing authority, or social workers] or events both good and bad. For example, my spouse was “fired” several months ago, but things went down in a bit of a weird way. We sought all the help we could find. I kept detailed notes the whole way through. Then, a few weeks ago, we needed some paperwork from the company he’d been at for the housing office, so I phoned to request it. Moments into the conversation, the gentleman to whom I was speaking informed me that my husband’s “firing” hadn’t exactly been in agreement with the company policies… my husband has been rehired, and is already back on the job. This wouldn’t have been possible without my notes.

Pro tip: this works for illnesses and hospitalizations, too. In fact, many people keep track of their daily eating / drinking habits.

Household / Event Journaling Tips

This isn’t so much a “how-to” guide for journaling as a whole. There are so many different journaling styles and methods out there, but today’s focus is strictly on putting together notes on current events / life events. Here are a few pointers:

  • Write as neatly as possible.
  • Always include the phone number[s] and other contact details for anyone spoken to at least once in your journal.
  • Include dates documentation regarding the circumstances was received.
  • Always include the date things are occurring.
  • Always include the name[s] of anyone you speak to regarding the situation.
  • Write concisely. Use names or label-identifiers such as “my supervisor” rather than pronouns [he, they].

Writing Concisely

Basically, you need to write down everything, but you don’t need to write down everything. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy narrative including the gossip from that one caller you just can’t get off the phone. This is more general. Include important quotes from a call if needed, but they honestly probably won’t be. For example in my journal on the 22nd:

Ms. Kiersson* called needing confirmation that Drew no longer receives unemployment. Drew has been locked out of the DES website since his benefits ended; we are unsure why.

My personal bullet journal.
*name changed for privacy.

My notes on the 22nd led to these notes on the 23rd:

Find unemployment paperwork and email to Ms. Kiersson*.

Was unable to find any direct confirmation of Drew’s unemployment benefits ending. I emailed Kiersson* a copy of the Wage Transcript & Monetary Determination page from DES and let her know Drew is in the process of requesting direct confirmation from them.

My personal bullet journal.
*name changed for privacy.

At the end of these notes, or in the margins nearby, I will have a running to-do list for that day. I also keep notes throughout the day about my work so that I can gradually build something akin to a schedule more organically {if you’ll stick around, I talk about organic scheduling at the end of this post}.

Digital Documentation

For digital documentation, I personally use Google products, but you should use whatever you prefer. Whatever you do, though, please be consistent. If you use Gmail, I highly recommend creating a folder within Gmail specifically for specific organizations, senders, etc. Take care never to delete until it’s officially no longer necessary. Most mobile phones can also scan documents if you don’t want paper copies.

Organic Agenda

I couldn’t end this post without at least briefly discussing organic agendas. I found that I burn out quickly with a typical “hard and fast” scheduling technique where a set amount of time is committed to each task. But not all of us can just throw out the day planner forever; the world would stop. In granting myself a bit of time to study and explore what I wanted in life, I learned that I have 3 types of tasks: habit, flow and future. Habits are items that are repeated daily in my journal [studying a language]. Flow tasks that come up throughout the day or week [tidying a room of the home]. Future is scheduled days or weeks in advance. I set rules for my habits and flow, limiting the number of tasks I’m “allowed” to focus on in a day. This keeps me consistent while allowing for rest and plenty of free time.

Thank you for reading; I hope you found this helpful.

FP

Free Automatic Re-sharing

Guides

Above photo by Simon Peel via Unsplash.

I recently promised Anna I would write a post explaining how to automate re-shares of links to social media. In my research, I came across this Social Media Examiner article on the subject of re-sharing updates freely using tools already at our disposal — specifically Google Calendar and IFTTT. This is not an all-inclusive guide as I felt the article linked above knocked it out the park. However, I hope to clarify a few things and answer some questions I had so y’all don’t have to ask. It may sound a bit Greek at first, but bear with me…

What you’ll be doing [in human speak]: this is the basic to-do list.

  • Creating a new Google Calendar.
  • Creating a free account at IFTTT [link above — I PROMISE this isn’t an advanced coding website… the letters stand for IF That Then This.]
  • Sighing contentedly in the knowledge that using IFTTT will not irreparably damage or break your website. I like to call it by the sound those letters would make if they’re a real word, ‘ift’. Fun, isn’t it?
  • Relaxing as you tell IFTTT which social media you’re most interested in.
  • Creating a ‘recipe’. Say for example you want to be able to create an event on your calendar which will then trigger a blog post you published last month to re-share. The recipe makes this happen.
  • Connecting your social media sites to IFTTT; you can do this as you go along.
  • Creating an event. IFTTT works with hashtags. These tags will act as a command from the calendar (or other thingy you’re using) to trigger the re-share. IFTTT searches your event’s title, description and location.

Getting started / making transition easier:

I am mildly disappointed by the fact that “#twitter” is right there in the re-share. We put a great deal of effort into marketing ourselves and part of that is having a clean, professional looking post. It seems mildly tacky that hashtags cannot be hidden somehow. So I’ve tested different ways of handling this. My favorite is to create a shorter hashtag with the same meaning [#tweet, #fb, #fbme for my personal FB page]. By the way, I checked with IFTTT  to see if there was a way to hide these hashtags. They haven’t responded.

by Laura Weiller

sample Tweet, note hashtag

First off, if you haven’t already, get a short helper. By this, I mean Bitly or Goo.gl, not your 2-year-old, although they might be helpful, too. Bitly shortens links free of charge. How does this help with IFTTT? Well, if you’re using Google Calendar, whether you do so manually or via CSV, you’re going to be typing a bit. You’ll be using links a lot during that typing and it helps if they’re shorter.

  1. Sign up with Bitly.
  2. Open your blog in the web. Do you have any important pages [about me, contact, shop…] you might share most often? Do you want to be able to memorize these to spit them out in a flash to anyone who asks? You’ll likely want to personalize these particular bitlinks. Copy/Paste the links into Bitly and go for it. For example, bit.ly/lala427 should take you directly to my About page.
    {Heads Up!: Bitlinks cannot be deleted, only archived. So take care with personalized ones. Also, they’re case-sensitive. So in the example above, if you type in bit.ly/LaLa427, it will tell you it’s incorrect and won’t take you to the About page. In Bitly, when editing the generated bitlink, the first letter you type will most likely automate to capital, so watch that as well.}
  3. If you use Pinterest / Youtube, etc. on a regular basis — if they’re related to your brand, consider creating bitlinks for them as well. Same with something like Instagram.
  4. Go back to IFTTT and create a recipe — “If new blog post, create new bitlink”. You just automated your bitlinks. But what about the rest? The posts you’ve published already?
    {Note: In creating recipes, be certain to double-check options [assuming there are multiples] for what type of post to trigger.}
  5. Create a second recipe — “If WordPress event is hashtagged with #bit, create new bitlink”.
  6. Write down your most important bitlinks to have at the ready for creating events in your Google calendar.

The calendar:

  1. If you haven’t already, create a new calendar.
  2. Decide whether to upload a CSV spreadsheet or enter events manually. CSV is best if you’ve a lot of re-shares. I chose manual as I found it a bit easier.
    {Keep in mind: You have the option of repeating the event over time as needed.}
  3. If choosing CSV, it’s as simple as creating an Excel spreadsheet and importing it into a CSV document before uploading the file to Google Calendar. [Google Spreadsheets may also be used in a similar manner if you’re using Android devices.]
  4. In the manual version, create an event in the calendar and follow any prompts in creating it. Be sure it’s the correct calendar.

    by Laura Weiller

    sample calendar entry

In the sample calendar entry below, please note that:

  • The time frame is at least 10-15 minutes per event. The reason for this is that sometimes it can take around 15 minutes for the events to trigger from the time they are scheduled.
  • I list the link as being the location and…
  • …repeated the link in the description. This is because I use feature images and I’d like them to show up in my tweets.

    by Laura Weiller

    sample Facebook link post

  • Facebook will NOT show feature images from the Google Calendar. Instead, it will force a link post.
  • In the description, I include the directive hashtag at the very end. That way, it’s the very last thing in the post, other than the image.

Thank you for reading; if you’ve any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Happy re-sharing!by Laura Weiller

Updates: After about a week of using this, one thing I have learned is that for Twitter, whenever I use a shorter hashtag [#tweet] in place of the longer one [#twitter] in a Google event, it will not post appropriately. Instead, it will look like this photo to the right. I haven’t found any other mix ups yet, but will update as I note them.

Passionate

Guides, Lifestyle

Several weeks back, I posted a blog in which I mentioned not having or worrying about a resume outside of LinkedIn. I’m sure that may have upset some people. Ultimately, I wanted it to bring some hope into an otherwise relatively bleak world.

All of this got me to thinking about the workforce, the American Dream and the things we were taught as kids. Then I started reading Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.

“We’re taught to work incredibly hard in high school or college, doing stuff we don’t care much about, then find a good job, one with reliable pay, good benefits, and maybe a retirement plan. We’re taught to work a soul-crushing job for more than forty years so one day we might actually be able to retire and enjoy our lives for three years…” — The MinimalistsMinimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

When I was 8, I decided I wanted to be a nurse, and I clung to that dream until I was 18. It was equal parts freeing and imprisoning to know that I didn’t have anything to figure out about my future. But when I was 14, I started writing for fun. It came naturally, though I didn’t always enjoy the process. It became a passion of mine.

People began asking me what I would do with my life. It seemed whatever major I chose was to be king until it killed me or I was too old to continue working. In the quote above, I left off  a little bit of information I’ll include below.

“…(insurance actuary studies have shown that the average lifespan of a retiree is about three years after retirement)…”

It became clear to me that to live, one must work hard. To work, one must have a career. And so on. When I eventually mentioned considering a degree in English, I was asked what I would do with it. We are so entwined in having things figured out before they’re ever attempted. Yet this isn’t how the world, life, or any sort of good work is begun. I started – but did not finish – an English degree. Sometimes, I feel bad about that, but then I remember that it doesn’t exactly matter in the long-run. Because to learn writing, all I must do is write.

And the resume? I’m not too worried about it. I’ve learned that if I must fight to be heard amid the throngs of unemployed, the employer and I probably just aren’t meant to be. We won’t value one another’s sacrifices in the manner in which we should.

So take heart. Determine to be whomever [or whatever] you are. If you aren’t already doing that, please don’t believe the lie that it’s too late. It’s most definitely not. Take a breath. Dive.

With love,

Signature

Fluff Cycle

Guides, Lifestyle

There’s a part of me hoping you’re reading from your local laundromat today, though I assure you this post has nothing to do with drying your garments.

If you’ve been reading along, you may have been wondering, “Laura, where is YOUR resume? I’d love to see a copy for comparative study…” Well… uhm… –small voice– I don’t have {a current} one –big smile–. I know, total shocker. I’ve spent the past months reading books about resume writing and job hunting and how can I possibly survive without the most important tool!?! Let me explain.

Resumes. Are. Fluff.
Few people actually read them.
Hours of lives wasted trying to perfect this one page description of why they should buy “_insert your name Inc.”
We have maybe 10 seconds to impress the hiring manager.
Ten. Seconds.
There have been studies done and surveys taken to determine the exact splinter of resume ‘most’ hiring managers will read so we might occupy 2 lines with our absolute best parts.
Have you heard of a 30-second commercial? I challenge you. Put 30 seconds on the clock. In that split moment, tell me why I should hire you.
You can’t. Not effectively. {Don’t despair, please keep reading.}
Stick a fork in my resume, it’s done.
I don’t need to wax poetic, have a degree, work history or even experience to honestly care about your company and the job offered.
And companies shouldn’t have to settle for someone who put more time into canvassing the web with their resume than they will into researching that specific organization.

I’ve never acquired a job because of my resume. Ever. If you’re out there looking for work, I encourage and give you permission to respectfully withdraw your resume permanently.

I’m not telling you to:

  • Quit your job(s).
  • Delete your LinkedIn account.
  • Sleep in every day from now on.
  • Sit on your tush and never work again.
  • Live off welfare.
  • Stop job hunting.
  • And that 30-second commercial thing is an excellent precursor to get one’s foot in the door for an informational interview.

I’m merely recommending job seekers take a moment to regroup. Reassess your personal circumstances and truly ask the question: “Is what I’m doing now effective in reaching my goals?” Some of us don’t quite fit the 9-5 mold or other traditionally accepted models — one working style does not fit all. The fluff cycle is just that. Fluff. Find substance. Create and add value. Slap that on a resume.

Signal Flag Resume

Guides, Lifestyle

About a year into my husband’s military contract, his command hosted a Tiger Cruise to which families and even close friends were invited. Drew showed me around the ship, most of which I’d seen before, but at one point, we went up to where the signal flags are run up.

Signal flags, if you’re unaware, are ships’ way of communicating across multiple barriers, be they bodies of water, or even language barriers. We’ve all heard the term “run up the white flag” which is associated with “surrender” or “peace”. These flags are also a lot like resumes.

Imagination 1: A sailor walks up to the flags, unfolds one, holding it in both hands staring into it’s colors. His commanding officer arrives on the scene to ask what he’s doing. “I’m just reading this flag like a book,” the sailor says… Of course, we should think this odd, but so is the idea of any hiring manager actually reading your resume word-for-word (unless your resume is a novel in his favorite genre).

Imagination 2: A job seeker goes online to create a resume. They’re walked through a series of questions after which the website generates a page with their name and contact information, followed by a grid pattern of colorful symbols and bars which resemble our Navy’s signal flags. Only here, they would represent career fields and specialties or skills within each. You “run up” this “flag” on your Linked In. Suddenly, the resume is no longer a read thing, but eye-candy.

This is resumes in reality, though. Yes, every resume requires certain elements. But what they’re really looking for is their own eye-candy — and that changes per hiring manager. If you’re like me, you balk at the very idea of writing a new resume. But what if you somehow got ahead of your own game and the resume wrote itself (like the generator on the fictitious website in Imagination 2 — I know, I wanted it to be real, too)?

I recently gave myself a leg up in the realm of resume writing. My resume had been the boss far too long — anyone whose ever reviewed it bled on it (red ink), tears were shed (mine) and then I’d have to sit down and write an entirely new resume using the same information as before. After reading What Color is Your Parachute? 2015, though, I decided it was time for a new boss –ME.

In his book Do Over, Jon Acuff encourages readers to utilize index cards. I found a pack of 100 3×5’s at Wal*Mart for $.48 if you need them. I also found they were useful in some of the exercises from Parachute. So, once all was done, I had a flower diagram listing up to 10 of my skills, knowledges, interests and preferences on each petal, 7 story cards and… a lot of blank cards because I bought more as the stack began dwindling. I sat down with my old resumes and my spouse. Ghosting through the history of jobs past, I detailed everything I’d done for work and together we came up with new ways to phrase it. I made an index card for every job, even my volunteer work.

As I write future resumes, these will act as my resume ‘cheat sheets’. I may not always word them the same (though I can) and I don’t have to put every job on every resume. I have options as to the information and formatting I put into my resume. That makes it more relaxing for me.

If you’ve ever struggled with resume writing, I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t for you. Tweet me.

Additional Resume Helps:

Assist Like a Boss

Guides

We’ve all been through those lean times when bills don’t all fit into the budget. Some of the most popular ‘advice’ I’ve been given in such times was, “Contact the companies you owe and request an extension or payment plan…” It’s an incredibly frustrating way to live, but sometimes it is necessary. Over the years, I’ve noted that companies have caught on — and they didn’t get into business to do anyone favors.

A friend was a new Navy Spouse. Her husband [read: military sponsor] was deployed — it would be months before he returned. All household bills were in his name, though he had added her name to the appropriate documentation before leaving so she could control them in his absence. In 2012, her power was unexpectedly shut off. The company required several forms of identification in order to speak with her. She complied and they still declined to grant access to the account information which would explain why she was behind in payments despite making regular payments. After about 2 weeks of her being without power, I decided to contact the power company myself. I wasn’t even on the phone for 5 minutes before I was able to hang up and phone my friend with answers to questions she’d asked all along.

Things were almost too easy. We were lucky to get the information [and my friend went on to correct the issue]. But how… how did I get them to give me what I wanted? I don’t know how everyone else handles their business, but here is what works for me.

  1. Know your rights and the rights of any individual you’re assisting. This includes legal rights.
    • Avvo – members can post questions free of charge, which are often answered by lawyers.
    • Nolo – general legal research tool
  2. Have the details. I recommend using notes. If circumstances are ‘messy’, try writing them out and prioritizing to a single ‘most important’ question to focus on.
  3. Don’t doormat yourself, but do utilize polite, gracious bulldoggedness. You’re calling with concerns only they can help. Should they decline, remain calm.
  4. Always maintain your smile, even on the phone. Remember, you always have the option to calmly hang up, breathe, and call back later.
  5. Maintain professionalism as you work with others — you may be dealing with sensitive information; acknowledge that. They’re trusting you.
  6. You could be anyone. The representatives of these companies don’t know you. Be considerate of that. Somehow, me phoning on my friend’s behalf seemed more legit to the power company than her paying hundreds of dollars to get them multiple forms of her identification.

I hope these suggestions help someone else. If they do, please let me know!!