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6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

The way to keep social media simple is to be selective. (You can honestly stop reading here unless you’d like some specific ideas and examples on how do to this, friends.)

By the end of 2012 I was overwhelmed by social media. (Don’t get me wrong: I love social media.) I believe social media exists for three core reasons:

  1. to connect with people
  2. to share with others
  3. to learn from others

These are three of my favorite things to do, so social media is a natural fit for me! But I’d begun noticing that I felt I had to check social media messages in case I missed getting back to someone who had a question or wanted help. The feeling of obligation took some of the wind out of my social media sails, and I decided to take a month to assess what I could change to remain active without feeling overwhelmed.

Note: I didn’t stop engaging in social media during this month, but I did remove all social media apps from my smart phone. Any interaction I had on social media the past month has been on a laptop in between projects and meetings or at home in the evenings or on the weekend. This created an environment where I was able to notice how many time a day I’d go to my phone in between tasks to check in on the latest. This observation period revealed to me that in many cases I’d open an app out of boredom then suddenly lose time doing something I don’t want to invest too much time doing.

I asked myself these questions throughout the month:

  1. Why do I want to go to this social media site?
  2. Is this site more conducive to broadcasting or engaging in a network of people?
  3. What’s the benefit of this social media site to me?
  4. Now that I’ve identified I’m looking to pass the time using a social media app, how will I use this time instead?

After a month of targeted observation, here are the solutions I came up with:

1. Goodbye, Instagram. I won’t be putting this app back on my phone but will click on a friend’s link to see their Instagram photo if I’m so inclined. I love this app but believe I was getting caught in the net of checking it for updates without really building any type of community.

2. I use Buffer App to schedule the sharing of things I think are important during those times I’m unable to change focus from reading to getting on social media and responding to waiting @’s or DMs. (Most often I schedule buffered tweets and Facebook updates while going through my Read & Review folder. Details here.)

3. We put out a phone bowl at home. This has helped us make eye contact more at home. The true beauty of this new habit is that once I’ve put the phone down, I rarely return to it until I go to charge it at bedtime.

4. I used the free manageflitter service to unfollow some people on Twitter whom I had no idea why I was following. I don’t auto follow back so I was truly surprised by some of the people on the list! A cleaner twitter stream means I’m less likely to miss out on what my friends have to say when I log in to join the conversation.

5. I enjoy being involved in chats, and answering and asking questions online.  I respond to nearly everything…just not necessarily the very second you contact me. My goal is to check in on Twitter and Facebook at least twice a day to keep the conversation going. Even after this experiment, Hootsuite remains my favorite way to connect with friends online.

6. I’ve never liked talking on the phone much. My experiment revealed to me that this strong preference of mine means I’ve naturally created a habit of using DM’s, Facebook messages, email, and Twitter @’s to ask questions or get information. Seeing the app-free screen on my iPhone when I needed help this past month meant I learned to lean more into making a call…and more often than not this made for a quicker result and a more enjoyable interaction overall.

I’ve never allowed email or social media notifications on my phone, and now having these social media apps off my iPhone means I’m fully present locally but able to connect without distraction online when I do log in each day.

Tell me…How do you keep social media simple?

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

I’ve been blogging nearly seven years. The biggest reward of blogging is sharing content I believe will help others. That’s why I’m especially excited about today’s post to introduce you to a few stellar minimalist blogs!

Nearly everything you could read on my blog comes from my life’s experiences. After we moved overseas in 2007, I began using Google to search for people with online platforms who could understand the life change I was experiencing. Over the past 6 years I’ve come to enjoy the minimalist blogs of a number of people.

I encourage you to thoughtfully explore the words of any of these writers. They are among my favorites.

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/ (my friend Joshua Becker)
http://bemorewithless.com/ (Courtney Carver)
http://rowdykittens.com/ (Tammy Strobel)

You’ll find that we have a variety of different spiritual beliefs, we live out our simple lives in unique ways, and our personalities are diverse. But the common bond of simplifying our lives by intentionally making room for what matters most to us is strong. These people regularly challenge, inspire, and encourage me.

Because I know many of you are in the early stages of putting your finger on the simplicity you’re seeking in life, I hope you’ll dive into these peoples’ blogs just as you have mine. Read their best-selling books. And may you wind up even more committed to living with less.

Sincerely,
Dana

Dana ByersDana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold nearly all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

The Rich Life

The Rich Life

The Rich Life

Your Twitter feed, the news, and maybe even those closest to you define the rich life as including anything from being single and free to roam, to being married with kids and living in a big home, or even having a trust fund available to you to purchase anything on a whim. You might not think any of those examples define the rich life, but I want to challenge you to stop and ask yourself what truly is of value to you personally.

Here’s a list off the top of my head of things that make my life rich:

* I have a photo taken the day I took my kids to see where Chris and I shared our first dance as husband and wife. This photo reminds me how they hung on every word as I described the reception.
* There’s a memory in my mind of my grandmother’s laugh that I love. I like to think I inherited her sense of humor.
* I don’t pay a dime for hugs in our home, and I live with some great huggers.
* We have a sweet rescue dog who adores me even when I feel grumpy. Spending a cool evening on the couch with Maggie warming my feet is a luxury.
* Being prayed for by my husband comforts me deeply.
* I surround myself with wise people at work and learn from them. Their lives’ experiences and wisdom are priceless.
* Borrowing a free book from the Kindle library is a gift I give myself each month.
* I get to text my mom inside jokes or funny memes and laugh hysterically at her replies.

In my opinion, this is the rich life.

Focus on changing the belief that being rich requires money. Wealth and money don’t have to go hand in hand.

It’s your turn! Identify things – which aren’t items one can buy – that bring you joy. What makes up your rich life?

Raise Generous Kids

I write on my blog because it’s fun to share. Sharing helps people. Over the past 6 years I’ve enjoyed sharing our travels, discoveries, failures, ideas, and stories. I love sharing, and I’m doing my best to raise generous kids who share well, too.

Yesterday when I mentioned an idea we’re using in our family and two people said they’re going to use this idea, I got excited! Why? Because it meant I had instant blog content I can write about and share! If the idea helps one person, it could potentially help many more.

So here’s the idea:

Raise generous kids.

Ok, so that idea isn’t new. But you might like this one:

As a new holiday tradition, we’re giving each of our children a set amount of money as one of their Christmas gifts. Our kids were asked to come up with a cause or country that matters to them, donate this money Chris and I provide them, then report back to us why this issue needs attention and tell us how we can pray for the cause and/or country as a family. The goal is for us to support and empower them as they learn to be generous kids.

Blake (9) is concerned for kids who don’t have clean water, and Mackenzie (7) has had the people of Haiti on her heart since the earthquake in 2010. Together, they found an organization that serves both populations: WATER is LIFE. I’m so touched that the kids chose to combine their gifts and provide portable water filter/purifier straws to 20 people this year.

What matters most to the kids in your lives? Take time to identify these things then give them the opportunity to be generous kids both financially and with their time.

Decision Making, Simplified

Make your decision and move on.

Make your decision and move on.

Admit it: the best leaders you know can make a decision and move on. No matter whether you’re plagued by the chipped paint in the hallway begging you to put a fresh coat over it every day or if your work environment places additional projects on your plate every day, you’re not at a loss for things to do. If you’re like me, the list is longer than the time you have in a day. What to do?

Recognize 2 facts:

1) You can’t do it all.
2) You don’t want to do it all.

Do you realize that coming to terms with these two points means you can take action to break free from the stress of feeling bound by all that needs to be done? It’s an incredible feeling.

Let’s take the hypothetical chipped paint in the hallway example from above. Do you like to paint, and can you make time to do so in the near future? If so, the answer is simple: write it down on your calendar, buy the supplies, and enjoy painting while being pleased with the results. Note: the peace that comes from having it scheduled should immediately remove some of the anxiety you have.

Now, let’s say you can’t or don’t like to paint…well, it’s still a pretty clear-cut decision in my opinion. Either schedule and pay for someone to paint or let it go.  Seriously. If you can’t afford to have it painted, then recognize it’s not something that needs to be a priority at this time.  Going into debt would only transfer your stress from the bad-looking paint to your finances. It’s best to let it go. Perhaps the opportunity will come later to paint, but for the time being you can be pleased to not let this situation concern you.

Any guilt we feel for appearing to have things undone comes from what culture places on us.  We think we must have a clean home every day.  We believe that preparing picturesque meals for our families each night makes us good parents. We’ve been taught that lawns must be kept tidy and leaves can’t gather in the gutters.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not encouraging living in a pit.  I’m encouraging freedom from all of the “shoulds” so that time is invested in what matters most.  “Good enough” doesn’t count in the minimalist life.  We make intentional decisions, knowing that wasted time can turn into a wasted life.

Think for a minute about what’s bothering you today. Struggling to make a decision? Can’t determine what to do about something that’s annoying you? Take some time to seriously admit what matters most.  Remind yourself of your values. Then schedule it, do something about the issue, or let it go and move on.  Your time isn’t best spent on trivial issues that will amount to little when it’s all said and done.

For more help on this topic:

Choosing What to Axe from Your To-Do List
Value Conflicts: A Tug ’0 War
How I Climbed Out from Under A Busy Schedule

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Give Words as Gifts

Give Words as Gifts

Recently my son was given the opportunity to ask his teacher anything.  We moved over the summer so he’s at a new school and – though rather outgoing – I anticipated he’d write down that he was nervous or would ask his teacher for things like a longer lunch or recess.  To my surprise, he poured his little heart out on paper.  He acknowledged gifts in her she may not have known were on display to the children in her class.  Blake offered encouragement and thanks.

Words are some of the best gifts a minimalist can provide, and they’re often overlooked when our wealthy culture seeks to buy items to show gratitude. Whom do you know who loves his or her job but could use your kind words more than anything else?

(Pssst..if words aren’t quite what you have in mind, try any of these minimalist gift ideas.)

 

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Share What You Have For Huge Dividends

Last week I was reminded that my life counts. I had the special opportunity to meet a pastor into whom our non-profit and my local church have invested. He told me that our time, prayers, support, and financial aid are making a global impact among the Spanish-speaking population.  Wow.

My hope is to share this carefully so that no one thinks this is me patting myself on the back.  I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a model, and I sure as heck have room to improve as a leader. Living an amazing life of cutting back in areas that don’t count and investing all I have into what I value is what makes experiences like mine with Carlos more common (and yet always incredible!) than I can express. So no – this isn’t bragging. This is me sharing my story as a means of asking you to give it a try.

Asking myself one question over and over in life has afforded me opportunities and non-financial dividends (the kind that really count!) that I value more than almost anything.

ASK YOURSELF: WHAT DO I HAVE THAT I CAN SHARE?

Here are things that have passed through our family’s life (due to being in the place God asked us to go, or as a result of fostering relationships to expand causes we care about) which turned out to be intended for sharing:

* an extra room in our home

* a vehicle

* a spot in our family for adoption

* a financial gift (placed in our hands, meant for use by another)

* a platform

* free downloads

Look around you.  Abundance is everywhere in your life.  What do you have to share?

Everyone impacted by your generous lifestyle is paid huge dividends. Start sharing!

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

 

How I Climbed Out From Under A Busy Schedule

Busy Schedule?

Saturday is typically our family’s day of rest.  Chris and I take turns going for a run after our morning prayer time, and our kids get to stay in PJs as long as they want to.  Not so this past weekend…

We had no specific place to go upon waking and were able to sleep in until around 8am, but when I awoke I was greeted with a messy kitchen and a to-do list that I swear was being fed Miracle-Gro. Has this ever happened to you? (Dumb question.  Of course it has.)

The frustration I faced was that nothing on my list felt unnecessary. I’d not been guilted into serving on a boring committee.  There was no dread in my heart about any of the tasks ahead.  I have a simple laundry process but it still had to be done. We have a minimal amount of dishes but they still became dirty. I exercise to feel well. And spending time with my family is a no-brainer!

In my opinion, the minimalist approach to a schedule is to focus on a few key things and let the rest wait or say no to the opportunities. To determine what should stay or go, I created a mind map to get all my thoughts gathered in one place.  Then I attacked the list to get a good feeling for how and where I needed to act. Here are the specific solutions I came up with:

* My kids’ laundry needed to be done. I gave them the option to do it on their own or stink.  (They made the right choice and I discovered my kids can do laundry. WIN!)

* I identified the “must-haves” for my weekend and wrote down when they’d happen. (Family time would be dinner while watching a football game on TV together after church on Saturday night. Chris and I would have a dinner date Sunday evening.)

* One item on my task list that I’m eager to dive into is a magazine article I’m working on.  I had to admit, however, that the deadline on it isn’t pressing so I deferred it until I have time alone to write on an airplane next week.

* My daughter had a birthday party to attend and my son would be playing with neighbors, so that became the ideal time to get some time to myself. (I admit I feel guilty sometimes when I take time to be alone, and it tends to be the first thing to go when my schedule fills up.)

* I moved the non-emergency items to Sunday afternoon to get done before our date: sweep the floors, write next week’s menu, and place an order with Whole Foods shopping service for Chris to pick up next week.

* I let the dishes wait and got to work on writing 3 blog posts.  The dishes would have to wait until after the posts were out of my heart and scheduled on this blog.

* Exercise would be my reward after completing my 3 blog posts. Writing isn’t stressful per se, but going for a run after writing helped me make the transition from computing time to relational time at church and with my family.

Result: Though I’m an advocate for saying no regularly, I was amazed to learn I didn’t have to say no to any of these tasks and was able to still have time for myself and my family.

If you find your schedule is in dire straits, check this out: Choosing What to Axe from Your To-Do List

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Break Free From Couponing! 8 Great Alternatives

Break Free from Couponing! 709789_thumbnail

Just a few days ago I shared why I quit couponing.  Many more people contacted me about and shared this post than I expected.  While some of you are pleased with your couponing experience, others of you acknowledge it can become a form of attempting to control things. You might fear not having enough money, so having 10 boxes of Mac & Cheese in the pantry provides false security. I can tell that a lot of you want to break free from the drudgery of clipping coupons, but you feel trapped.  When I used to coupon, I remember going so far as to feel anxious or frustrated when the items I wanted to buy weren’t in stock or arrive home from a shopping trip to realize I’d forgotten to take advantage of some limited time “savings”.  It truly can be a vicious cycle if you feel trapped trying to “save” money.

My heart goes out to you because your motive is to be a good steward of your income, yet couponing drives you crazy. This is not an attack on couponing or the people who do it, rather it’s an attack on the accumulation practices that can accompany couponing. To help, I’d like to answer some of the questions that came my way and give you some very specific alternatives (some of which I’ve personally done) to couponing.

Q) Dana, do you go so far as to keep only one of your everyday household items or food on hand?

A) Not at all.  I sincerely discourage the practice of buying 10 ketchup bottles for $10, but because my husband travels every other week and I’m committed to avoiding the need to shop during the work week, our family keeps 2-3 of our basic toiletries on hand at all times. If we run out of something, we get a replacement off the shelf and I add the item to my smart phone Notes app for next weekend’s grocery list.

Q) Is “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” a good option?

A) It is if you’ll use all three of the items up in less than a month.  I’ve discovered that cleaning items, toiletries, or pantry goods that sit around on my shelves longer than 3-4 weeks are rarely used.

Q) I understand your opinion on couponing but feel there’s no other way for me to make ends meet.

A) That could be true.  But isn’t it possible that your valuable time could be used in such a way that brings in as much as (or more!) money than you’re trying to scrimp and save out of clipping dozens of coupons for items or brands you truly don’t want?

Here are some specific ways you can stop the frustration of couponing and enjoy making ends meet for your family:

  1. If you’re crafty, enjoy the hours you spend on your craft (instead of clipping stacks of coupons and roaming the store looking for just the right brand your coupon demands while placating the cranky toddler in your cart). Sell the goods you create on Etsy or give them as gifts instead of buying new items.
  2. Do you love photography? I know people who schedule 1 event per month and make as much as I was able to save couponing every week of the month combined!
  3. If you’re a blogger, consider monetizing your blog. Michael Hyatt’s post can get you started on the right track.
  4. Self-publish a book. This is truly rewarding because what you write can help others! When I self-published my first book in 2011, I found the process so rewarding in itself that I have it away free for a year then began selling it on Amazon a few months ago. It’s now earning passive income for our family.
  5. Babysit 1 night each month to earn money. Or swap 1 night a month with friends to watch their kids and they can watch yours. This won’t affect your grocery budget directly, but it will save you a lot of money in babysitter costs.
  6. Schedule 2 garage sales each year: I suggest Summer and Fall. A well-planned yet simple preparation process will not take much time and can bring in a great amount of money.  (Read about our family’s most recent garage sale here.)
  7. Create a firm meal plan and use either grocery delivery or stick to the list when you shop.  This will truly keep you from going overboard on the grocery budget and can save you a surprising amount of money.
  8. Limit eating out. Just last week our family returned to eating out only once a week (which is a practice I’m sorry to say we’d failed to continue after our cross-country move in July). Chris and I were shocked to discover that we had $200 extra dollars when we were intentional about where our food money was going. We don’t spend that much money on eating out, but being more mindful of this habit helped us take notice of other “leaks” in our spending.
Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Why I Quit Couponing

My tiny London kitchen: no room for couponing here!

I used to be a legit couponer. At the time, I was at home full time with my oldest child and my husband’s income was about 50% of what it is today. I became so adept at the practice that I was that annoying person no one wants to be in line behind when she’s checking out at the market due to my possession of many coupons and a lot of items to scan and load. I began keeping track of how much money I was saving as an alternative to the $0 salary I was bringing in at the time. Highlighting our savings on receipts and showing them to my husband became a source of personal pride for me.

Then I moved overseas.

1) I couldn’t take all those items I’d been saving money on with me. One does not simply pack 12 tubes of toothpaste or 6 boxes of cereal, and she certainly wouldn’t be wise to pay to move or ship said items.

2) In Europe we ate less and ate simpler. Our family was no longer consuming the pre-packaged foods that are most often have coupons available in the Sunday papers. Coupons weren’t available for the fresh fruit and produce available in our local market. My new routine became picking up items at the store for the evening’s dinner on my way to walk and get the kids at school.

3) There was no room to accumulate. My kitchen was about 7′ in length x 4′ wide. We had one cabinet to store pantry items and a euro-sized fridge that was about 4′ tall including 3 shelves inside and a small freezer below. Our sink, stove, and washing machine were all in this tiny space. If I’d chosen to live out the American values of never running out of anything and having plenty on hand, I would’ve had to resort to using up the open space in our home for storage.

My fridge in London taught me not to accumulate items “just in case”.

4) For those of you who took college accounting courses, you’re familiar with the FIFO practice – First In, First Out. In America, I accumulated canned goods and freezer goods to the point that I could pass on using the ones that weren’t appealing. When practicing FIFO, we eat what we have before adding more to the mix. If I bring a dozen bananas home from the grocery today, it’d better be because I’m running low and our family will consume the new ones in the week to come.

5) No matter which countries I’ve lived and traveled in, I’ve realized I’m uncomfortable keeping extras of nearly anything around. Even though I’d saved us thousands of dollars on items we’d “eventually” use, they were often not used or of much value overall. The main thing I had to show for the “savings” were cabinets overflowing with “just in case” items.

6) We had no income and were living on our personal savings when we moved overseas. Adopting this lifestyle forced me to realize that, back when we’d had my husband’s salary I never felt it was enough and was trying to squeeze all I could out of it by couponing. When we had no true income in Europe but I stopped couponing, I began to see what we had as enough.

Now that we’re back in America, I’ve taken my couponing lessons and experience and applied them to my preferred method of grocery shopping. The images in this post are screenshots taken from a video our family filmed of a decluttering project we did in our London home.  If you’d like to see the video (and our results), click here.

If you’re an avid couponer, I encourage you to ask yourself whether the financial savings you’re gaining and the time you’re spending truly outweigh the resulting clutter and accumulation that this practice creates.

Ready to drop the scissors and stop clipping? No problem! Try these 8 Alternatives to Couponing.

 

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

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