Virtual Assistant Case Studies: How We’ve Bought Back Time

Virtual Assistant Case Studies: How We’ve Bought Back Time

It is strange how surprising it is for people to hand off tasks to someone else. The first surprise tends to come in the form of this question:

“So what should I even ask for you to do for me?”

Our first response tends to go something like: 

“Well, what would you like to not be doing anymore?”

But that doesn’t always work.

Our clients often haven’t had the time to think about what they no longer want to do, or shouldn’t do.  They also don’t often think completely through how they’re even going to delegate a task. Moreover, they’re not yet aware what the most time-cost-effective tasks they can outsource are.

This is where we come in.

With Well Aware as a time management partner, our job is to pay close attention to the time and tasks of our clients. Through our 3rd person perspective, we spot actions our clients can delegate. From there, should the client approve, we can help delegate the task with them if not for them. This way we can then get our clients to focus on more valuable options for their time.

The following are 3 examples of tasks we’ve identified and performed for our clients. Each example covers a different focus on our clients’ time-task.

The first is a health-based task focused on our client’s nutrition.

The second is a wealth-based task focused on our client’s business development.

The third is a self-based task focused on our client’s review of their time.

Our goal in sharing these is to spark awareness of the time you can delegate to a virtual assistant. Be that with our help, or through someone else. Enjoy.

Note: Names used are different from our actual clients for privacy reasons.

Case Study #1: Delegating Meal Planning & Grocery Ordering.

Our first example brings us under the umbrella of health.

A client of ours was finding themselves despising the time it took him to decide what to eat each week. They also hated grocery shopping. Our client was willing to cook. In fact, he enjoyed time making meals, so long as they weren’t too complicated. This sparked an opportunity to delegate:

“Mark, why don’t we come up with a meal schedule for you every week?”

Mark highlighted: “Look, I don’t plan on cooking EVERY meal.”

We responded: “Not a problem. Based on your schedule, we can make sure you make enough food for leftovers.”

Mark lamented: “Okay, but then I’ll have to make sure I buy enough ingredients.”

To which we replied: “Oh no, we’ll grocery shop for you. Once you approve the meals, we’ll get the right amount of food delivered right to your door.”

It helped that Mark was already used to ordering groceries to his home. 

He’s never had someone else order those groceries for him though.

“What about security? Your VA would need my credit card to make the order, wouldn’t they?” – Mark asked.

“That’s easy to address. There’s this feature within our recommended password manager LastPass. It allows you to share necessary credit card information for specific sites only. It also autofills that information without letting the VA (in this case, April) see it or use it elsewhere. We’ll show you how to set that up. Your information is safe and always in your control.”

Mark got to experience weeks where his meals were not only planned for him, but ordered. Within that time, Mark would share which meals he enjoyed and which he didn’t. The former would end up returning to his meal schedule for future weeks. We played around with the style of showcasing each meal and ended up with a Kanban board. Within each card of the Kanban, April, Mark’s fractional VA, would include an image of the meal. As well there’d be a stripped down checklist of ingredients needed. We included a checklist for recipe instructions along with a link to the source article.

This first example highlights a nutrition-focused scenario of time-task delegated. We also make time suggestions for exercise as well as sleep. In Mark’s case, we got to talk about timing his food schedule to when it made the most sense for him to exercise. We also considered his sleep schedule which needed a change so that he could get more of his professional work taken care of in the morning. 

On that note, let’s move on to the next case study.

Case Study #2: Delegating Outreach within a Prospecting Strategy.

Our second example brings us under the umbrella topic of wealth.

Cue our client who’s job is as a fractional VP of sales – Carla knows very well how to run her own prospecting campaigns.

The problem for her was manual outreach via direct message. It didn’t make sense, for her time, to send out pre-scripted messages herself. What did make sense for her was getting cued when to step into a stage of the prospecting where the lead became warm.

This was our opportunity to help Carla map out her prospecting strategy. By this mapping, we could identify all the touch points that a VA could perform on her behalf. Then, given a positive response by a lead, the VA could notify Carla to step in. If not, the VA would provide a report of what happened with failed prospects.

We started out by diagramming the prospecting strategy. Carla sat with us over Zoom after preparing her scripts. We talked through each of the steps and their decision trees. It then became clear when the VA, Mavie, would send a message to a prospect, and on what channel(s).

From there it was a matter of giving Mavie access to those channels. Again we used LastPass to share credentials in a secure way for Carla. We kept organization of all the prospects’ information and progress via Google Drive. This was also where we housed the scripts provided by Carla. Through the Drive, Carla could make changes to scripts, add new contacts, or make comments that would guide Mavie based on her feedback.

Carla not only benefited from the virtual help for her prospecting. LastPass saved several minutes each day just by filling out passwords for her online tools.

Through her prospecting work, we also needed to organize Carla’s existing contacts. This data cleaning project served to bring all Carla’s contacts under one address book.

Now in this particular case, we also highlighted security concerns. See it turned out Carla was saving passwords to her address book for recall. IT security consulting is not our primary function, but it has played an important role for our work. That said, we explained the dangers and reiterated the value of good password management. Progress to her address book by the VA halted until she deleted all password-related data.

I digress: You can read more about how we make our clients aware of better IT choices in those case studies.

With that, this second example highlights a prospecting-focused scenario of time-task delegated. We also make time suggestions for networking as well as creating & delivering value in your business. In Carla’s case we analyzed and discussed time-cost ROI with each of her networking groups. And when it came to her creating value, we made sure she had enough time each week to deliver on her client’s needs. 

From there, let’s shift over to the last case study on reviewing one’s own time.

Case Study #3: Delegating Calendar Activity Review.

Our third and last example ends us under the umbrella of the self.

In this case, our client was actually… me! I wanted to look back on all the meetings I held this year as part of my review. This is something I like doing for clients to address their relationships. I figured it was good practice I perform it on myself.

Though I knew where to find the information – all on my calendar – I didn’t want to scan back from January 2021 to now the start of Q4. It didn’t make sense for my time. I also knew that at the time earlier this year, I wasn’t documenting every interaction well into my CRM…

As such, this was an opportunity to catch up with myself before I was even as organized as I’ve become today! I gave Geilord, my VA, access to my calendar (but not my whole account). I then instructed him to create an excel sheet of all invitees on my calendar. I asked for the date met, and each invitee’s email. He himself included the name of the calendar event – a small thoughtfulness I hadn’t considered – that ended up really helpful.

After reviewing his report of my interactions, I immediately started recognizing tasks. Contacts to catch up with, old projects to reflect on, strategies to revise…

And now due to the way I’ve now set up my CRM, I can have Geilord set those follow ups for me. I can also have him enter data about each of my contacts’ social media profiles, and have me follow them. Old projects and strategies are up to me to reflect on. But the actions I generate from there, I don’t also have to do! That is unless I’m looking to get my hands dirty with something new that I don’t know how to do yet – therefore, I can’t simply delegate it, as Geilord may not be able to do it well! An important principle.

With that, at this point, I’m able to create an agenda item with my advisors about what I’m seeing from this review of my time. In this practice, I aim to preach a similar call to action for you.

This third example highlights a review-focused scenario of time-task delegated. We also make time suggestions for studying as well as resting. Yes, we even have suggestions for how you can study smarter given your time. As well how you can rest smarter given the same. With that, our main principle which makes all that possible stands on this simple message:

Review your time, and focus. There’s only so much you can do in a day. 

You more than likely have tasks you can pay someone else to do. When it comes to the costs of that, you can pay as low $3 an hour for a VA. With that, you are more responsible to train and educate that VA. For $5 to $10 an hour, you will have less of that responsibility, but still have to manage the administration aka hiring & payroll.

Whereas for $12-15 an hour and above, there are plenty of agencies that will handle all things for you. That can include walking you through how to delegate. Well Aware is among these parties, and we partner with an agency to hire our VAs. And yet with that, our effort goes beyond identifying how to outsource for you.

We analyze your time in life as a whole. We are your awareness partner, highlighting opportunities that best buy back your time. If you could complete a task with even less cost through, say, automation, that’ll be our suggestion. If we should streamline a process only you can perform because of the time benefits, that’d be our focus for you.

With that, I hope the time you chose to invest in reading this found you well. If you want to open a discussion with me about your time, please feel free to schedule 30 minutes with me. Until next time, be well on your way.

– Conrad Ruiz

Founder | Well Aware

“The decisions you make and the actions that follow are a reflection of who you are. You cannot hide from yourself.” – Robert Greene, Mastery


One consistent highlight I want to address is my mentioning of LastPass. LastPass is a great password management tool. That said, it’s not the only one out there. Nor is it the only one we’ve tried. For instance, we tried out OnePassword, but found the UX/UI lacking in intuitiveness. That ended up costing our clients a lot of time and frustration. We also have used Keeper as that was an IT client’s existing password management tool. I like it about as much as I would LastPass for having not gotten too involved with it – point being it’s simple and it works, and that’s what you want out of a tool like these.

All this is to say that I do have an affiliation link available to anyone who’s interested in using LastPass. Using this link gives you (and me) one free month of LastPass Premium (valued at $3). With that, I welcome you to explore LastPass without consideration to my affiliation. For your convenience if so, here’s an unaffiliated link to their site.

Again, thank you for your time. – Conrad

Talking about Racial Diversity in Neurosurgery with Jalen Alexander

Talking about Racial Diversity in Neurosurgery with Jalen Alexander

Hey everyone,

Welcome to another episode of the Well Aware Podcast. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about awareness from a focus on racial diversity in the workforce in the field of neurosurgery with one of the first-ever authors on the subject, Jalen Alexander.

Jalen is a good friend of mine from my short time in New York City. When we last reconnected, he shared with me this work of his and others, and it became clear to me that this was something I wanted to help share and make you aware of.

One thing I want to invite you to keep in mind while listening to this episode:

Think about the broader implications of going from unaware to aware of something that speaks to your values and missions in life. In this episode, even Jalen admits surprise to his own assumptions about where he thought the data was going to be with respect to this research, and where the reality stood. To me, this is the first step in so many great calls to action. This is what takes us from aware to well aware, and subsequently well on our way.

With that, I hope you enjoy the episode.

For your awareness and access, here’s the article this conversation is referring to:

As well, here is Jalen’s LinkedIn profile:

His instagram: 

His Twitter: 

And finally, here’s the transcript of our conversation in case you want to follow along or would rather read than listen:

Jalen Alexander: [00:01:38] Hey there, how are you?

[00:01:39] Conrad Ruiz: [00:01:39] I’m good! How’s it going? 

[00:01:41] Jalen Alexander: [00:01:41] Good, good to see you. 

[00:01:43] Conrad Ruiz: [00:01:43] Good to see you! 

[00:01:45]Happy Thursday! 

[00:01:47] Jalen, let me formally get us into the scope of today’s podcast episode. I’m so excited for that!

[00:01:51]I wanted to get this discussion based on what you’d recently shared with me and kind of bring up a topic of awareness that I think I’m pretty sure so few people probably know about.

[00:02:00]Without further ado, let me introduce Jalen Alexander, everybody. Jalen is a report production analyst at MDRC. His main function, his role is pretty cross-functional. He provides training to staff members across policy areas on standards and report and proposal production.

[00:02:18] And he also happens to work in the K through 12 and post-secondary education policy areas. Jalen feel free to share a little bit more on that. I know I’m not an expert in your field, so would love to hear a little bit more about you and what you do from your perspective. But with that, Jalen Alexander.

[00:02:35] Jalen Alexander: [00:02:35] Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. I can share a little bit about myself for context. So I grew up in Missouri. In a really small town. I went to university in Connecticut. So I went to Wesleyan, both for undergrad and my master’s program. I studied psychology and I really leaned into data analysis while I was there at Wesleyan.

[00:02:55] So I published in the fields of public health and education. And now the reason why we’re talking today most recently, neurosurgery. But like I said, I was a psychology major and that’s what I focus on in my master’s program as well. So I’m not a neurosurgeon, I’m not working on people’s brains.

[00:03:11]But I am passionate about the topic of diversity across many fields of work. And we know there’s many benefits from diversifying our workplaces as America, as a country diversifies. So you know, a topic I’m very passionate about and excited to talk about with you. 

[00:03:26] And very timely to today. Because clearly, we’re in a world where, especially for diversity, amongst minorities, there is such a hotness around the different results that we seem to be getting, the different results that seem to be portrayed versus what’s real, what’s relative. I think what you brought up in this article that we’re going to talk about today and to everyone who’s listening in. The article that we’re specifically looking at is it’s published in world neurosurgery.

[00:03:53] We can give a link in the description of this podcast episode, but it’s Diversity in Neurosurgery: Trends in gender and racial/ethnic representation among applicants and residents from US neurological surgery residency programs. Jalen what should we really understand about this article? What is it about recognizing diversity in neurosurgery that you think people should really be taking away? 

[00:04:16] I want to hear from you. You’re the author here (among others). 

[00:04:19] So here’s the big picture: Our country is diversifying. The people who are seeking medical support from day to day is of course also diversifying. Don’t you think that the folks who are providing that care should also be diversifying, right? So we understand that the field of neurosurgery as a medical surgical specialty struggles with diversity.

[00:04:41]We know this from articles that have been written but we don’t really understand what’s happening on the opening end. And so when we think about, as folks come in and apply, the folks who get in and the folks who stick around long enough to become full-fledged doctors, as we might think about them, what’s happening in this pipeline?

[00:04:59] And so we really wanted to understand looking at: Are people applying? Are people getting in? What is it our residency consistency look like? And so that’s why we decided to focus in on this aspect. 

[00:05:11]There’ve been many studies highlighting the fact that a diverse workforce, especially within the medical field impacts the type of people that will come into an office, the type of folks who are seeking care and getting care and also how people feel when they come into an office. And so it’s really important for us to think about how to do diversity better and inclusion work in our medical fields and especially in neurosurgery. 

[00:05:39] Conrad Ruiz: [00:05:39] Okay. So there’s a lot to unpack here. I think one of the things that we’re trying to understand is:

[00:05:45] what are the results trying to tell us? What don’t we understand about this workflow that is ultimately revealing to us this sort of disconnect from the goals of meeting diversity and the reality? 

[00:05:58] So we clearly have an expectation. Diversity is making its way across the workforce, but what exactly is preventing us from meeting diversity goals inside of neurosurgery? 

[00:06:10] Jalen Alexander: [00:06:10] So that’s a really big question. And it’s one that we wanted to really open the conversation up to. And so one it’s about: let’s identify a problem and understand really the scope of it. And so what we were able to do is look at 10 years of data to understand over time, as we know the country’s diversifying, are the applications in our residency spots, really changing and shifting?

[00:06:34] And so we know that from what we looked up we are expanding the number of residency programs within neurosurgery and also, therefore, expanding the number of positions available. But as we looked across the decade, we found that not a lot is changing in terms of diversity for women, for black and Hispanic people, all of whom are historically underrepresented within the medical field and especially within neurosurgery.

[00:07:01] Conrad Ruiz: [00:07:01] Okay. And so without really getting a true understanding of the cause, we are at the very least able to say, “Hey, this is a problem.” and it was really interesting to notice that there was, so I’m highlighting this here from the abstract itself.

[00:07:15] So the percentage of black and Hispanic applicants decreased across the observed period, as you said, a decade, specifically 4% and 1% respectively. And so while black people represented 5.2% of the resident pool in 2009, this decreased at 4.95% by 2018. Whereas with Hispanic residents, they saw a less than 2% net increase in resident representation, but still fell behind when compared with census statistics.

[00:07:46] Jalen Alexander: [00:07:46] Yeah, so I can speak to that a little more. What we’re talking about here as a decade we’re obviously, as you think about the country at large the dynamics racially and also gender-wise in terms of diversifying of the workplaces is really changing. Why are we not seeing that reflected?

[00:08:02] And so to see a decrease of people… we have more spots available within neurosurgery programs. And we’re seeing a decrease in applicant representation for black and Hispanic folks who have been historically underrepresented. That’s a big question. How are we reaching out to these folks? How are we making sure that they feel welcomed into these programs? Who do they see when they look at our brochure as they think about their surgical specialties? 

[00:08:29]In my head, when I went into this work, I expected to see at least light increases in diversity across all of these areas and it was really disappointing to see that in some areas there was a decrease.

[00:08:40]And so people are being for whatever reason. discouraged* to pursue neurosurgery. And that’s really a shame because we need, as I mentioned before, more people who look like the people being served.

[00:08:53]Conrad Ruiz: [00:08:53] Is it a useful assumption to say that although the pool has increased, the respective statistic Minority and ethnic representation, it’s diminished –  does that somehow say more about the, in whatever context the pool increased, those increases seem to not proportionally affect those populations? Is that sort of a correct assumption? 

[00:09:20] That’s number one, number two: are we recognizing that existing efforts that were established for those statistics to exist as they were back in 2009 – are those somehow, have they somehow lost ground in the last decade? Is that another correctness of it is the combined efforts of these two assumptions. What we’re seeing in some context? 

[00:09:42] Jalen Alexander: [00:09:42] I think so. And as I talked with my writing partner Dr. Phabinly James Gabriel who is pursuing the world of neurosurgery as a resident at Rutgers sees this within his program.

[00:09:55]And saw this as he was going through med school that he didn’t see as a black man, many people who looked like him. He couldn’t name your top three programs that are there to support men of color or to support black men or black people in general within neurosurgery. So if you have someone who is doing well within that space and is unable to identify resources to support his existence with his intersections of identity, what does that say for other people who were younger in the journey? What does that say for people who are considering pursuing it and you can’t look around and see the supports that would be available? 

[00:10:31] Conrad Ruiz: [00:10:31] I think from that Jalen I want to segue into something: it sounds like we are from this article alone, we went from an unaware stage of what is the problem to we’re now aware of the problem. What’s the Well Aware takeaway?

[00:10:44]In that recognition alone, it sounds like we know that the vast majority of statistically underrepresented youth. Are unaware of these opportunities, and even those at the very top of this particular career path  – they are also unaware of the avenues that can take these youth into the same career path. 

[00:11:07] How do we become aware? How do we apply incentive or opportunity, or just more awareness to get to that next stage of actually moving the statistics back in the direction that we’re looking for? 

[00:11:21] Jalen Alexander: [00:11:21] That’s a really great question. I think it’s multifaceted. One is I think we have to start younger. We have to start talking to people about these opportunities earlier on. It comes from the images that we see on television, what we read in a book or a newspaper. We have to really show people that there are opportunities and there are black neurosurgeons out there.

[00:11:40] There are women out there who are really excelling as CEOs, as business leaders, those folks are out there. But they’re often not highlighted. They’re often not given the right credit until much later in life. And so how do we highlight those examples? And not just the exceptions, but people who are doing sort of the everyday things that keep our country running our world running.

[00:12:01] How do we highlight that for people much younger than when they’re trying to make this decision of what college to go to or what medical subspecialty to focus on? We really need to get people believing in the reality that you can get here one day and that these opportunities are open to you.

[00:12:19]Conrad Ruiz: [00:12:19] It feels like a very important game of marketing. 

[00:12:24] Oh, for sure. 

[00:12:26] Okay. Okay. Forgive me I’m just trying to take my time to think like what’s the route, what’s the path. So Jalen, if you had to make a pitch or say, “Hey folks, you should be more aware about this.” 

[00:12:38] What would it be in the context of this information?

[00:12:41]What should help push this agenda forward? 

[00:12:46] Jalen Alexander: [00:12:46] That’s a good question as well. All of your questions have been great. I think that one big thing that we’re pushing for is that we need more data collection around this stuff, and we need that to be more visible. We did some scouring to just find the information that we did.

[00:13:00]It should be easy to understand what at a country-wide scale – what does diversity looks like for our doctors, for our medical practitioners at all levels, right? 

[00:13:09] So how are we fairing? What my mind thought I would be seeing when I entered this study versus the reality of what we found.

[00:13:16] And so I think we really have to do that work of pushing people who are in charge to share the data. If we’re not doing the job that we should be doing around creating more inclusive workspaces, then that needs to be displaying and shown, and discussed. So we can think about how to move forward. So I think that’s a big push for me. 

[00:13:34] It shouldn’t be hard. And this shouldn’t be one of the first works on diversity in neurosurgery. This should have been maybe the 50th or something. Like we should not be in 2021, starting to lead this conversation around diversity within this field, we need to have these conversations much more often.

[00:13:51] And of course, connected to that is we need to see action. So what are people now that we become aware? What are we going to do about it? 

[00:14:01] Conrad Ruiz: [00:14:01] Let’s put that to the test. How should we support more data collection around this particular initiative? And in general, how are we supposed to – it’s a time-intensive task, right?

[00:14:10] You experienced it yourself – you scoured through data just to get to the awareness level that you are at now. How are we going to ease ourselves the time and task burden of data collection? So that more opportunities like this can be researched with less scouring. 

[00:14:27] Jalen Alexander: [00:14:27] So my data brain goes to thinking about what databases exist.

[00:14:31]And so rather than us having to put together a data set, what databases exists that easily display this information? We have this around census data, right? So you can look nationally and across states for information on race and other demographics. How do we make it easier and more accessible for people, so how can we push the American medical association?

[00:14:53] How can we make the data available? They have it. Make it available to the people so we can go in and draw our own conclusions about the trends that exist within these spaces. 

[00:15:05] So I think that we’ve seen a lot of great things happen in terms of data in the past year or so, especially in the past couple years.

[00:15:12] And so I definitely don’t want to harp on the fact that I, I think that within the world of medicine we’ve been doing, I think the CDC, for example, has been doing a really great job of trying to help us learn over time from data. And I think, you know, one thing you –

[00:15:25] Conrad Ruiz: [00:15:25] have quite the incentive this year! 

[00:15:29] Jalen Alexander: [00:15:29] For sure. But I think one thing that we can learn from the CDC is that the story may shift over time. And so as we do more studies as the years progress, the story is going to change. 

[00:15:42] And so how do we keep people updated and informed? I think that you know, this model of producing sort of peer review is a bit archaic. Not a lot of people have access to the information. 

[00:15:52] I’m happy to have this sort of form where I can talk to you about it and we can share it with the world. But I think it’s uncommon – most people who are publishing in journals like this are not then going on a press tour and talking about it in smaller groups of people.

[00:16:07] And so how do even doctors who were individually involved, how do you push people to get into the community to share these results, like actually connect with people rather than these folks who are at the top, just talking to each other. 

[00:16:20]My sort of hope as I do this research and other research is that it’s always connecting back to people and making it make sense for the reader. And so that’s really important to me. 

[00:16:31] And I think that’s a charge that the American Medical Association can do the work of connecting with the people and make that a part of their duty. 

[00:16:40]Conrad Ruiz: [00:16:40] I love that.

[00:16:40] I feel like you’re sort of getting the first part of the bridge built and you’re saying, “Hey, recognize that so that you can start to build the second half.” And that way we can form this, this connection of going from being unaware to aware, and then from aware to taking action and performing on what needs to be done because when we look at the data, yeah, the truth is inconvenient. 

[00:17:04] So let’s make it better. 

[00:17:07]Jalen Alexander: [00:17:07] To be transparent, the benefit for me being someone who comes in to analyze data and help tell a story is that I’m not in the neurosurgical field. So I don’t have to then be the person to recommend the shakeup of “Oh wow, we haven’t made much progress over the past decade.”, but I think it’s important for me again, to help people tell that story so that people who are coming into the field are able to understand what the landscape is. 

[00:17:32] And they’re able to say, “look, there’s data backing this up.”

[00:17:35] “There are stories being told that it’s not just me feeling unsupported. We’re largely unsupported. So I hope that for folks who are entering the field of neurosurgery or whatever medical specialty, that they can have another support story in their head of “It’s not just me, this is tough for us to go through cause we don’t have these built-in supports.” 

[00:17:58]Conrad Ruiz: [00:17:58] I think to your point, if it’s not, so isolatory, if you can kind of rally the underrepresented groups and show them from a statistics standpoint there’s a lot to be done…

[00:18:08]Maybe that’s a cool battle flag to rally everyone around? Almost like when you get to whatever stage you’re in, here’s the percentages of where you stand amongst peers from your background, from your perspectives, from your history. And, here’s where you’re standing ground and treading and creating a new path. Here’s where we need your help to blaze the trail further. As that would allow more folks to recognize where your footsteps can lead to more promising ones for theirs… 

[00:18:33] Jalen what are you working on right now? What’s sort of the next thing on your plate? What are we going to hear from you a couple months from this time? What’s going on in your world today?

[00:18:43] Jalen Alexander: [00:18:43] Yeah. What did Drake say? What’s next, right?

[00:18:46] You know, I’m thinking about what’s next. Dr. Phabinly James Gabriel wants to do more papers on this topic. He’s going to be in the neurosurgical field for quite a while. And so I think we want to keep digging into this and keep having conversations about it.

[00:18:59]We’re trying to unionize my workplace in my professional world. And I think about what’s the next story that needs to be told? And so, as I think about sort of my data path, which is sort of just on the side of my full-time job, I think about what stories are waiting to be told.

[00:19:15] And is there a way in which data can help us do that? And so wherever life takes me on, on telling that next story, I’m definitely open to that and thinking about it.

[00:19:26] Conrad Ruiz: [00:19:26] All right. Everyone, Jalen Alexander. Thank you so much for the time. 

[00:19:31] Jalen Alexander: [00:19:31] And may I say that you can find the full article on Science Direct. Diversity in Neurosurgery. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Jalen. Jalen Alexander. And you can find the links to my links directly to the full article on my IG and Twitter.

[00:19:49] Both places there I’m Jalen2kool. That’s Jalen2kool. 

[00:19:56] Do you mind if I, I take all those resources and put them someplace wherever I can find them? 

[00:20:00] Oh, of course, absolutely. 

[00:20:02] Conrad Ruiz: [00:20:02] Okay.


How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

Well it’s finally here. December 31st, 2020. Needless to say, it’s been a year.

By this time, there’s probably a lot of expectations for you to be considering how this year has gone by, and what you’ve accomplished. Now, reviewing is always a fantastic use of time, but how can you effectively go about reviewing an entire year?

While its one thing to reflect on the major accomplishments (and major lessons), I want to share a far more comprehensive review that also doesn’t break the only bank that really matters: time. Especially now, with the focus on holidays, family, and the upcoming 2021 year.

So here’s my approach for reviewing all of your time throughout this past year in a very succinct, concrete amount of time. Feel free to follow along with this article – should you do that, prepare to invest around 30 minutes from this point on.

#1 How’s Your Nutrition?

For the next 3 minutes, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been eating – has it been healthy, nutritious, enjoyable, or was it unhealthy, poor quality, mindless?

The main idea behind question 1 is to think back on your choice and availability of food, the time to eat, and how good that was. If things were great, think about the conditions that allowed for it. If not, think about the conditions that made eating well particularly difficult. Take 1 minute.

Q2. What can you improve about your nutrition that would make it better – could you make eating healthier somehow faster, easier, cheaper?

Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on nutrition and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – this is where you can point out flaws in the design of your approach toward eating healthier that can be fixed! Again, take only 1 minute, and think low-hanging fruit opportunities (no pun intended). Now:

Q3. How big of a priority is eating healthier for me? 

You may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – so be it, that’s motivating! I could also recommend considering how much your eating lifestyle impacts your brain health, your mood, and your performance in all walks of life. Healthy eating is a foundation – I shouldn’t have to say that. What I should have to say is that eating healthier is only in your control when you make it a job to do so.

As we dive into other major life items to review, you’ll be seeing question 3 come up again and again around the conversation of priority. I’ll say this once here and now, but it applies for every other life item when you get to this question: Rank your priorities. By the end of this review, you should have a list from 1-10. My advice is that you focus all you available time tackling the top 1 when you start the year. Then, go down the list.

#2 How’s Your Exercise?

Again, for the next 3 minutes or so, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been exercising – has it been consistent, impactful, enjoyable, or was it disregarded, poorly performed, misguided?

When it comes to reviewing exercise and how well it’s being performed, I tend to see so many people set their expectations too high and with little regard to the real value of good exercise, which is to have it be easy, constantly rewarding, and compounding over time. If you look back on your fitness expectations and see that you’ve been wanting more and more, but struggled to make your gains because your ambition overtook your realistic growth over time, then the next question will really help guide you to a better year of physical health.

Q2. What can you improve about your exercise that would make it better – could you make working out smarter somehow?

Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on exercise and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – I personally strive for exercise regimens that require the least amount of time to get ready for, have some kind of accountability connection to (i.e. a YouTube workout video follow-along, or just working out with a friend/partner/colleague – which doesn’t have to be in person nowadays!). To the end of smarter, I love any kind of training that adopts less-is-more as a strategy. Do less reps correctly with best form, and so spend less time doing more reps in an a poor straining manner which then leads to less desire to return to future workouts. Working out at its best feels like a win with every movement.

Q3. How big of a priority is exercising better for me? 

Much like with nutrition, you may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – I would change that script and think more about energy than weight! Weight gain and loss is about eating healthy. Fitness on the other hand, is about training your body to be more effective with its energy consumption. So as strange as this sounds, given both healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand, if you want to prioritize smarter exercise over healthier eating, do so because you feel you are already eating well, and now you need to really make the most of that energy which you consume through food.

The next review life item can be bracketed under the more general bracket of physical health – sleep.

#3 How’s Your Sleep?

Again, for the next 3 minutes… answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been sleeping – has it been consistent (in terms of time to bed and time to rise), restful, reinvigorating, or…?

Ok look, I get that sleep is one of those troubling life items that whenever we try to work on, it seems to only get worse if anything. If you don’t already know, sleep is this amazingly weird thing we do where our own brain tells our conscious and alert self to move out of the way so that it can try and Marie Kondo itself from the unavoidable mess of what is just another day… When it comes to reviewing your sleep, I strongly invite thinking less about what’s keeping you up at night and more what’s keeping you up during the day itself, because that is where the root cause of a lot of our worries and woes around sleep time come from. Taking that concept in mind toward the next question:

Q2. What can you improve about your life that would make sleep better – could you make your life better for sleep somehow?

Please pay careful attention to the shift I’m creating here. I’m not trying to make the focus about better sleep (which of course has its room for opportunity with light, sound, temperature, etc.). I’m focusing on the daily things in your life that could make good sleep happen more easily. Of course, eating right and exercising are great for this. As a subgenre of exercise, there is of course meditation, breathing, and the like. Within the subgenre of sleep itself – naps! But more than that, think generally about how to create more order, less chaos, just simplicity in general…

Q3. How big of a priority is sleeping better for me? 

In my professional opinion, if sleep is not going well, its a #1 priority, but as I’ve pointed out above, once you make arrangements for the perfect sleep environment, sleep is generally better addressed by tackling life’s daily concerns more peacefully – that way sleep can really flourish, because by the end of the night, all of life’s myriad problems appear, for the most part, accounted for.

To that end, if sleep is already good, be it because healthy eating and exercising are supporting it as they do, then perhaps the next major life items will be more important for you right this moment. The following 3 are all about wealth creation.

#4 How’s Your Network?

If I may, I’d like to stretch your review of networking to encompass meeting new people, reconnecting with existing contacts, but also any and all time invested in communicating with others. I like this encompassment because it provides a lot of room for thinking about improvement, so:

Q1. How have you been networking – how effective are you in staying engaged in your circles, expanding, but also enriching everyone you know?

If you can look back on your networking as a whole, there may be a lot you could dive into surrounding effectiveness, consistency, impact… while thinking broadly, you can also think about particular relationships, or a particular circle, and how you went about communicating on a practical level, inasmuch as you could look at what your communication with the people you know (and ideally care about) has resulted in this time so far.

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to networking that would make your network better – what could be done better and how?

Again, just like with the shift in sleep, ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. But also, what can your network do for you that it may not be doing right now, and why might that be? Networking is a choice of connections – its okay to prune trees (please use the right tools for that – a blowtorch is for burning bridges and is really a bit overly aggressive as a strategy). Hey, think efficiency as well – are you keeping up a good system for managing your relationships with friends, family, colleagues, clients, prospects, strangers, and so on? Outside of using a CRM and tagging your friends into various buckets from which to send valuable industry emails, or quality memes…

Q3. How big of a priority is networking better for me?

With the next two life items to cover being prospecting and creating value, I will start off by suggesting that better networking is THE foundation for the other two. That said, if your networking sucks, prioritize that over anything. But sincerely, because networking is such a fundamental part of our exchanging value amongst one another in society, I couldn’t stress enough that it be valuable as studying, because what is networking but the study of how to be more helpful, and more easy to be helped, amongst those you know?

#5 How’s Your Prospecting?

Much like with networking, I’d like to stretch your review of prospecting-as-an-action to encompass more than just how well you sell yourself towards wealth opportunities. In my professional definition, prospecting is really a general design of time and attention towards identifying what an opportunity is worth, relative to any alternative. As a result, I could prospect which groceries to buy as much as I prospect a potential client, job, or network contact. So whereas networking makes you aware of what’s out there, prospecting defines what you will go for, and so:

Q1. How have you been prospecting – how effective are you in recognizing what are the best opportunities for your time and resources?

Hindsight is absolutely critical for better prospecting. It takes a trained eye to see value, because experience dictates what you can expect will or will not follow. So with that being said, how have you fared this year? When you made a choice, on a purchase, for/against a relationship, towards/away from a certain behavior of yours – how did that go? Later on we will cover the major life item of self-review, but for this particular life item, prospecting, I want to invite you to think about the choices you made in terms of the value you saw and the value you ultimately realized. Now…

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to prospecting that would make it better?

The number 1 thing you will hear in the world of entrepreneurship is to fail fast. What that really translates is this: Take calculated risks, and learn from it when it doesn’t work out as planned, quickly. So, prospect! Try, experiment, test, see how it goes for a little, then decide if you want to continue. Of course, some decisions in life are irreversible, but most aren’t, and those are the ones we get to play with the most. So in my recommendation towards better prospecting, make small bets, but do them often, and highlight time in the near future to assess those choices. Most importantly, look into what you thought you were going to expect in terms of return on value, and what actually happened instead.

Q3. How big of a priority is prospecting better for me?

Assuming you have a good enough handle on your network (and have people to prospect to), focus on prospecting if you need to build more wealth. Prospecting directly equals sales, so if you need to make more, then you need to sell better, which means you need to prospect better. At the same time, if you feel you aren’t keen on making the best decisions in hindsight, then prospecting should also be on top or near the top of your priorities.

Of course, a good salesperson is nothing without something of genuine value to give to their network. Next up is creating value.

#6 How’s Your Creating?

So let’s assume you’re a decent networker with capable prospecting skills – that means you know people and/or can get to know people, but also you can identify opportunities for those in your network in which you can profit from, and so, win-win. Great, now what exactly are we winning here? What kind of value do you create, and for whom? The following questions at heart will ask you that, and much more.

Q1. How have you been creating value – how effective are you with your time and resources in producing more time and resources?

Whether its for yourself and/or others, which really the two are but different sides of the same coin. How well have you been creating value? To that end, how well do you share about it? Marketing? How well do you transfer it? Customer service. How much value have you been producing over time? Productivity. Are you producing the same or more value in less time? Efficiency. When it comes to reviewing your creative actions, it can be really valuable to assess just how good you are at doing so in all respects possible, and that’s because the next question then asks:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to creating that would make it better?

I love this question. It basically states, “I produce a certain amount of value X right now, to Y people, who then pay me Z… How might I go about increasing X and/or Y in order to improve my return of Z?” Whereas prospecting focuses on the selling of the right value to someone, creating focuses on the value itself being sold, how it gets there in the smartest way, and so on. When you really love your work (love being a verb that begets choice – you choose to love or not), you  really get into the heart of how you work most effectively. Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific examples to by, as there’s so many ways to create value, and so many ways to increase how value is created, but I hope you get the idea.

Q3. How big of a priority is creating better for me?

Hands down, if you don’t create more than you consume, then make creating a top priority. Next to anything in the health category, which is foundational, assuming you know your network and how to prospect with them on their needs and your means to make the opportunity for you to address those needs, then the next thing hands down becomes your time and task towards creating. Create more, however you can, but when you decide to prioritize creating, focus really hard on what you can create the best, and really drive that value up in the most effective ways possible.

As I may be pointing out with focusing on your health, working on yourself is definitely a way to improve the results of anything related to building. Notably, this brings us down to our final three categories: Study, rest, and review.

#7 How’s Your Study?

Being a lifelong student is without a doubt the most valuable time investment over the long term. If you want create more, you’ll likely need to study your efforts as much as what you don’t already know in order to improve your craft. Same goes with prospecting and networking – wealth compounds on study. Health gains come from good study too – though these days its hard to sift fact from fiction, so back we go towards prospecting what we should study and what we should earmark as crap… but I digress.

Q1. How have you been studying – how much have you learned and by what processes?

Because is such a valuable time investment, it helps to know how you fare in terms of effectiveness. Where you can, I strongly encourage looking at all the bits and chunks of knowledge you’ve collected over time, and just how well that information was absorbed and applied well into the rest of your life. How you study, or the process by which you learn, is also up for review here. Ultimately, you want to ask if your efforts to study met the results you desired to obtain in new and old knowledge applied effectively, and so:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to studying about the world that would make it better?

Here, I like to think fundamentally as much as strategically. For instance, on a fundamental level, the faster I can read without losing sight of what I’m reading about is a fundamental to study more, faster. Meanwhile on a strategic level, I could design my time so that I read, review, then apply. This way, I get three forms of study which together solidify what I’m learning more effectively. And if that all makes sense, I would like to invite then the less-is-more strategy atop the learn-then-teach method of study. See, its not about reading more books, but about reading more effectively about the knowledge that matters most to you right now, and absorbing it/applying it as quickly and effectively as you can. So now think:

Q3. How big of a priority is studying better for me?

If you’re stuck trying to think what your next level is in any category of life, study it. The most successful people on the planet dedicate a tremendous of time to reading, but its not about just what they read. It’s about how they read it, and use it. Study is not just theory – its practice. So incorporate the practice of what you study in your life if you don’t already – that’s one way to prioritize study if the idea of just reading more doesn’t suit you.

At this point, we’ve covered nearly every “productive” use of time. Time for a break?

#8 How’s Your Rest?

To be fair, rest is actually the most productive use of our time when you think about it. Rest is what allows productive work to even exist, so without it, productivity approaches zero quickly. Rest is multifaceted in its design, but you can try to think of it as any activity which leaves you feeling renewed and able to perform everything else in life. And while healthy activity atop even wealthy activity can fit under the concept of rest, true rest can be as productive as doing absolutely nothing, and that’s okay, so:

Q1. How have you been resting – how much have you rested and how effective was it in what you resting from, or for?

Rest is the fluid in between time and task that, if otherwise removed, would make said time and task really hard to commit to over the course of a longer period. So how well have you given yourself opportunity to rest? How did you ultimately take that rest time, and was it effective in getting you going? You can break down different types of rest activities according to how much energy they demand, and how that compares with the energy demands of the tasks you perform for work, health, or anything other than your creature comfort. To that end:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to resting that would make it better?

I don’t think the goal with rest is to be efficient. Rather, I think smarter rest comes from recognizing how to play with the ebb and flow of energy needed to perform work. When you’re tired, stop, rest. When you’re not tired, go, but take breaks as needed to prolong the inevitable time when you become tired again. Alongside that, think of rest in terms of different timeframes. Rest time placed throughout the day, week, and month can balance out depending on the demands incoming along each timeframe. That’s something to consider when trying to rest better. Also paying mind to the time and resource cost of certain rest activities – it helps to save on rest activities (I never understood why vacations had to be so expensive…)

Q3. How big of a priority is resting better for me?

If you’re always begging for it, then you need to focus on it. Making time to rest is the ultimate way to make time to work smarter and harder. Again, rest is what grants the ability to be productive. There’s more. Rest is something that requires strategy and experimentation. If you don’t have your time for rest figured out for the work-life demands you’re living in currently, then that’s all the more reason to sit down and review how you rest as productive measure towards your current expectations for productivity. One final note on rest: You’d be amazed what working less hours will do.

And so, really all of this brings us to the most important life item: Review itself.

#9 How’s Your Review?

Allow me to keep this brief by saying that review is not a brief process. Compared to the long term view of actual time spent doing everything that you do, review is a small part of that, but in the short-term, its not something to gawk at.

Q1. How have you been reviewing – how much have you reviewed and how well do you go about reviewing?

Well-done review follows a few simple principles. For one, review comes after any distinct event of focus. We tend to think of reviewing days, weeks, months, but we can also review individual activities, experiments, and even actions. Our goal with review is to understand ourselves, especially over the long run, so another important principle is documentation. How accurate have you been with yourself about your review? How objective? How subjective? Has that been good/bad depending on the time and task and behavior being reviewed? Lot’s to dig into here – just look at how you may have answered all these questions.

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to reviewing that would make it better?

It’s important not to step into a rabbit hole with this one. You’re looking at yourself looking at yourself. Don’t overthink it. That’s one improvement already. On a more fundamental level, you can always focus your review on specific items of importance. Examples include each heading in this article being a particular breakdown which you will choose to prioritize one of above and beyond the others, least for the time being. On a more strategic level, its about the questions you learn to ask yourself, the objectives you come to better understand, and the time you dedicate to coming up with the next experiment to try, and then review later. Review is part of a cycle. It’s not the whole cycle, but also by far a very slim part.

Q3. How big of a priority is reviewing better for me?

How often do you repeat the same mistakes? How often do you forget what you’ve done, and where you’re going? Questions like these point towards an emphasis on reviewing better. Its okay to make mistakes, and its okay to get lost in the present of things, but its in your power and responsibility to remind yourself – that’s what review is for. So if you need that more, prioritize this life item. I always prioritize review above all else because it helps me see the picture of everything else that’s covered on this article – all of my life basically – but not everyone is as deeply introspective, and not everyone has the time at this given moment to focus on the big picture.

When one of the other life items above holds more value than review to be addressed first, then the bigger picture of prioritizing review can come later. In the meantime, mini-versions of review can suffice until enough progress is made to warrant looking at the next level.

This article may not be a simple read. Likely, the questions I provide can invoke a lot of time to sit and think. I like to invite 1 minute per question on the first pass, and really that should be enough to get one of these categories as your priority for the coming week or month or even quarter – it doesn’t have to be the whole year. And to that end, treat any decided upon focus as a theme rather than particular set of objectives to be met. Life is complex, and you can’t control everything. It’s like navigating a ship – the winds will blow in many different directions as you sail – you only have so much time and energy to adjust your sails, so do so as needed, and focus on remaining steered in the right direction.

Happy New Year – may your time reflecting upon what’s coming forward bode well.

How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

Why Notion Is The Best Tool For Keeping A Digital Journal

Journaling is immensely valuable, but I believe we can all recognize how challenging it might be to stare at a blank canvas and decide what should be defined as our entry of time each time around. Still, that said, the “just write!” philosophy as well as a little bit of structure in the form of writing prompts can quickly clear that problem up.

So all we’re left with now in our awareness of journaling as a positive behavior is, well, making the time to do it.

Today I want to cover a very convenient way to access and complete your journal entries through a digital tool called Notion.

Now when I say convenient, I mean for a whole host of reasons – be it because you can use digital-only functions like search, sort, filter, and more… A digital journal is generally more accessible – We carry our phones with us all the time. One can include pictures, or links.

There’s also the freedom to pick any template one wants to apply for the time and focus of your journaling, whereas on a physical journal, you’re stuck with the template that’s already designed for each page (not always a bad thing if just deciding your prompts is enough to wade you from writing).

If you’re someone who’d rather write into something physical, given you love the feeling and experience of actually writing (which has many perks), then allow me to save you some time by recommending a few journal designs you can buy that are quite popular for their effectiveness.

First there’s John Lee Dumas’ Mastery Journal. Then we have Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal. Lastly, we have The 5-Minute Journal created by UJ Ramdas and Alex Ikonn. Another reason why I share these journals in spite of my focus right now on organizing and customizing your own digital journal is inspiration.

We’re free to take from these designs the best prompting structures we want, and incorporate them to our desires through Notion. Of course, these aren’t the only structures to look at – I’ll also be sharing another tool, Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel – that can easily enhance how we enter in our state of mind.

So without further ado, I’d really like to dive into my favorite way of journaling digitally:

How To Journal With Notion

Allow me to first introduce Notion, for those who may not know: Notion is an information management system (fancy talk for store all your notes and documents here).

Google Drive is also an information management system, as well as Evernote, One Note… what makes Notion stand apart is how it is designed around these smart databases, or excel-like tables where the columns can be defined by different properties which ultimately create a diverse yet cohesive information-connecting experience throughout.

Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about.

Screenshot of a Table View in Notion Designed for Digital Journaling

Here Is a screenshot of a Table in Notion Designed for Digital Journaling

So as you can see in the above image, I have this row-column table, where each row is actually a journal entry. From left to right I have columns that represent the following:

  • My entry’s title (for me that always ends up being some quip about what’s going on in mind the second I ask myself “what’s going on in my mind?”)
  • My current state of happiness, measured between 1 and 3 stars. (The property being used here is single select – I can only pick from 1 of my created options of stars)
  • A 1-sentence summary of journal entry (I either leave this for the end of my journaling entry writing, or if I know the premise of my entry, then I’ll do this right after the title.
  • The date my entry was created (automatically filled out – a useful, already embedded property!)

The final three columns, or properties, are all multi-select options. Multi-select allows me to pick many options (much like a check all that apply). The options in these columns are words related to how I’m feeling emotionally at the given moment, and each column depicts a different level of emotion. For example:

In the emotion level 1 column, I can choose to select being happy, sad, disgusted, surprised, and so on.

In column 2, the word choices become more clear, as I can pick peaceful or trusting (which fall in line with feeling happy) as well as vulnerable (which can* fall in line with sad) and disapproving (falling in line with disgusted).

Column 3 similarly goes into deeper word choices courageous, thankful, fragile, hostile, worried…

The idea behind this setup is that I get to very effectively read through a list of words which can help dive more deeply into the particular emotions I’m experiencing, all to the convenience of a multi-select.

This is the genius of Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel, now designed into this smart database where I keep all my journal entries. And this is just looking at the database from an overview standpoint. Watch me open one of my entries.

Here’s what it looks like when I open an existing page (journal entry) that I’ve created from time past.

The Entry Itself (Notion Pages)

Pop up of a journal entry page in Notion

Here I clicked to open one of my page entries and you can see all “column” properties listed underneath the title, with space below for an actual entry. In this morning entry, I’m even using a template.

Here I went ahead and opened one of my entries. This pops up the associated “page” – it’s a lot like opening up a word or google document, but see how there’s more still.

Above, you can see my title, followed by all the properties I just listed out – the 1 sentence summary, my happiness single-select, my emotion level multi-selects… all of these properties I can change and manipulate inside here. Then, outside of being able to explore more property options, there is the actual meat of my entry here below. This is where I’m free to write.

Now, I want to highlight that in this entry, I actually used a template I based off the 5-Minute Journal design. When I first created the entry, I was prompted to choose if I wanted to write on an empty page, or pick from one of the templates I made. In this case, I chose the template which then pre-filled my page with headings that act as my prompts writing about certain things.

This is again, carbon copying what you would experience in any pre-designed journal structure. Of course, you can’t physically write into Notion, but you can indeed type, and if speed is your concern, and time is of the essence, well, typing is faster than writing. Now that we’ve essentially re-created any possible journaling design – save for ones that inspire drawing that would require some more effort…

I now want to showcase the experience I love most with journaling in Notion. Changing the view.

Calendar view of notion database used as a journal

Here I’ve now clicked to change the view of my Journal database from a table view to a calendar view.

Journaling About Time

Within a few clicks, all my journal entries have now been organized onto a calendar view, showing me when those entries were made.

If you’ve ever wanted to review all of your entries from a given month, a given day of the week, or even a given time of the day, this is one way of actually seeing it! Just like that.

Again, this is the power that Notion provides. To summarize, Notion allows you to:

  1. Create entries with properties that you can customize to your heart’s content. These properties can then be sorted, searched, filtered…
  2. Create templates for your entries (based on any known design prompts) from which you can pick at any time. Want the 5-minute journal experience for the morning and the weekly review experience for the weekend? Long as you make the template, it can be done.
  3. My favorite: You can always change views which may give different perspectives when looking at all your entries. You’re not stuck to seeing everything in table. You can have a calendar view, a Trello-like Kanban board view, a gallery view…

This to me is what makes Notion the perfect tool for digital journaling. Of course, a journal doesn’t have to be the only thing you keep in Notion, and that brings with it so many opportunities to really get fancy with how you interconnect journaling passages with the information about any contacts you keep in another database within Notion. The same could be said for how you add To-Do items onto a To-Do list that’s actually another database in your Notion, which you are adding to right from your journal entries!

The possibilities of this tool are huge, but I digress, this article is about the power of keeping a journal, and so I’d like to close on that subject.

A Final Analysis of Journaling

If I may, I’d like to invite we look at just what journaling is from a very practical standpoint, and also what it can be when used to its fullest extent in your time in life.

Journaling at its heart is the capturing of information – information you possess about yourself. Usually its your own thoughts, experiences, emotions… all documented to the effect of helping you better understand yourself. We journal to improve the way in which you go about our future choices. Journaling is an operation of time that’s focused on review, planning, and also just thinking things through.

When we keep a journal, it would create the greatest amount of value for our time that we do at least 3 things with it:

  1. It would make a lot of sense that we get value out of journaling in the present moment. Especially with the right structure or prompts, we can guide ourselves very effectively towards an analysis of what’s going on in our world and what we want to do about it. Again, this is typically for the moment of now, although entries about reviews of the past in aggregate can also make a lot of sense. That brings us to 2;
  2. As we go about creating a list of journal entries, our viewpoint expands further: Now we begin to have perspective over time across our more recent entries as well as our later ones. It may go without saying that we do have to invest the time to review the expanse of our journal entries – especially as they grow in number. Toward this end, it really helps to keep your journaling organized, and later on you can already imagine that I will promote digital journaling to be the better way of organizing and searching back in time. Again, in a sort of review of our reviews type fashion (no pun intended), we can create special entries that aim to summarize our sense of self from journaling. Because there can be so many things to try and connect and correlate;
  3. Again, given the right structure(s), we can very distinctly capture our emotions from our thoughts from our plans and so on. It’s sort of like making a dish with all the individual foods separated at first (think a simple chicken with rice with green peas) – we can mix it all up and get a combination taste, but we can also taste each piece separately. So over time, as we recognize this same meal or at least certain parts of it, we can separately compare the peas from way before with the peas from this afternoon, if you catch what I’m getting at.

So first, create entries for the power it provides immediately, using structure and prompts to guide our jotting toward what we want to work through.

Second, keep organized and review entries as they begin to stack in number – investing the time to re-read them – with the intent to summarize those entries into super entries.

Third and finally, In line with how you organize your journaling, where possible, separate the various components of what you can capture so you can analyze them distinctly.

This is precisely what a well-designed physical journal is capable of helping you do. However, its going to cost you, and you can’t change the fundamental design without having to go and buy a different type of journal.

And this is where a good digital journal comes in with being adaptable, data-rich and so more quickly analyzable, but also lean! Physical journals take up space and need storage – digital journals exist in the ether – no physical space required.

two large stacks of handwritten journals

Stack of Journals Image taken by Laura (@paperedstars on instagram) saved by Lynn Evans on Pinterest

It’s for this reason that I so strongly recommend keeping a digital journal, and with that, keeping said journal with Notion.

Here: This is a link to a template I created for you to get started with. I wish I had this when I first started in Notion (to be frank, the community has many templates for you to play with).

This template comes with a version of Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel already designed in the column-properties. Within each page, I took Khe Hy’s (another prominent Notion productivity expert) 3-heading morning and evening entry builds. Feel free to try all these out, and see for yourself what kind of experience you can imagine over the next day, week, and month of journaling.

Before You Go…

I’ve one final trick to share with you about journaling digitally – this comes from the reality I see a lot with our digital working world.

Most of us live throughout our personal and professional lives on our web browsers.

Notion has a fantastic web app experience, meaning it would make sense that you keep it open as one of your many tabs that you have open, but of course that begets the problem:

How would you encourage yourself to journal (on Notion specifically) when you have to constantly open up the tab (which isn’t even that big a hurdle, but still) amongst the sea of tabs you may already have open.

I’ll be writing another article on browser tab management soon, but for now I’ll leave you with this: You should close most of your tabs that you have open, as they take up a lot of juice on your computer and for the most part are probably never to see the light of day – and even so, they probably won’t do you much good if you aren’t absorbing their respective information properly.

What I would kindly invite however, is that you take advantage of a special feature that most browsers have about tabs. It’s called Pinning Tabs.

Right-click on a tab (for example your notion tab) -> and click Pin Tab. Now watch as your notion tab shrinks to just an icon AND jumps all the way to the left of all your open browser tabs.

Here’s what happened:

If you have but a few tabs open, you may have noticed that those tabs will show both the tab icon and the title of the page you are on. When you pin a tab, only the icon shows. Here’s what I’m talking about:

A close-up view of the top left-hand side of a browser, where a number of tabs have been pinned, while one of them is not pinned.

See how I have 6 tabs open, yet the one on the right is the only one showing title and icon? Those other 5 tabs are currently pinned. The one on the very left is my Notion tab.

This simple feature can make a big impact on your overall web browsing experience, should you be inclined to organize your browser tab behavior a little more mindfully.

Allow me to invite you do this: Pin your notion tab. If you decide to pin other useful/repeatedly visiting tabs like your calendar, gmail, drive, spotify, take note of the order they’re in.

Now use Ctrl + number key (1,2,3,…) to hop between those pinned tabs.

Whereas Ctrl + Tab allows you to cycle through every open tab you have, Ctrl + number key takes you to the tab that’s located in the number key position from left to right of your open tabs. Because pinned tabs always take priority, you can effectively order your most used tabs and then jump to them quickly.

This little trick can then turn your browsing experience into a more controlled hub, where Notion is but one hub where you document what you’ve explored and sought to store from your thoughts to whatever you find on the internet. Again, one of the beauties of digital journaling – links, images… you get the idea.

That’s all I have for today. Let me know if you end up using Notion. Are you journaling right now? What’s your take on digital vs. physical journaling? I await your thoughts in the comments section below.

All the best,


How To Not Waste More Time Scheduling

How To Not Waste More Time Scheduling

We should all be well aware that the time value of connecting with anyone through a meeting comes from the actual meeting. What that really means is: We waste valuable time the longer we take to schedule a meeting.


The image above is a classic example. 


“When are you available?”


The likely response: “I’m free xyz time this week.”


And so the response to the response: “Oh, I can’t do then, how about these times instead?”



  1. Please stop this.


There are many tools that remove this time suck. 


Today I’ll be highlighting one tool that does so really well: Calendly. 


I chose Calendly because 1. It’s free; and 2. The people that made this tool were very considerate. They thought about the other actions to scheduling a meeting that also require time that shouldn’t be done manually anymore. 

And now I want to specifically talk about those actions – Why? Because they make a tremendous difference over time, so if you’re using another tool like Calendly, and it’s missing these details, I might suggest you switch over.


When you think about all the people you contact and try to connect with, there’s a lot of time to waste setting up a meeting. That’s why it is so important to minimize the time needed to do that. 


I’m going to break down each step towards that setup and how you can use Calendly to go from “When are you available?” to “use this link, I’ll see you soon.”

Scheduling A Meeting: The Workflow breakdown

This image depicts the difference in time and actions needed to schedule a meeting when using and not using an automated scheduling tool like Calendly.

Look at these two workflows. Using Calendly, once you’re all set up, all you have to do is wait for people to click on your link and schedule a time with you – everything else is all taken care of!


Availability checking? Done for you.

Calendar invite? Done for you.

Conferencing room created? Done for you.


Have a set of questions you want to have answers to prior to the meeting ? Done for you too.


With Calendly, it takes maybe 15 seconds max on your end to get scheduled with someone.


Compare that with the traditional path  which can take 5 minutes if you account for all the switching between email and calendar, even if you were to pre-make templates…


So from a time ROI standpoint, you can schedule 20x more easily. Sound like a no-brainer? Of course it is, so why would I go through and point this out? After all, what are the chances you aren’t aware that this is how most people schedule time nowadays? 


Maximizing the Calendly Link and Your Time


It’s actually really surprising to me when I go into a networking meeting that people still copy and paste their email, phone number, and all this other information other than a brief explanation of what they do and who they serve. 


Here are a couple other things you could that can really maximize how Calendly saves you time:


Once you have your link, you no longer need to deal with any requests to meet. Put your link in your email signature, making it clear that they can schedule with you that way. Drop it in all your bios, embed it on your website, and/or add it to your copy/paste text whenever you’re sharing your info at an online networking event. 


On that last comment about sharing your Calendly with people most likely to spam you with their products/services (ah, networking events) – use those pre-meeting questions that you can set up within Calendly as gatekeeping tools! If you don’t like how people respond to those questions, or if they clearly aren’t a fit – you can always just cancel the meeting. Your time is precious, and you decide who to connect with. Most conversations can turn out serendipitously valuable as good networking isn’t just about who you connect with, but also who the people you’re connecting with are connected to, but hey, not everyone gets that, so, I’m just giving you the freedom to cancel, or even just reschedule, what doesn’t work for your time.


And so again, my point here is to invest your time wisely setting up how people are going to experience getting to schedule with you once they click on your calendly link. With that, I’ll say Calendly has a couple of pleasant features  which exist in their pro version, but they’re nice to have.

a snip of an email where the Undock tool is used to automatically provide time block options for meetings among those being emailed.

One other Tool that’s not Calendly

Okay, so since I’m on the subject, there is one other tool I can share that creates a similarly fast and efficient experience with scheduling time with other people. It’s almost brand new to the scene.


Ever heard of Undock?


So if you’re a big fan of using email on your browser, and you’re one to like suggesting times in an email, fret not about needing a Calendly link.


Try using Undock – also free. With a simple forward slash (/), you’ll get a pop up that lets you click a variety of times that work for you based on your schedule – right in your email. Should the person (or people, Undock works great if you’re emailing a team) be an Undock user as well, their available times, including their preferred meeting times, will already be accounted for! Then it’s just up to the receiver of your email to click on the hyperlinks made automatically from the Undock tool to pick whatever time works. 


In comparison with Calendly, Undock may end up being even faster than the already few seconds it takes to get a meeting set up through a link that you just need to copy/paste or memorize every time you want to meet. 


In Closing

I love saving time. I hate setting up meetings. I love saving time not having to set up meetings.

Whether that’s through Calendly, or from trying new tools like Undock, which are sure to have their efficiencies under different circumstances.

One final thing I’ll leave you with: If you find yourself now connecting with other Calendly users, save their scheduling link in your notes. That way, when you need to schedule time with someone who’s already shared a calendly link with you, all you have to do is pull up that link!


Until next time, happy scheduling.

Pin It on Pinterest