cait +tiff

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C / on the daily


One of the things that freelancers talk about a lot is the importance of having a routine. I totally agree, and I totally don’t have one. I’m working on it, but life is sort of all over the place for me, and I have a hard time pegging one down. The things I have down so far are: drink coffee, eat food, do internet things, think about snacks, eat snacks, see friends, fashion things, blog stuff, watch puppy piles on YouTube, other things. There it is, I am a master of organization and productivity.

When I have a steady routine, I feel better. It probably has something to do with the anxiety stuff, but small repetitive things change how I feel and balance me out for the day. If I make it through the list of things that I feel like I “should” be doing, I feel like I have already accomplished something. London was great for my routine; I had to be clean and presentable to go to school (fashion school so judgy) and I had homework and stuff like that to get done. I have to set my own schedule here, and too much flexibility is a bad thing for me.

But it is important, and there are many people out there who sincerely look like they have their shiz together on the internet. Some of them are dirty liars, but some of them are not. Looking at what the pros are doing is really helpful, so I found a few routines from people in the blog/fashion world that I admire. It’s everything from morning, get-up-and-go stuff, to why having smelly candles helps, and how to unwind before bed. We will all have zen, photogenic lives in no time.

Because Garance is one of my favorite people out there right now, I am basically going to do everything she does and then we will be the same.

Emily has been in the game for a while, and though it probably helps that fancy companies send her fancy things, her skin looks awesome because of her routine.

I like Joy’s pretty watercolors, and that her make up routine works for hot climates.

Caroline, from Cup of Jo, has a silly, easy attitude about her day. That and great genes.

Kate talks about the 12 products she can’t live without. Shit, now I have to go buy 12 new things, damn you marketing.

Victoria talks about the power of smell to change a space.

The ladies at New Potato enlisted Dr. Holly Philips to tell everyone how to chill out before bed and get better sleep.

Hope that helps, if anything, you just did something productive by reading these links. You are such a good person.



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T / fomo, patience and the art of re-inspo

Photo Credit: Fire and Flowers

Photo Credit: Fire and Flowers

Warning: I’m about to get a little Winona Ryder a la Reality Bites on ya. 

The feelings are both useless and useful and worst of all, they are very much real.  The mind isn’t idle, and therefore cannot serve as the devil’s playpen.  But in the face of life, its discontents and a pile of work, it can easily get diverted into areas less deserving of that attention.  Coming back from this most recent trip back home, all those feelings came to a header for me.  And geez louise, were they a big waste of time and barrier to getting work done.  So after three days of marinating in those topics and trying to figure out how to get out of them, I thought I’d share what they were, and the wise words from creative ladies that are helping me get through it.

FOMOIn the face of now calling home to multiple cities, there also comes the desire to keep up with all the friendships that have been made, and to be constantly feeling that I had needed to be on the cusp of every next big thing.  At the same time, aspiration is a big element of the industry that we’re now engaged in. I wind up with a tendency to feel overwhelmed, sloppy, and a little left behind when I make a re-entry.  And I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one with these feelings. Kate over at Wit&Delight discusses the topic in the sphere of mental health so well. It is such a relief to know that other ladies in the business of design and blogging share similar feelings, like a desire to lead life and work with intention and making it a priority to focus on the pace of what is real in the face of the multiple demands that we have created in our lives.  These topics are so useful for both work and life and it’s not a bad idea to check in with them every so often.

ImpatienceI’m now a few months into having left my formal employment and deciding to take an alternative route.  But I’m still not quite sure who I am.  And there’s a part of me that is trying to rush into defining who that is, rather than letting myself explore, fail, and ultimately acknowledge that I am not one thing.  On this trip home, I realized that the part of myself that wanted to bring health to the most vulnerable was still there; and that I have a particular agenda to push within that realm.  Likewise, I was really excited to join the world of typography and colour theory, lighting and aperture.  I’m still trying to figure out what my role is within those two worlds.  It will probably take a while.  Especially because there’s a lot of learning to be done. I need to be patient with that.  And it’s great to know that there are plenty of others who define themselves as hyphenates. One of my favourite stories about change, redefinition and patience comes from Bonnie Tsang (sadly no relation).

Another wonderful stimulant of impatience is illness. I had the luck of returning to Phnom Penh with a nasty head cold that only decided to get worse in this heat (have we mentioned it’s like 45°C every day?).  There was no chance in hell (because that’s what these temperatures feel like) that I was going to run a mile, or reach certain deadlines.  I knew I needed rest and I had to really force myself to face the fact that I needed to rest, accept the help of others and give my body time to get back up to speed.  I know I already try to lead a fairly health conscious lifestyle, but sometimes you need to amp it up.  Work and life these days is only getting busier, and your body needs to be in the best shape to combat this.  Best part about this advice is that it came from Mindy Kaling.

EnnuiI remember being 20 years old, lying on the couch in the apartment I shared with five friends, head on my pal’s lap complaining about ennui.  Seriously, what dissatisfaction with life could a 20 year old have? Was it that distressing? But it felt that way. And ten years on, the same feelings emerged (and I blame the low-grade fever).  I found myself with the same feelings, complemented with a fear that I was merely just reproducing other people’s work and not producing anything original. These were great ingredients to continue down the rabbit hole of dissatisfaction.  Fortunately I found a way out of it.  Everyone has their own way out of the funk.  For me it was just a click away. I love getting lost in a new resource of aspiration and inspiration.  I’m not looking to replicate, but I’m definitely looking to get my eyes opened again.  And strangely enough it comes through my ears.  This spring mix from Cereal Magazine is exactly what I needed to get through my mini winter of discontent.  I’m especially a fan of Mark Johns’ take on HOVA and Kanye’s In Paris.

And in short, that is what is making me happy today.

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T / happy career week!

time-management-headerPhoto by English Heritage/Arcaid/Corbis via The Pursuit Aesthetic.

We’ve declared it Career Week at cait+tiff. Both of us are venturing on new paths with this gig we’re working on, and we thought we’d share posts on just how we are making it all happen. For me, this also means a heck ton of time management.

I’m basically working two part time jobs these days.  On one hand, there’s the global health consulting that I do to earn my artisanal bread and organic butter.  On the other hand, cait+tiff feeds my soul in so many amazing ways.  But this also means that it’s absolutely important that I put up some concrete boundaries that so that neither side of my professional self feels like it’s been shuffled off to a neglected corner.  These boundaries help both sides continue to grow individually. All the while trying to “have it all,” by staying close with my friends here and abroad, making time for home-cooked meals and being a good partner.  Many things basically.

And how exactly am I operationalizing this?  It’s easy to say that I’m going to allocate time to all these things.  But in practice, there are always distractions pulling me in all these different directions.  Both my jobs have tight deadlines for distinct assignments.  A daily blog post before noon.  Morning meetings.  Protocols or reports submitted by 5pm. Don’t even get me started on the topic of self-employment…

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the Pomodoro Technique by the multi-talented creative director (cum designer cum small business owner and blogger momma) Elizabeth Antonia in this wonderful interview with Cup of Jo on the topic of balance.


Photo by the Pomodoro Techique

The Pomodoro Technique is a tool to improve focus and productivity.  Two things I am always trying to work on.  All you need is a timer!  You start by setting your little tomato (or egg, iPhone, or this site that I use) to the tune of 25 minutes.

And then you work.  Focused work that is free of distractions like the Internet or email.  After 25 minutes, the little ringer goes off and you are free to do anything you like to the tune of a five minute break.  The ringer goes off again, and back you go for another 25 working spree.  This combination can go on for a total of three or four rounds.  After a total of 100 minutes of work, I usually gift myself a 30 minute break.  As you go, you can improve your work intervals to 30 or even 45 minutes.

While this doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, it certainly does promote productivity and focus for my easily distracted brain.  I find that giving myself tight deadlines improves the quality and speed at which I do work.  I also feel more engaged. I’m sure Malcolm Gladwell has written an essay on how and why this happens.

This little tomato of a video explains a little more on the Pomodoro Technique.

PS – I should also mention that I like to start out the day with a high intensity work out here.  I find that this helps to get rid a lot of the nervous extra energy I have at the start of the day, helps to clear unruly and unnecessary thoughts and at the end of it all, improves my focus and drive to complete the tasks I have set for myself. The linkage between exercise and productivity has been really well documented here and more legitimately here.