My eight-year-old iMac died last week. It was the black screen of death and she could not be brought back to life. 10 days without a computer and a couple grand later, I’ve learned a few things.
- I spend too much time on the computer.
- Having a backup system in place is imperative.
- I have way too many files and need to get digitally organized.
- My workspace needs some upgrades.
I’ll start with the office upgrade and my favorite products and then move on to digital organizing and what I’ve learned through all of this. (It’s deeper than I imagined.) WATCH the YouTube video here.
Upgraded workspace + fave products
I start out sitting at the computer with good, upright posture and slowly start slouching and bending my neck down as time wears on. So I bought a $30 computer stand to raise the my eye level. I should have done this a long time ago! It makes such a big difference. It also organizes my external hard drives and cords on the acrylic shelf. The keyboard fits nicely underneath as well.
The boys got gaming chairs for Christmas and I was jealous! I sat in one and couldn’t believe how supportive it was. I wanted one too! Well, not a gaming chair, but something more ergonomical than my bulky IKEA chair from 12 years ago.
This affordable gray office chair fits the bill. And I love that it’s slightly smaller scale for women. If I were being super picky though, I would like if it sat up straighter just a couple of inches. But for $59 it’s SO much better than what I was using. It comes in pink too, which is super cute.
Update: I ended up getting a lumbar support for $13 that straps onto the chair and now it is perfect!
Now if you’re really concerned about your posture, check out this posture corrector that straps on to slightly pull back your shoulders. It makes you much more aware of how you’re sitting. I use this when I have a long edits to do to remind me to sit up straight. Marcello calls me Officer Kate when I wear it.
Dealing with all the cords in a home office is always an ongoing battle. That’s why I like this simple charging pad. You just set your phone on it without plugging it in. As with most of these products, I try to go with white so they fade into the background.
Necessary? No. Wonderful? Yes. I use this electric cup warmer every single day to keep my coffee nice and warm.
Standing paper file
We have this pretty file folder on our desks for papers that need attention. It looks nicer than a stack of papers piled up.
This is the updated model of our Brother printer. I mainly chose this one because it’s not black! But we’ve used it for years now and it’s easy to print wirelessly from our computers or phones.
The other thing that sits out is this pencil sharpener. It’s a simple thing, but the kids and I use it all the time.
Back up system
Those are my favorite physical office items, now let’s move into the digital world.
Here are the specs I chose for my new iMac:
- 8-core CPU/8-core GPU
- 16 GB unified memory
- 1 TB SSD
I keep my computers so long that there are alway unexpected changes when I finally buy a new one. They don’t have USB ports anymore and I had to run to Best Buy and buy a USB-C adapter. (I didn’t even know that was a thing!)
Then I had to hope and pray that my Time Machine (backup external hard drive) would transfer all my files and photos and videos from my last computer. There were so, so many. And then finally after most of the day I was able to access my files!
I highly recommend that you have some kind of regular back up. This way if the computer dies, you’ll still have all your work on the external hard drive. If your external hard drive dies, you’ll have your work on the computer. Mine stays plugged in all the time and automatically backs up the computer every day. When the disk is full it deletes the oldest backup file. I only use this external hard drive for backups.
This time I ordered a second external HD with 4 TB (that’s a lot of storage!) for all my videos and large photos. I do not necessarily need these in the future, but I like to have access to them if I do.
In order to spend less time on the computer I need to get organized. Nothing makes you get more organized than a new computer that won’t house all your digital junk. This was my process and now I have only half my HD full and a clutter-free desktop!
- Look at how much storage is used. Clear out ALL old files.
- Organize remaining files in labeled folders.
- Get plugged into a back up hard drive/Time Machine.
- Edit yearly family photos. Save them to my family photos folder labeled with the year. Make a family photo book. I use Shutterfly.
- Edit yearly family videos. Make an hour video and save it to the family videos folder labeled with the year.
- Upload all photos to two digital places like Google Photos or Flickr. Upload family movie to a private YouTube.
- If you’re brave enough delete the previous year’s photos and videos, do it! They’re saved in four places now (hard drive, Time Machine, and two online cloud services). Or at least delete the outtakes.
- Transfer bulky files to a second external hard drive.
- Tidy desktop folders.
Watch the video:
- Home Office Makeover | Declutter and Organization | Library Bookcases with Books
- Phone photo organization | How to make a photo book
Whole office organization printable
I’ve been working on getting the office organized for a couple months. It takes time! If you’re starting at the beginning, here is a complete checklist that can help. You can do this!
What I learned from not having a computer for a week
Mainly that I am more productive off of the computer than on it.
This sounds counterintuitive, but I have been more productive without this computer than with it. Instead of a morning routine, checking things online getting a quick update on the news or getting distracted by these things. Actually, I have had quiet mornings brainstorming, letting my thoughts and creativity come out without being dictated to me by pop-ups, or a talking head on a screen. By noon on the first weekday morning without my computer, I dictated two entire blog posts into my phone. And with seemingly no effort, planned out the next seven weeks of posts and videos I am excited and motivated to do! I can’t remember the last time, something like this happened, this burst of creativity.
But the first day the computer was broken I was irritated all morning. The kids were home from school on a break and everything felt annoying to me. My plan was disrupted, my normal routine of getting on the computer for an hour to check things and organize my week wasn’t possible. And that’s what happens when you are addicted. When you don’t get that thing, you are irritable and childish.
God has been speaking to me about screen time in this house. I feel it. I wrote an entire post on how we are living with less screen time now. I assumed God meant the children. Their screen time is purely entertainment. I thought mine was OK because it involved learning and making a side income for a family.
Well, he also spoke to me pretty clearly that morning.
As I re-planned my day, while making a pot of chili, I was listening to a sermon on Moody Radio that turned into another sermon that turned into another. Right when I turned it on, Tony Evans was giving an analogy about his broken TV, and how the screen wouldn’t work. Naturally, I smiled and my ears perked up. He said you have a receiver, you are not plugged in. You don’t have a picture. God has a program for each part of your life. He said the world doesn’t need to teach you, the anointing or Spirit will guide you. The world gives us national news but we need local programming. And he has a different program for each of us.
Seemingly building on that I listened to Mark Jobe, who said “you are exhausted because you’re not playing your position.” He was giving an analogy of soccer players on a field. He said you can’t play the whole field, you play within the boundaries of what God called you to do. You’re trying to control and manage what you’re not called to manage. You need to be able to say no to things, so you can say yes to the right things. (It’s such a great message. You can listen here.)
This office has unfortunately become a default place for me to go and has given me the misconception that this place is where I am most productive. But in fact, I am most productive when I am standing, moving, cooking, walking, doing mundane chores in silence, where my thoughts can process and develop uninhibited.
Without that screen, I started sitting outside with a book! I loved that I wasn’t tempted to jump on the computer and look at Pinterest or watch a YouTube video on how to do something. I am already startlingly aware on how different my days look with the computer or without the computer.
I thought about others. I remembered conversations and sent a text or asked a family member later in the day how that thing went. I’m astounded, honestly. The computer filled my mind endlessly but with the things I didn’t need.
I’m trying to be a role model for less screen time with my kids, but I clearly have an addiction here.
My schedule does not have to look like everyone else’s. Right before it broke I was struggling to come up with a New Year’s resolution for blogging and social media. I was wondering how some creators seemingly do it all — every platform, once a week without fail. But I need to get realistic — that’s not going to be me. My creativity doesn’t work best with schedules. And I don’t want to do all the platforms.
I over-value productivity. I want to wring efficiency out of every minute, especially when my kids are in school. And I’d say I can get a whole lot done in a day, but when it’s done, and all the things are checked off, I still don’t feel the satisfaction I would have hoped. And that’s because I’m not stopping to enjoy and be present in small moments in life. Taking a walk shouldn’t be a checkmark on a list. It should be an experience, a journey of senses.
I think this is a very clear call to stop being distracted by all these projects and trying to do everything, and start doing the things that he has called me to do.