Planning Your Life Using Hotspots

DSCN2229Caption: I decided to separate my personal phone from my business phone. Personal Phone is an iPhone 6S, business phone is a Blackberry Classic. 

I came across this idea of “hotspots” on the A Life of Productivity Blog. I like hotspots, because rather than using abstract descriptors for the areas of our lives, it uses pretty clear descriptors.

Here are the hotspots:

  1. Mind
  2. Body
  3. Emotions
  4. Career
  5. Fun
  6. Relationships
  7. Finances
  8. Spirituality

Because Faith is such an important component of my life I added “Spirituality” as a final hotspot.

STEP 2: 

From there I listed what each category means for me:

Mind: Reading, Education/Training, Strategic Thinking & Idea Generation

Body: Health, Sleep & Diet

Emotions: Regulation

Career: Fundraising, Programming, Marketing and Executive Development

Fun: Travel, Date Nights, Bucket List, Scrapbooking

Relationships: Social Time

Finances: Obligations & Savings

Spirituality: Prayer and Praise

Step 3: I created a list of 2016 goals under each hotspot. I specifically created 4 goals per hotspot. that way I could focus on specific goals each quarter. A long time ago, I started planning my goals and life according to quarters, which matches the business world. 3 months is enough time to make changes, and also to make corrections. A year is too long for me to wait to review the progress on my goals.

Step 4: Prioritize! Below are my goals for the first quarter of 2016.

Mind: Read daily for 30 minutes.

Body: Eat a piece of fruit every day.

Emotions/Spirituality (I combined these too): Keep an answered prayers jar.

Career: Meet with a mentor/thought partner once per month.

Fun: Scrapbook on Sundays/once per week.

Relationships: Send 1 “Thank You” note per month.

Finances: Set up & use frequent flyer miles on all major airlines.

Step 5: Set yourself up for success by including accountability. 

Accountability Check 1: I’m a visual person, so I plan to post my 1st Quarter Goals in strategic areas around my house:

In my office, in my planner

Accountability Check 2: Every Sunday I plan to evaluate my progress during my Weekly Review (the time that I review my calendar, scan and file documents, etc.)

Accountability Check 3: Schedule in my calendar with a pop up e-mail 3 months from now to review the status of my 1st quarter goals.

What are your goals for this year? What accountability measures do you set up to help set yourself up for success? 

Now I’m off to create my 2016 Vision Board. I’ll be back soon 😉

Tools To Set Your 2015 Goals

This is dedicated to @jarosha on Instagram. I posted this picture on IG and she wanted to know more about the other categories.


I actually downloaded the questions from one of my favorite bloggers Rosetta Thurman of Happy Black Woman. Here is where you can download your own copy:

The main idea was “What I want to Bring Into My Life in 2014” and some of the questions included (1) What do I want to learn in 2014? (2) Which old activities, habits or behaviors do I want to stop doing? and (3) What will my ideal day look like next year? Since I did not create the questions, I don’t want to copy them all hear, but assure you that Rosetta has everything you need!

Also, here is my Year in Review Scrapbook Page for 2014!


If you’re looking for more tools to set goals for this year check out my other recommendations here:

31 Days to Reset Your Life –

Create a Vision Board –

Conduct an Annual Review×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/ This is the most thorough goal-setting planner I’ve ever seen. If you love details, check this out!

I’d love to be your digital accountability partner!

Please head on over to my Facebook Page and share one of your goals for January! I’ll post three of my goals for the month of January!  I’ll check in with you online on February 1, 2015: Please also “like” my Facebook page, so that the updates will show up in your feed. Cheers to you & your intentions for this year!

How I Keep It All Together… (aka Tips To Manage Your Time)

Happy New Year!!!

Personally, I’m a wife, step mom (including a 16 year old who lives with my husband & I), dog mommy (to a 1 & 1/2 year old Black Labrador) & avid scrapbooker.

Professionally, I’m an Executive Director (of Donda’s House Inc.), 2014 Echoing Green – BMA Fellow, writer and assistant to my husband (who is an artist, writer, radio show host, etc.).

Like most people, I wear many hats, and the key to staying on top of things is organization! I also have to confess that I taught High School for over 10 years, so I LOVE lists, and treat my time and life like one big lesson plan lol! I’m a planner & organizer by training and by nature. My mom told me this funny story yesterday about how I used to line up my shoes and make my bed up (crooked) but I was so proud to “clean my room” at age two! It’s definitely in my blood…

If the system gets too overwhelming for you, don’t feel like you have to continue it. It is never too late to press the “esc” button in your life if something isn’t working for you! The thing about a time-management system is that you have to actually like it to make it work. My system is based on years of trying out different things and then finally I found a combination of tools that really help me to advance my personal and professional goals, stay on top of my appointments and keep my family in sync (without pulling out all of my hair lol).

Here are the tools that I use: 

(1) Paper Planner (Weekly View + Weekly Notes)

(2) Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters

(4) Google Calendar

(5) Print-out of Daily Tasks (with a place to check them off) – Download here: Weekly Checklist

(6) Accountability Partner

Where To Get The Tools & How To Use Them: 

1. Paper Planner – I purchased my paper planner at a store called Paper Source in early December. It’s by a company called Post by Graphic Images. I like my planner because it has a Weekly Calendar View on the left side, and a space for notes on the right side. You can also purchase planners at Office Supply Stores, and Barnes & Noble has a nice selection too. I prefer a planner that is small so that it can fit in my purse! I started with a Franklin Covey, but it was just so big and bulky, I abandoned that system pretty quickly! I love this paper planner, because when I meet with people I usually write down follow up and action items. It’s nice for those notes to “live” on the same page as the appointment.

Here is how it looks both outside and inside:

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2. Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda can either be purchased digitally or a hard copy can be shipped to you.


I purchased the digital version and then printed out the pages.I like this tool because it is strictly for goal setting. It includes a section for writing goals in different areas of your life (including spiritual, investment, work, networking, personal development, physical well-being, financial, exploration & family/relationships). You basically set goals for each of those areas in your life every quarter and there is a reflection section at the end of each quarter. You then “schedule” time to work on your goals, so that they move from the goal phase to the action phase. Here are some of my Quarter 1 Goals:

  • Explicitly spend time every week Fundraising (work)
  • Attend one networking event per month (networking)
  • Hang out with bestie bi-weekly (family/relationships)

So that lead me to create a weekly fundraising appointment (“Fundraising Friday” from 10 am – 2 pm), find one networking event to attend per month (may be a meeting, actual networking event, other organization’s event, etc.) and schedule time every other week to meet up with my bestie. I had a ton of other goals, but hopefully you see how this system works.

FullSizeRender 3

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters – My favorite brand of pens for my planner include Paper Mate Ink Joy (300 RT 1.0 M ink), and Pentel RSVP (Med). I like the brands because the colors are very vivid and bright AND they don’t bleed through the planner ruining the page behind. I use different colored ink to mirror the colors in my Google Calendar. For example, personal & social events are written in hot pink, Donda’s House stuff is written in purple, and hubby’s stuff is written in black ink. I adopted the highlighter system from Myleik Teele (Founder of Curlbox). Also, check out this great piece about Myleik: “Mentor in My Head: 54 Life Lessons from Myleik Teele: CEO of Curlbox.” Basically, Myleik makes a daily to-do list and at the end of the day she uses highlighters to update the status of her task. For example, orange highlighter crosses off items that were completed, yellow highlighter crosses off items that were “touched” but not completed and pink highlighter crosses off items that were “not touched” therefore “not completed.” Yellow highlighter & pink highlighter items are then moved to the following day until the tasks are completed. Her color choices may be different but that’s basically how the system works. I usually try not to have more than three things on my to do list per day (on top of the daily tasks like reading my bible, checking e-mail, etc.).


(4) Google Calendar – Google Calendar is my main time-management tool. Google Calendar is great for “sharing” calendars with others. For example, I help manage my husband’s calendar, and both of us can make updates and it automatically syncs in all locations. Paper calendars don’t have that level of efficiency (unless you + family members use one calendar…) We also maintain an organizational calendar (that large groups of people have access to). Similar to my paper calendar, I use a color coded system.


(5) Print out of daily to-do list – I created this Weekly Checklist in Microsoft Excel and will print one out every Sunday during my weekly journal/scrapbook/weekly planning time. I don’t want to copy these things daily into my planner, so I will use my little weekly checklist instead. You can download the template by clicking here:

FullSizeRender 2

To print the template, highlight everything that needs to be printed (including all of your daily tasks and the cells through Saturday.

– Click “File”

– Click “Print” from the File List

– Click “Page Setup”

– Click “Landscape” instead of Portrait under Orientation

– Click “Sheet” and check the box that says “Gridlines” (which will print the lines between each row and column)

– Click “Ok”

– Click “Print”

(6) Find an accountability partner and try to check in at least once per month. My accountability partner is my best friend, and we will meet bi-weekly to talk about our goals (and share lots of laughs like we always do).

I have a weekly planning session on Sundays (to ensure that my Google Calendar + paper planner are in sync for the remainder of the month), and every night I update my paper planner (which is where my daily appointments and meeting notes live). If I had a meeting with someone, I take the action items and make time to complete them (whether it’s sending them some information they requested, conducting e-mail introductions or looking up something they recommended to me).

If you have ANY questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer. I wish you well if you try out my full system, parts of the system!!!

It’s Almost The End Of The Year?!


2014 has been incredible… there have been SO many transitions. Some were welcomed and others were dreaded. Every year, December looks like the finish line for me. It’s the exclamation point at the end of a run-on sentence. It’s the last drop of a much-needed drink. It’s the familiar eye-contact between two strangers.

I’m 50% full of anticipation for the promises of a New Year, and 50% slamming on the breaks to make sure I accomplish all that I set out to do this year, tie up lose ends and close & deadlock doors that were meant to be shut. So here is what I intend to do with the last month of this year:

1. Finish up end of the year docs, reports and applications for work. We’ve been doing a lot of internal work at Donda’s House – business plan & grant writing, goal-setting, etc. The goal is get everything done by 12/31.

2. Put a dent in my “to scrapbook” bin. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I only spent 3 days scrapbooking this year. I went away for a 3 day scrapbooking retreat with some of my “scrap sisters,” and that was pretty much the only scrapbooking I’ve done this year.

3. Set personal and family goals for 2015. I believe in personal goals, but I also believe in collective goals. Hubby and I have been doing that for two years. We review our progress from the previous year and set goals for the next year.

4. Clean, purge, & donate. I always clean my house top to bottom. It’s important to get rid of clutter and make space for new things. This also includes digital clutter, and I try to get my inbox down to inbox zero to start the new year fresh.

5. Hang out with loved ones. Of course I enjoy the holidays because it’s all about spending time with family, but I also like to connect with my friends. I am very much looking forward to celebrating 2014 with my girls!

Here are the tools that I recommend as you reflect on this year and plan for next year:

31 Days to Reset Your Life –

Create a Vision Board –

Conduct an Annual Review×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/ This is the most thorough goal-setting planner I’ve ever seen. If you love details, check this out!

I still have words for Ferguson. For now, please visit my Twitter Account: to see my commentary since the verdict. I also had my first TV appearance today on WTTW Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight.” I’ll have a longer post on Black Friday about Ferguson.

What are your rituals and traditions for closing out the current year and ushering in the new one? I’d love to hear what you do.


The Truth About Dream Chasing…

ImagePhoto Caption: On a #dreamchasing Mission in New York, pictured here at the Roc Nation Offices for a meeting!

Had a great conversation with one of my coworkers today about dream chasing. 

My coworker has essentially made the decision to pursue a life-long dream, and this coworker knows about my dream & goal of continuing to build and grow Donda’s House to a point where we exist in every major city and youth around the world can have access to our arts programming FOR FREE! 

The thing about dream chasing is that: 

– It requires more faith than fear… Faith that everything is going to work out. Faith that you aren’t making the biggest mistake in your life. Faith that your needs will be provided for, and that net will catch you before you fall head & face first onto the concrete… 

– It is super delicate… you have to be careful who you share your dream with because some people are dream killers… You’ll find yourself trying to convince and justify your dream so much that you will no longer have the energy to pursue your dream. Be sure that you surround yourself with dream feeders! People that will give you the knowledge, support and resources to make your dream a reality. 

– It requires action… “A goal without a deadline is just a dream…” it will only exist in your heart and in your mind unless you take specific actions on a consistent basis to make the dream real. Don’t focus on the end result… That can be discouraging, instead focus on the baby steps, the small actions that you can take, daily, weekly or  monthly to reach the GOAL. 

Dream chasing is not easy… It takes a lot of energy… can be both emotionally rewarding and emotionally draining, but in the end, you’ll be happy because you are living your life on purpose! 

From one dream chaser to another, I salute you! 

Which Tribe(s) Do You Belong To?


I had the pleasure of attending Happy Black Woman’s Launch Yourself Tour last night here in Chicago and as always it was exactly where I needed to be. Over the years, Rosetta Thurman, the genius & gorgeous spirit behind has inspired me so much because she’s so transparent, actually practices what she preaches, and she’s literally created the life she envisioned, she is driven by her mission and she gives you the love tough… her love & her passion for empowering women just oozes from her…

There were so many take-aways from last night’s session, but the thing that is sticking with me the most is the importance of taking small, consistent steps toward a goal. I’m a dreamer… my head is always in the clouds… but sometimes, its  important to not think about the finish line but to just concentrate on the next step, and then the next and eventually you hit your stride. There are so many things that are out of our control – the weather and other people, but there are so many things that are in our control – how much TV we watch and social networks we stalk watch. Time is not something that happens to us, it is something that we dictate.

The other thought, as I looked around the room filled with beautiful black woman in various industries, of various income levels and of differing ages – was the importance of being surrounded by people of the same gender that not only cheer you on, but challenge you with the hard questions and remind you of the promises you made. Rosetta described the room as a “tribe.” As I prepare for a summer of amazing opportunities and unforeseen challenges, I am thinking about ways that I can build, interact with and support my fellow warriors and dream chasers.


On Turning 30…

ImageAs a teenager I couldn’t wait to be “grown”… The idea of having total and complete control over my life seemed so appealing and I often fantasized and bragged to my girlfriends about what life would be like when I “grew up…”

By the time my twentieth birthday rolled around I had a high tide, low tide thing happening. Intellectually – my college years were the best of my life. I was learning so much and growing exponentially on almost a daily basis. I was connecting with people who would turn out to be my friends for life. I was learning to navigate life in the big city by elevated train, public transit bus and my trust flats. However I was also knee deep in a bad marriage… hiding behind a dry wall of security and familiarity. A low tide… I watched as the flash flood started to cover my flats and almost knocked me off my feet…

During my twenties I spent a lot of time looking around… I constantly felt like like I had to prove myself… I often felt like an outsider… and my actions were largely shaped based on how they would appear to others.

Shortly after turning 25, I met a guy who told me, “I don’t really want to hear about your problems if you’re not going to do anything about them.” I felt a ball of emotions… initially it was “who does he think he is?” then it is “how come he won’t listen?” and then it was “wait… he’s right.” Before that moment I was in control of every other aspect of my life… I decided to pursue a college education. I decided that I would major in Education. I decided that I move to Chicago… and for whatever reason I had allowed myself to separate the ownership of the reality that (despite my intuition telling me “NO!!!”) I decided to get married at the age of 19, and I was also deciding to stay & be unhappy.

I was a great gardener in my twenties and those seeds were all over the place… It went from starting a brand new school, to a scrapbooking business… to an editing company… to a fast food restaurant… to a political campaign… to nonprofit A… to nonprofit B… I was watering gardens all over the place… some of those gardens grew weeds… some of the crops died… some of the gardens are still standing to this day. 

I’ve only been 30 for all of 21 hours now so I haven’t really processed what it means, nor do I have the experience yet to talk about how the thirties are different from the twenties. I do know what I’d like to see in the next decade.

In the next decade I want to spend little to no time looking around, and more time looking in the mirror and more time looking to the sky and bowing my head. I want to compete with and be better than myself. I also want to rely more on God’s promises and seek him more in all things.

I want to do more travel… Intellectually, nothing has matched those four years I spent in college. I believe that if I travel to new places… breath air that I’ve never smelled before… see things I’ve never seen before… I will grow and change just as much as I did in college.

I spent a lot of time pouring foundation during my twenties and watering those gardens. In my thirties I’d like to build… solid brick structures financially, as a property owner and as a change agent. I want all of the structures I build to last my entire lifetime and beyond.

I want to train and share as much of my knowledge & resources as I can. I want to be the reason someone enjoys getting up coming to work each day, I want to help people discover their passion and I want to be a source of positive inspiration and support in the lives of others.

I want to move away from a spirit of entitlement of what I should have and what I am owed… to a spirit of gratitude and fluidity. I want to embrace every lesson good or bad and I want to be so fluid that when faced with challenges I’m never completely broken or permanently down.

I have been blessed with a very good life so far… I have a beautiful home to come home to everyday… I have a loving and supportive spouse and life partner who empowers me… I have “bonus” children who look up to me and who love me and accept me as someone who is important in their lives… I have a career that provides a paycheck every two weeks with good health care… I have a car that starts every time I put the key in… I have a refrigerator full of the type of food I like to eat… I feel blessed to enter into a new decade because so many others aren’t even given a chance to live and I pray that my thoughts, my energy and my time are devoted to the mission and purpose for which my collection of DNA & combination of atoms were sent here to this earth…

Tying Up Loose Ends… Goodbye 2011

This time next week, it will be a new year. Many businesses are resetting their budgets and expense accounts. Many of us will spend the month of January trying to get used to writing “2012” instead of “2011.” Many psychics & astrologers will receive lots of new clients who are eager to know what 2012 will bring for them. Overall, there is a spirit of optimism, hopefulness and bold ambition.

I’m not superstitious, but I will be cooking a large pot of black eyed peas on New Year’s Eve (an African American tradition that supposedly brings good luck). I will also be spending New Years Eve with the love of my life, my step son and my best friend(s) (supposedly whoever you’re with/whatever you’re doing on New Year’s Eve represents who you will spend the most of your time with/what you will be doing in the New Year). This week will be one where we will all be mesmerized by and fantasizing about the promise of the future.

But before you get too far into that daydream – think about what you’re going to do to tie up loose ends before the end of 2011. Look around your house and clean up some clutter. Get rid of clothes you don’t need anymore (especially those you can’t fit). Bonus points if you find a charity of someone in need to donate them to. Clean out that junk drawer or that table top. Do a thorough wipe-down/dusting. Maybe there is a friendship or relationship that got off track in 2011 that you’ve promised to reconcile in 2012. Don’t wait until January 1st or 2nd to make that call, do it now! Perhaps you’re off work this week and you’ve had a lifelong dream to do something. Take the first step now to try to make that dream come true… Sign up for online dating, check out the Small Business Association website for small business loans. Decide that today is going to be the day you stop eating emotionally. Whatever it is, take the first step today.

A new year is an excellent time to make changes and transitions in your life and I wish you the best of luck tying up those loose ends this week. Lord knows I have a few loose ends to tie tight!

I sincerely hope that your 2012 is filled with love, peace of mind, prosperity and God’s grace & mercy.
Here’s also hoping that the Mayans and Nostradamus were not right and 2012 IS NOT the end of civilization as we know it (lol)!


Weight Watchers Check In…

So here is what I’ve learned so far on my weight loss journey.

#1. Diet really matters. All the experts and everything that I consulted said that diet is at least 50% (but more 75 or 80%) of the weight loss battle. I started eating more fruits and veggies (which are worth 0 points on the plan). I replaced potato chips with raw cut green, red, and orange peppers (I love the crunch). I started eating veggies and fruit for breakfast and snacks. I stopped eating after a certain time (9 p.m.) where before I was truly a “midnight snacker.”

I have been going WAY over my daily point allowance… which means I have to figure out how to have healthier meals and how to control my portions. A part of the problem is because my family is so busy, we go out to eat A LOT. So I’m working on making better choices when I do go out.

#2. Consistency is key. For 5 days, I worked out for one hour each, walking 2 miles each day. The thing about exercise is that you can’t think about it, you just have to do it. My inspiration quote for January was, “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley. My proudest moment was after leaving a 3 hour meeting, rather than running home and crashing in the bed, before sitting down I threw on my workout clothes and hopped on the treadmill.

#3. Listen to something, read something or watch something. On most nights I listend to the Kardashian sister’s new book Kardashian Konfidential. It really helped to pass the time along. I encourage you to download a book that you haven’t been able to get to and listen to it while working on. On another night I read the new edition of Real Simple Magazine. The print was large enough for me to see and it took my mind off working out. Finally, I watched an episode of Basketball Wives on my laptop. That was a 45 minute episode and before I could even think of being tired or “mad” that I was working out, it was over. Many people work out in front of the TV for that very reason. You can catch up on your favorite episode(s) and lose some weight in the process.

So far I’ve lost 8 lbs! My goal is to lose at least 20 lbs and at most 50 lbs.

A little inspiration from Christina Millian:


End of the Year Reflecting…

While I’m not crazy about the frigid temps, I am excited about reflecting on the past year. I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be thankful for, but there are also some mistakes that I’ve made that I’d like to correct. Traditionally, I go through two processes for reviewing the year:

1. Year in Review Scrapbook Page

This is when I toot my own horn… with photos and a short list I write down all the amazing things that happen within a year.

2. Annual Review

I discovered this a few years ago and I’m absolutely addicted. It is way better than New Year’s Resolutions because it forces you to hold yourself accountable. Here is the link:×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/

This year, while reading Gwen Bell’s blog, I came across this little treasure:

This year I plan to participate in Reverb10 which requires a daily response from December 1st – December 31st. Here is the link: I signed up today and will be posting on my blog about my experience.

How do you reflect on the year? Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions?