This stylish notebook might just be hottest organizing accessory of the year.
Everyone is supposed to have 24 hours in a day but for some us, it feels like there must be a rip in the space-time continuum. How else can you explain being constantly busy but having nothing to show for it? If this sounds familiar, learn how you can make the most of your time with our five fave productivity tips.
1. Write it down
Billed as "the analog solution for a digital age," the Bullet Journal is a diary, to-do list and catch-all for all your random thoughts. Developed by Brooklyn-based designer Ryder Carroll, this trendy organizing method involves writing down quick, memory jogging statements rather than complex entries. Use it to organize your tasks by day and month pages, keep tabs of books you want to read and things you want to buy or create new lists whenever inspiration strikes. An indexing system allows you to quickly find what you're looking for.
2. Plan your time
Sort of like HIIT for your to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique involves working on your tasks for a short, timed cycle of 25 minutes. With no distractions allowed, it’s great way for those with short attention spans to focus. Take a 5-minute break before starting your next 25 minutes of work and, after four of these cycles, you're rewarded with a longer, half-hour break. Sound a bit too structured? Maybe that's why it works—it was voted the most popular productivity technique by the readers of lifehacker.com.
3. Try a tech-savvy solution
The If This Then That app might be the closest you'll ever come to a personal assistant. Got any apps on your phone? Automate their functions by using If This Then That statements, or as IFTTT calls them, “recipes.” For example: get an early morning text when the forecast calls for rain, use it to get coffee going without getting out of bed (using a programmable outlet) or tell the family you're on your way home (with an email triggered by your location app once you've left work).
4. Go KonMari on your clutter
While organizing trendsetter Marie Kondo’s method of minimal living has been criticized for being a bit too twee, an organized, uncluttered home can be key to increased efficiency. "In most cases, things that function well are inherently neat and clean," says Clare Kumar, a professional organizer based in Toronto. It's not hard to see why. Simply owning less makes it easier for you to find what you need and streamlines your decision making (no need to choose between your 6 pairs of jeans, for example), saving you time that can be better spent elsewhere.
5. Let it go
There'll be days you can't get to everything. Your work presentation sits unfinished, the house is a mess and dinner was takeout (again!). Instead of stressing out, try to cut yourself some slack. "Our bodies burn out when stuck in fast-forward," says Carl Honoré, an expert on the topic of slow living. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to take some time out to recharge. So curl up with a good book, take a long bath, or enjoy a glass of wine...guilt free! After all, there's always tomorrow.
Put your slow cooker to work and save time with these 20 easy and satisfying recipes.
Serve this saucy pulled pork as sandwiches: piled high on buns, with bowls of garnishes, such as pickled jalapeños, sour cream, shredded cheese and thinly shredded red cabbage (or better yet, red cabbage slaw), and let guests build their own sandwiches.
This recipe can easily be left to simmer away in a slow cooker for eight hours before adding the chicken. It yields a large quantity of sauce that freezes well if you're feeding a smaller group. Serve over hot steamed basmati rice.
This roast, inspired by a classic Belgian stew, is juicy and tender over mashed potatoes, and the leftovers make the ultimate hot sandwich. Cook the bacon and onion mixture the night before so it's ready to add to the slow cooker in the morning without a lot of fuss.
This beanless regional specialty is a point of pride in Cincinnati, where fierce loyalty divides the city over which restaurant serves the best version. Cooked low and slow, with the distinguishing flavours of cinnamon and cocoa, the meaty, saucy chili is served over spaghetti.
This mild, sweet curry has all the comforting flavours of a curry without too much spice, making it a great choice for the entire family. Serve over steamed rice or with warmed naan bread.
You won't believe how tasty and easy it is to make this classic dish in your slow cooker. A piping bag - or plastic bag - makes easy work of stuffing the manicotti. Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread for an easy family-style dinner.
A brisket needs to be cooked slowly, so using a slow cooker makes perfect sense. Ensure tender slices by cutting the brisket thinly across the grain.
Inspired by Portuguese caldo verde, this hearty, richly flavoured soup is a yummy way to use up an entire bunch of kale in one go. It freezes well, so leftovers make quick and easy lunches all week. The soup thickens as it stands; thin with water and adjust the seasonings as desired when you reheat it.
My mother, Shu-Lai Fong, makes famous pressure-cooked black bean spareribs. They're the inspiration for this recipe, which is just as delicious but uses a slow cooker. You'll find bite-size bone-in pork spareribs at most Asian grocery stores, or you can order them at your butcher's counter.
This hearty sauce is best served over a short pasta with lots of nooks and crannies it can tuck into and cling to. This ragu also makes a delicious lasagna filling when layered with sheets of fresh pasta and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Cost: $2.15/cup
There are few things more comforting than a bowl of rich, creamy seafood chowder. Sweet, licorice-like fennel naturally complements the seafood. Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread and a simple green salad for a complete meal.
Chorizo sausage and flavourful spices make this chili a real treat to come home to. Stirring in chopped herbs at the end adds a welcome touch of freshness.
Slow-cooked then quickly finished on the grill, sweet and sticky glazed ribs are guaranteed to impress your guests. Pork side ribs are also called St. Louis–style ribs, but back ribs are equally delicious.
Finally a flavourful risotto that doesn't need any stirring! Dried mushrooms work perfectly to create an earthy aroma, we've used dried porcinis here as they're readily available, but any dried mushroom will do. Hearty pot barley makes adds a healthful twist and doesn't become overly mushy - even after 8 hours.
Sweet honey and tender shallots mellow the typically strong flavour of lamb shoulder. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed greens for a complete meal.
We've swapped beef broth for chicken broth and onions for tender leeks but kept all the flavour in this lighter version of classic French onion soup. When you get home, just toast the baguette, broil the cheese and enjoy!
This veggie-loaded chili is so hearty that even meat lovers will ask for seconds. To freeze it, cook as directed, but don't add the mushrooms. Cook them separately and add to the chili after reheating it. Serve with crusty bread to soak up every bit of sauce.
Inspired by the traditional Mexican tacos served with spicy thin pork slices and pineapple, this slow cooker version features pork shoulder broken into tender bite size chunks. If you don't want to serve these as tacos, try serving the pork on top of steamed white rice instead.
This all-in-one meal is a roast version of classic beef and barley soup. The barley thickens the cooking liquid to make a delicious gravy.
Using stewing beef instead of ground meat adds delicious bulk to this otherwise classic chili. Serve as is or use it as a topping for baked potatoes.
Dalal, with her daughter and sister, Fatima. Image courtesy of Dalal Al-Waheidi.
Self-improvement and self-care are important, but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
By the time the fireworks crescendoed over Cairo and my 22-month-old-daughter woke up to witness midnight on her second New Year's eve, my mind raced with changes I wanted to make in the year ahead to strengthen my family.
Ringing in the New Year with my sister at a Nile-side café, sharing plates of Arabic mezze such as hummus, baba ghanouj and kebab, was very special. Separated by thousands of kilometers and national borders, I don't get to see my loved ones nearly as often as I'd like and the holidays present a rare opportunity to rekindle the bonds of family.
As we talked—and the clock moved closer to midnight—sharing our plans for the New Year and reminiscing about our childhood, it struck me that the types of resolutions we usually think of around this time of year are foreign to me. Growing up in Kuwait and Gaza, the New Year was a very different affair.
Sure, there were fireworks and parties—but even at their loudest, our celebrations felt quieter, more subdued and grounded. There were no glaring campaigns encouraging you to join a gym, take that dream vacation or switch phone companies. New Year's Eve was another occasion to spend time as a family and connect with those closest to you.
It wasn't until I moved to Europe and eventually came to Canada that I saw the full force of the self-improvement craze as people promised to slim down and tone up, get more sleep and stick to a budget.
Self-improvement and self-care are important—being fulfilled in ourselves empowers us to care for others—but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
Firstly, I'm committing to use technology to enhance my family's relationships, instead of just to fill time while commuting. I'm going to be present with the people in my life, leaving my phone in the other room to make the most of the time I have with my loved ones over dinner. And for my family we can't share a meal with, I'm going to make sure they're an active presence in my daughter's life through video chats and photos.
Next, my husband and I are committing to volunteering together. Families that are actively engaged in their communities create a generation of change-makers and one of the greatest gifts I can give my daughter is the knowledge that she can have an impact. That starts with modeling behaviour for her now.
Lastly, I'm going to ensure my daughter grows up knowing what it means to be a part of a diverse community that cares for each other. Whenever I travel I'm reminded of how special Canada is, where people from all backgrounds speaking a multitude of languages celebrate cherished cultures side by side. This year my family is going to celebrate the threads that make up our diverse tapestry by sharing meals with our neighbours.
As 2016 drew to a close, headlines around the world declared it the worst year in recent memory: darker; more politically divisive; full of disaster, disease and an uncharacteristically high number of celebrity deaths. We have the potential to make 2017 better—not just for ourselves (when we finally lose that extra five pounds or remember to pack lunches for work) but for our family's and for each other, when we learn about issues together, leave notes of kindness to brighten one another's day, or tell the people in our lives what we're grateful for.
These are simple steps I plan to take for my family but my goal is much larger. I imagine a day, not too far off, when my daughter is a little older and we can talk about the issues and challenges she sees in the world. I want to raise her to care about little injustices and dream of ways she can help because she knows she can have an impact. That starts now, with a strong grounding in our home and our family.
What to know about melanoma
54-year-old Susan Cox is a three-time survivor of advanced melanoma. She spoke to us about her approach to sun safety before getting diagnosed, not losing hope and what she’s learned.
One morning in 2007, Susan Cox woke up to a blueberry-sized mole on her back that was, suddenly, bleeding. She hadn’t paid much attention to the mole before, but now it was making itself known—and she immediately knew that something was wrong.
“It sounds ridiculous to think that my life could be in jeopardy from a mole,” she says. But it was. After a three-month wait to see a dermatologist, Cox was diagnosed with stage three skin cancer and a 10-inch strip of skin was removed from her back.
The 54-year-old, whose cancer has recurred three times, is among the one in 73 Canadian women who will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma accounts for 3% of all new cancer cases in Canada. It’s very treatable if caught early, but over the past 25 years, the incidence rate has increased significantly. The numbers are staggering—which is why, at five years cancer-free, Cox is still fighting the disease head on. But this time, she’s focusing on public awareness. “My mole was itchy for a couple of years before [I was diagnosed]. I should have recognized there was something different about it then, but I didn’t,” she says.
That’s why she has contributed to an e-book of photo essays by melanoma survivors published by the Save Your Skin Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. (See a selection of her photos throughout this story.) Many people think it’s “just skin cancer,” but Cox’s mission is to convey just how serious a diagnosis melanoma is, how much it changes your life—and how easy it is to prevent.
What was getting diagnosed like?
I had a mole on my back that popped. I thought it was just a pimple, so I called a dermatologist and ended up waiting three months to get an appointment. I didn’t realize it was serious—and then I was diagnosed stage three melanoma right out of the gate. So, that means, you are already pretty much in trouble before you’ve even known what has hit you.
“While time goes on, the physical and emotional impact of melanoma can fade, but it never really disappears. It’s something I’ll never be free of, but I can live with the scar and I can try to move on.”
When it did hit you, how did it feel?
At first, I went to the internet, which was the wrong thing to do. It freaked me out. I cried into a towel in my bathroom with the door locked. I was frozen, I actually didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. When you’re told you have this disease and it’s going to keep coming back and keep coming back… I wanted to run away, frankly. It sounds silly, but I just wanted to go somewhere… but how do you run from your own body?
Were you cautious about sun safety before you were diagnosed?
No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I used tanning beds, religiously. I encouraged others to use them. I took my daughter. I read the literature and it sounded safe enough, but I didn’t understand what I was doing. I didn’t understand they were carcinogenic, as a whole. And I didn’t use any sun safety product.
How did having melanoma change you?
I was so scared. I wasn’t really living. I was only living between my doctor’s appointments, truthfully. If you are told your appointment is in two months, you put everything on hold for two months. You don’t make holiday plans, you don’t buy a ticket on an airplane, you don’t book a hotel—it’s almost like you’re expecting to be told you’re dying. But after a couple of surgeries, I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid to try things anymore. Once I had survived cancer twice, I felt as though I better start getting my bucket list double-checked and so I did.
What kinds of things did you check off your bucket list?
I’m a designer and I always wanted someone to hire me to design a beach house, or decorate a beach house, and nobody ever did—so I bought one. I did it myself. I wanted to know I could do it myself, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I had a magazine come shoot it, I took some design risks that I wouldn’t have taken before. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
“When I was diagnosed with advanced melanoma, I was in tears. It absolutely demolished me.
The stormy times and fear kept me from living my life vibrantly. I decided I needed to build my beach house and it’s now a reality. It’s a place I can go to relax and regroup, and express my passion for design. I may have never taken this risk before I fell sick.”
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the incidence rate has increased significantly over the past 25 years. So why don’t we talk about it?
It’s the mentality that it won’t happen to me. People don’t want to hear about melanoma because they want to be outside in the sun. Since the ‘60s and ‘70s, we’ve had a culture of tanning the skin. We see tanned skin as attractive, sporty, athletic. I was absolutely drunk with the idea of having brown skin and looking Mediterranean. But guess what? I’m not. I’m fair-skinned, I had white hair as a kid, I should never have been in the sun, ever. But it’s a cultural thing. I get it. I feel like I look better with a tan. I wear less makeup when I’m tanned. But it’s okay to look pale and be in the skin you’re in. I wear pale skin as a badge of honour. Tanned skin is damaged skin. You might see a tan, but a dermatologist sees damaged skin at a cellular level. When you come out of the shower in January and you can still see your tan lines, that’s damage. I still have tan lines and I haven’t been in the sun in 10 years. I’m rarely in the sun in a bathing suit, but I still have my tan lines. That tells you how badly I damaged my skin.
What was treatment been like for you?
I took a targeted therapy because I had a mutation (which means the cancer mutates), and they’ve been able to look at that mutation and bind a protein to that mutation, therefore choking it out so it doesn’t multiply and doesn’t continue to grow. It’s available through an oncologist and it’s a pill. I took it twice a day. So for me, it was taking a pill twice a day and my tumours shrank immediately and completely away.
How did you keep yourself from losing hope?
It would be very easy to lose hope, [but] it would be almost impossible not to lose hope. I refuse to give up. I absolutely refuse. I refuse to lose. I don’t like to lose and if I’m going to lose this battle sooner than I should, I’m going to go out on my terms. I’m not going to go out on my knees.
After being educated about sun and skin care, what have you learned about the importance to take sun safety precautions all year round?
There was a famous skier in Whistler, Dave Murray, who died of melanoma. You actually get more sun exposure in the winter than you do in the summer because snow and ice reflect the sun.
What advice do you have with individuals with concerns about the disease?
Get educated. But not on the internet! Do not look at pictures of melanoma in the images of your Google search. I don’t know anybody’s melanoma that looks like those pictures I have seen on Google. Don’t be afraid to have something looked at. If in doubt, cut it out.
Why did you get involved with the Save Your Skin “Melanoma Through My Lens” campaign?
One word: Hope. I want patients to not be afraid to help themselves and I know it’s hard because you want to run away, but there’s no running away from it. It goes with you, where you go. You have to stay and fight. It’s not a death sentence anymore. There’s hope.
“Being honest with my family about what I was dealing with made a difference in my journey. Everyone helped me get through this. My son is a very caring boy. My daughter always shows me she cares. My husband is always by my side. What could be more hopeful than more time with my loved ones?”
Image courtesy: Susan Cox
What are three words you use to describe yourself with this disease?
Loud. Numb. Scared.
What are three words do you use to describe yourself without this disease?
Loud. Educated. Empowered.
Check out the Save Your Skin Foundation to find the Melanoma Through My Lens e-book.