I will never recommend something I’ve not personally used.
I’ll give a short description, the pros and cons of each thing, or a short review.
On this page, you’ll find books, apps, websites, products, and other things that have helped me with my mental health, as well as cutting down that chaos in my own life and increasing my organization game.
For the full list of books, courses, resources, and templates, please visit the Inspired Forward Shop.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
- Deep Work, by Cal Newport
- The Happiness Equation, by Neil Pasricha
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
- Organizational Tools
- Journaling with the Bullet Journal
- Journaling Pens
- Living Well Planner by Ruth Soukup
- Erin Condren Life Planner
- YNAB (You Need A Budget)
- Weight Loss/Keto Diet
- Keto Chow
- Low Carb Recipe Websites
- Fitness Trackers
- Forest App (Android, iOS)
- Duolingo (Android, iOS)
- Medium (Android, iOS)
- Freedom (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
I love books, and I especially like reading books that have principles and actions I can apply to my own life. In the course of building this blog, I’ve read a bunch of books that I think everyone should read.
When I first identified my struggle with boundaries (namely, not knowing what they were or how to establish them), my therapist recommended this book.
I went from feeling anxious and stressed out all the time about my boundary problems to having set clear lines that people could not cross without triggering a consequence.
People will test your boundaries. Learn more about boundaries in these posts:
- Why Implementing Boundaries is the Key to Sanity
- 9 Rock-Solid Boundaries to Set in Your Life Right Now
This book is definitely a must-read for those of you who are wondering how to say “no” and take back control of your lives.
Have you ever gotten into the flow of work so deep that hours pass and you get a lot of really good work done?
That’s the “flow state” or, as Cal Newport calls it, “deep work.” It’s becoming a rarity in today’s distraction-central world and is a highly valuable tool for producing exceptional work.
In this book, Newport shows the reader the cost of not being able to perform deep work, what we should do to reach it, and reminds us that it is not easy.
But the rewards are very high.
For me, all my creative work comes out of deep work sessions.
I found this book an easy read with a lot of great information. He talks about the real origins of retirement and lays out nine steps, or parts of the equation, to reaching happiness.
It touches on all aspects of life, all the way from your relationship with yourself to the choices you make about pretty much everything. I found it to be a good way to measure if I really love myself and a compass for what I need to focus on in order to be happy.
As it says on the cover: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything.
My fondness for swearing liked this book very much.
It also spoke to the side of me that’s sick of people (and myself) giving too many fucks for things that don’t deserve them.
It’s not about caring less—it’s about caring for the right things and identifying them before you run out of fucks to give.
Manson dishes out a lot of great advice, especially for the people who feel lost in their lives.
Even if you don’t like swearing, I think you should read this. It might make all the difference in your life.
In my work and personal lives, I refer to myself as an organizational nerd. In fact, my the Running Start office at my community college (program for juniors & seniors to take college classes during high school) called me their poster child for organization.
Everything has its place, and the more organized my life, digital, and physical spaces are, the better I feel and the more productive I am. That might be the same for you! These are a few tools and platforms I use that have really upped my organizational game.
Journaling with the Bullet Journal
I’ve dabbled in bullet journaling and the only journal I love is the one straight from the Bullet Journal website. It’s technically a Leuchtturm1917 executive-sized notebook, but the ones made by Bullet Journal come with an extra bookmark (for three total), an index, a built-in Future Log, and tips at the back.
They also lay flat when opened, instead of the pages trying to flip when you don’t want them to.
My favorite part about the BuJo is how customizable it is. If I don’t like the way a habit tracker looks then I can change it next month. I can experiment with different weekly & monthly layouts, and put in all sorts of other trackers, like the Marvel movies in chronological order and weight loss logs.
If you ever get stuck there are tons of ideas on Pinterest to get you started, including on my Bullet Journaling board.
Of course, if you don’t want to shell out upwards of $30 for an original Bullet Journal, the generic Leuchtturm1917 is available on Amazon and is just as versatile. I used a navy blue one for work and it performed well.
Now, I’m not an artist—but my mom is. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit any of her artistic abilities, so the most creative I’ve gotten with my journaling is coloring in my habit trackers. I bought a pack of pens from Amazon and they turned out to work really well on the paper.
It turns out I use them so sparingly that one pack lasted about a year. I did find it challenging to use the pens in equal amounts, so when one color ran out I still had plenty left of a different color.
I’ve also found that novice fountain pens are very smooth on the paper of the Bullet Journal. They also come with the novelty factor—coworkers kept asking what kind of pen I was writing with. Apparently using a fountain pen is so rare that it impressed people!
Living Well Planner by Ruth Soukup
If BuJo isn’t your jam (or you get tired of it like me) then you might want a pre-printed physical planner with multiple sections and a Facebook community designed to support its use.
I used the Living Well Planner for eight months of 2019. I definitely see its appeal to people who want to use it to track literally everything in their lives, including finances, but I found that I didn’t use about 30% of the features—and the vertical, hourly layout on the weekly spreads didn’t end up working for me long-term.
However, Ruth makes amazing products and this is one of them. It just didn’t work for me. Since I intimately understand the importance of making decisions for ourselves rather than trying to make something work that just doesn’t, I still recommend this planner for those who need a structured layout.
And, if you order through this link, you get $5 off your first planner!
This is the planner I moved to after I stopped using the Living Well Planner. It’s customizable and I chose the horizontal layout. Back in Running Start, my community college printed an academic planner that’s the only pre-printed planner I’ve ever used up completely—and I’m fairly certain it was because of the horizontal layout.
Not gonna lie—I stalked the shipping progress of this planner from start to finish.
I can and have spent hours just poring through the Erin Condren catalog—she’s got so much to choose from, especially for all of us office supply junkies!
Use this link to get $10 off your first transaction on a new account!
For organizing your finances and keeping track of where your money goes, consider YNAB. The acronym stands for “You Need A Budget” and is basically the envelope budgeting method online.
You categorize all your purchases and give every dollar a job. In fact, the 4 rules of YNAB go like this:
- Give Every Dollar a Job
- Embrace Your True Expenses
- Roll with the Punches
- Age Your Money
I tried Mint before YNAB and found YNAB to be the winner because it made budgeting forward easy. I have two months fully funded ahead of the current month. For example, at the end of July, I have August and September fully funded. Any leftover money goes into a variety of savings funds, like our emergency and vacation funds.
You can connect your bank accounts or enter everything manually.
YNAB let us save up for our cat before we adopted her. We’re able to see what we can afford and move money around if we over-spend in a certain category, such as dining out.
Besides the budgeting portion, it also has reporting functionality. We’re able to see our net worth, our spending patterns, and averages for income and expenses. YNAB also lets you connect investment accounts.
Notion is my Evernote “replacement”. It doesn’t support offline editing yet, but it’s an interesting mix of Airtable and Evernote. The editor supports Gutenberg-like blocks, which means I can write a blog post in Notion and copy/paste directly into WordPress without losing any formatting.
Notion is also great for dynamic note-taking, tracking things, and even supports reminders.
While it’s not a perfect replacement for Evernote, it does the job for my purposes.
I moved away from Evernote because the company is having a lot of difficulty with keeping on top of the market and the app itself lacks features that other tools like Notion (and Airtable) both have.
This is a database tool. I use it to track all my blog metadata, such as post titles, word count, links, categories, and publication status. They have a bunch of different templates to work from or you can build your own “base” from scratch.
Other things I use Airtable for:
- Affiliate links
- Books I’ve read
- My Impossible List
- Podcast episode information
- Online course directory
- Virtual Assistant Client Work
I also track my points & miles credit cards in Airtable—and even created a template for others to make their own base!
Weight Loss/Keto Diet
I follow a low-carb diet, sometimes known as “keto.” Keto is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. On it, I’ve lost 55+ pounds and stabilized my blood sugars (I’m a type 1 diabetic). These are a few products and resources I’ve used to keep me on track.
This is a good calculator to determine what your keto macros should be. This just means how much of each macronutrient (carbs, protein, & fat) you should be eating a day in order to meet your weight loss goals.
This is a true meal-replacement shake. It’s designed to be one-third of your daily caloric and nutrient needs. The creator, Chris Bair, has stated that it’s a nutritionally complete product, which means you could have nothing but Keto Chow and be perfectly healthy. To prove this, Bair has completed several six-week and 100-day challenges where he consumes nothing but Keto Chow and had the blood work to prove his maintained health.
I have it once a day for breakfast.
It definitely has the potential to be outside of many peoples’ price range. When factored at per-drink cost, it’s around $3.50 depending on the fat source one uses when mixing it. I use heavy whipping cream, which is relatively inexpensive.
It’s made keto easy for me, and it’s also the best tasting shake I’ve ever had.
Low Carb Recipe Websites
I’ve been using a Fitbit for a couple years and absolutely love it! It tracks my steps, activities, sleep, heart rate, and has helped me become more active. I also like using Strava when I go on walks, runs, hikes, or biking trips.
Basically everyone has a smartphone. And what do we use on our smartphones? Apps, of course! I’ve found all of these apps to be a huge help in cutting down my own chaos and making my life easier or more enjoyable.
To eliminate your phone as a distraction when you’re trying to focus, use the Forest App. The gist is that you’re rewarded for not being on your phone with virtual rewards.
For those of you wanting to learn another language, Duolingo makes it easy. It’s free. While you probably won’t become fluent through Duolingo, it’s great for learning the basics for rudimentary conversation.
I’ve been writing on Medium since April 2018 and the mobile app has made it easy to read and write on the go. I can bookmark stories to read later, create and publish story drafts, and check notifications. With this app, I’m able to edit stories while waiting for flights or doctor appointments.
This is like Forest on steroids. It’s a customizable way to block the things on your phone (and desktop) that drain all your attention. You can set custom blocks, blocking schedules, recurring blocks, and even lock yourself out of editing blocked sites and apps during a blocking session.
New users get a free 7-block trial. I upgraded to the lifetime premium option just a few blocks in because it blocks specific websites inside the Chrome app on my phone, which I hadn’t figured out how to do before. This way, I can’t get on Facebook unless the block is over!