Journaling with Chatbooks

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One of the problems with digital photos is that we usually forget to print them. All of our photos are archived on our phones and computers forever and ever – who has the time to comb through the hundreds of photos, pick out favorites and put it into an album? Thats where Chatbooks comes in. Chatbooks links directly to your Instagram or Facebook so every time you post a picture, that pictures is automatically added to your book. And since each page only holds one picture, no time is wasted trying to figure out the best layout. In addition to the picture, it also captures the description, date and even location. There are many options such as multiple contributors, books for a specified hashtag and uploading directly from your phone (no social media necessary). 

I use Chatbooks not as just an album but to journal milestones, funny things the kids do or say and moments I want to remember. It’s a good way to document the milestones without having to create a separate book. If you don’t want to share every moment of your life on social media, you can upload directly to Chatbooks. However, the one downside of Chatbooks is that it doesn’t have the capability to edit photos. You have to use a separate photo editing app then import it to Chatbooks. To get around this, you can create a separate account on Instagram and add that account to your book so that posts from both accounts will be part of your book (you can also add your spouse or other family members). And since Instagram recently updated their app to support multiple accounts, it’s easy to switch between accounts. In addition to the using Chatbooks as a journal, I also have a separate books for all of Lincoln’s artwork. I take a picture, upload it to Instagram on my secret account and hashtag it with #lincolnproject. All pictures with that hashtag are automatically compiled into a separate book and shipped once I fill 60 pages. This makes saving Lincoln’s artwork easy and I don’t have look for new wall space every week. 

Another great feature of Chatbooks is the multiple contributors to one book. So if you go on a group trip, you can create one book with everyone on the trip by using the same hashtag. Then all pictures from your group with the hashtag #beachtrip2016 will be automatically added to the book. No more emailing pictures back and forth or trying to decide on a layout! Best of all, you can subscribe a book series so that once you have 60 pages, it will automatically print and ship – all for $8! You can even ship it to multiple recipients (i.e. grandma and grandpa). Chatbooks is a great way to get your pictures out of your phone and into a hard copy with minimal extra effort. As much as I love scrolling through old photos on my phone, there’s something satisfying about looking at them in print. Try it and let me know what you think! And as always, if you have questions or have tips, let me know about that too!

Organizing Life

I used to have really great memory. I could remember my grocery lists, to-do’s and people’s birthdays without writing any of it down. Of course occasionally I’d come home and realize I forgot the vanilla extract but for the most part, I had a lot of confidence in my old noggin. But as life got busier and more chaotic, my trusty brain became less trustworthy. I ignore it at first, calling it a brain fart or a slip but soon there were too many brain farts to ignore the smell (ba dum chi!). It wasn’t that my brain wasn’t working the way it used to but I just didn’t have as much time to think and process. After years of trying to make the old way work, I finally gave up and found new ways to adapt. After all, I had things to do, little humans to take care – it was time to maximize efficiency.

Declutter email. Without realizing it, I had developed a routine. Every morning, I would open up my inbox and delete the same emails. Most were marketing emails from sites I had subscribed to but 9 times out of 10, I was deleting them without even opening them. It didn’t take a lot of time to delete these emails but they cluttered up my inbox and cluttered my brain.

The emails were also great distractions. Whenever an email claimed sale, I had to check it out. I would spend precious time checking out the site, putting things into my cart, comparing it against others sites only to leave without buying a thing. It was a huge time waster and draining on the wallet because I would buy things I didn’t need. So I singled out the emails that I read consistently (such as news sites, blog feeds) and edited my shopping sites to the stores I wear now (if its a store that you only buy from 1-2 times a year – ditch it) and unsubscribed from the rest. Its amazing how this little change can boost your productivity.

Maximize your calendar. With four people in the house, its hard to manage everyone’s schedules and make plans without a barrage of back and forth texts. To keep track, we put everything into the calendar on our phones. We have three calendars that we share:  a family calendar for family events such as birthday parties or the kids’ activities and personal calendars for Mike and me for our individuals events such as  work events or a girls night out. So if I’m trying to schedule a dinner with a friend, I can check my calendar to see if Mike has a work event instead of sending Mike a text for available dates, waiting for his reply, then making an angry call asking why he’s not answering my very important text. Additionally, it helps us keep track of our events and a make sure we don’t forget when a class time has changed or the dinner we schedule a few weeks prior.

Write out your grocery list and share it. Mike and I have different lists for different stores (Costco, Wegmans, Home Depot, etc) that we share on our phone. As soon as something runs out, we add it to the list. Not only can I can run in and out of the store without forgetting anything but if Mike makes an impromptu Wegmans run, he can get everything we need without texting me, waiting for my reply then inevitably calling me because I never hear my phone. We do the same with to-do’s around the house or things to pack when we’re going on a trip. It helps to share the daily load and creates a back up system. We use Wunderlist but there are tons of great list-making apps.

Just write everything down. Questions for the doctor, recipes, REI member ID – I put it all in my Notes app that I sync with my gmail which makes it searchable in my inbox. So when I’m buying something from REI online, I can do a quick search in my gmail for REI and there it is. There is an exception to this rule: I do not use it to store my username/password – there are better ways for managing this. But any information that I will need at some future point, I put it in my Notes app.

Slice. Since becoming a parent, I order everything online. No time to go to the mall – no problem. To help track all my packages, I use Slice. Slice will automatically track your packages and notify you when its shipped, out for delivery and when its delivered. It will also notify you if there’s a price drop or a product recall (though I haven’t tested this part yet). Its easy to forget about a delivery (especially with Amazon Prime) but Slice makes sure you get what you paid for.

Are there any apps/tips that you swear by?

Back That Thing Up

 *This post first appeared on my Instagram but I’ve updated it with new information.

Does this ever happen to you? Your kid is doing something incredibly cute/hilarious/amazing/dangerous so you reach for your phone to record the moment only to get an error message saying that you’re out of storage and cannot take any more pictures. You scramble to find a few pictures you can live without then rush to your trash to delete them permanently only to find that the moment has passed and your kid is back to picking his nose like nothing ever happened. All the time? My friends, its time to back that thing up!

The obvious answer is to regularly download your pictures to your computer and delete them off your phone. But what if you’ve reached your max storage on your computer? Or you never remember to download your pictures to your computer except those moments when you really need to take a picture and that stupid error message pops up? I’m not even going to mention that backing up is the smart thing to do because you never know when you might drop your phone at the pool or leave it on the plane. Nope, not going there.

There are a couple options for backup storage; the first is a network drive. This is good to have because you have complete control and can store anything you want, not just photos. To move your photos if you’re using Apple’s iPhoto or Photos app, you’ll want to open the library and grab everything from the Masters folder. Whenever you download photos from your phone or camera, make sure to also copy them onto the network drive.

The second option, and one I highly recommend, is to have a backup on a cloud because an external hard drive can break or something can happen to your home (knock on wood). There are many  options and I’ll highlight a few. The first option is for anyone who has Amazon Prime. Prime is not just for free 2-day shipping (another post for another day). Amazon Prime also offers unlimited cloud storage for photos for all Prime members. They have a super easy app that will upload all the photos from your phone to your cloud drive as well as a website you can upload your pictures from your desktop. You can even set your phone app to automatically upload new pictures/videos when its connected to wifi so you don’t even have to think about backing up. As amazing as it is, it’s not a complete solution. While you have unlimited photo storage, non-photo storage (aka: video) is limited to 5 G. That sounds like a lot but videos are your largest files and will quickly add up. To get unlimited storage (video and otherwise), it’s $60/year – not a bad price for unlimited everything (photos, videos, documents, etc). But even if you don’t want to pay $60/year, if you are a Prime member, at least take advantage of this free offer and back up your photos. Seriously, do it now.

Apple iCloud is convenient for those with Apple devices because you not only back up your photos and videos but data from your apps or documents if you have a Mac. Pricing is not bad at $0.99/mo for 50 G, $2.99/mo for 200 G, $9.99/mo for 1 T. Just a word of caution: 50 G sounds like enough and 200 G sounds like a lot but it fills up fast. I’m nearing 200 G already and since I have no plans to erase anything, it’s just going to keep growing.

The third option is Google. Google Photos has free unlimited picture and video storage with unparalleled search capabilities. For example, you can search for “cat” to find all the pictures of your cat and it’ll find them for you even without you tagging them. This will be very useful as your photo database gets bigger and bigger.  The one caveat is that they limit your resolution at 16 MP for photos and 1080p for videos and will downgrade them. If you’re taking pictures from your phone, its not a problem. Otherwise, upgrade to 100 G for just $2/month. However, nothing in life is free. Google may be using your photos to collect data and targeting ads based on a profile they’ve created with your data. Creepy but honestly, nothing new.

A few other options:

Smugmug – unlimited photo and video, desktop and mobile app, and you can share albums where your friends can download pictures all for $60/year. Many professional photographers also use Smugmug to host online galleries for their clients.
Flickr – free 1TB of storage. There’s ads but who cares even you’ve got a TB of free storage.
Dropbox – as an early adopter of cloud storage, everyone probably already has a Dropbox account which makes adding photos easy. The app is easy to use, it integrates easily with social media, and you can share photos. However, costs are subpar – 2 G free, 1 TB is $10/month, and unlimited is $15/month.
Backblaze – I just discovered them and wish I had found them sooner. Not only is it unlimited backup for all files for just $5/month (or $50/year), they will also run automatic backups for you and even have a computer locator function should you lose your laptop. However, since they’re a backup company and not storage, you can’t browse through all your photos using Backblaze as you would in the aforementioned choices.

A few parting words:

  • If you have Amazon Prime, download the Amazon photos app ASAP for Apple or Android
  • If you don’t have Dropbox, create a free one here. This is a good-to-have for when you want to share files (music, photos, documents) or if you want a secure place for them.
  • If you’re thinking of getting a network drive, I recommend getting at least 1 TB. You’ll thank me later.