We all want to do our part to make sure our planet stays beautiful, vibrant, and healthy, but it can be hard to know where to start, especially when working remotely or running your own business.

We have good news for you: besides saving time, working remotely can already reduce emissions because fewer people are driving for hours to commute! That’s one small thing that can really add up.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

We all learned the three Rs in school and they can absolutely be applied in your home office. Looking for a new desk lamp or shelf? See if your local thrift or vintage store has anything – you can find some amazing items at a steal of a price. We love Mr Mansfield and Bex Vintage in Calgary for mid-century and other retro finds. You can also save money and the environment by only buying supplies that you need and reusing items like paper and envelopes before recycling them. Sure, you tore that envelope, and it can’t be used to send another letter, but you can use it to jot down notes. Only buying what you need also helps reduce office clutter.

Go paperless as much as possible

A completely paperless office may not be feasible for everyone, but simply reducing how much you use can have significant effects. Only print documents when it’s absolutely necessary and print double-sided if possible. If something needs a signature, services like Docusign allow you to securely sign documents without the hassle of printing and scanning, thus saving you time, too. If you love sticky notes, try using a whiteboard to jot down your ideas on instead.

Use eco-friendly office supplies

Sometimes we can’t escape the need for office supplies, so we can aim to purchase conscientiously as much as possible. Buying recycled paper is one easy way to do this, as is avoiding supplies that are packaged in plastic, since many plastics can’t be recycled. There are also office supplies companies that have embraced more sustainable practices in manufacturing and delivery.

If you’re in Zoom calls (or Focus Bubbles!) a lot and want to look your best, there are also companies that make eco-friendly hygiene products - better for you and the environment.

Light up your life

Optimizing the light in your office can have an impact on your mood and productivity, but it can also affect how eco-friendly your office is. Using natural light as much as possible can help reduce energy use (and save you money on your electric bill!). If your natural light isn’t sufficient, opt for energy efficient light bulbs. They often last longer than traditional bulbs, too, so they’re good for the planet and your wallet.

Embrace your laptop

Not literally, of course, even if it probably deserves a hug for all its hard work. But laptops are more energy efficient than desktop computers, with laptops using 60 watts per hour compared to a desktop’s 175 watts per hour. A desktop is also continually drawing power because it’s plugged into a wall, while a laptop runs on battery when it’s not charging. Of course, energy consumption also depends on your equipment and how you use it. There are also ways to save energy if using a laptop isn’t possible.

Personal responsibility can only go so far in reducing humans’ environmental impact, but everyone doing whatever they can is the most important thing. If you want more advice on making your home office – and your life – a little greener, I’d recommend visiting Plastic-Free YYC and Zero Waste Canada.

Feel free to share your tips with us in case we missed something! Every little change has an impact.

Dawn O’Connor

I have over 30 years of experience working with more than 10,000 clients in helping people unlock their productivity potential. Personal productivity is my passion! Every day I am curious and excited to learn what people are working on. I can’t wait to see you in a Bubble!

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I’m a big believer in lifelong learning, and podcasts are a great way to learn new things. They make every topic under the sun available to people, no matter how much (or little) prior knowledge they have about a topic. But sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to devote to listening; you’re busy crushing your work assignments, attending meetings, commuting, or doing the things necessary to stay alive.

I get it, trust me. However, it’s important to remember to take breaks in between work sessions. If you have a hard time getting yourself to turn “off” during these breaks, you can make them a relaxed learning experience: turn on a podcast, make a cup of tea, and give yourself permission to really take in what you’re listening to. Get intentional with your listening!

Listening to podcasts while trying to do deep work probably isn’t a good idea, but with our recommendations, you can take a quick “brain break,” reset mentally for your next work session, and learn something new – all at the same time.

Here are five podcasts, between five minutes and half an hour long, that cover a variety of topics, making them interesting, informative, and fun.

Our Recommendations

Each episode of Retropod is under 10 minutes long, with some as short as five minutes. This podcast has a focus on historical events, figures, and oddities. I recently listened to their episode on the incredible “Night Witches,” a group of around 80 Russian women who served as aviators and bombers against Germany during the Second World War, risking their lives on a nightly basis.

As the name suggests, this podcast, presented by Scientific American, has a focus on delivering bite-sized scientific facts. Their episode from July 7, “Your Brain Does Something Amazing between Bouts of Intense Learning,” presents the importance of periods of rest between learning. It also explains how the brain uses these periods to “sew together” the movements learned while, for example, practicing an instrument, into a seamless whole.

Another podcast where the name tells you exactly what you’re getting, this podcast presents short biographies of historical figures. With 13 seasons, and biographies of people from Alexander the Great to Elizabeth Taylor, there is plenty for listeners to learn. Their episode on Joan of Arc was a fascinating look at a historical figure that I’ve always had a soft spot for.

This NPR podcast usually has a runtime between 15 and 30 minutes and aims to educate listeners about the economy in a way that is accessible and doesn’t induce a boredom nap. The episode “Workin’ 9 to 5” examines how the 1980 comedy film highlighted the challenges that women faced in the workplace at the time – sexual harassment, pay disparity, childcare, and people taking credit for their work – and whether those challenges have changed in any meaningful way. It also shows how a real-life organization of female employees inspired the movie and the Dolly Parton song.

This sometimes-tongue-in-cheek podcast examines the history of specific words in the English language, as well as how language helps uphold certain power structures and dynamics. Hosted by Helen Zaltzman, episodes are between 15 and 30 minutes long. One of her earliest episodes – episode three, if you’re interested – examines the phrase “going viral” and how it has evolved from its original meaning, as well as how modern media organizations use language to try to make content go viral.

This one isn’t exactly a podcast – it’s a paid app that lets you read or listen to 15-minute summaries of nonfiction books and podcasts. If you like to know exactly what you’re getting into before you start a new book or podcast, this app might be perfect for you. Blinkist has a library of summaries of over 4,500 books on topics from politics to philosophy.

Emilie Charette

I’m a full-time university student, part-time Focus Bubbles host, and a part-time D&D dungeon master. When I’m not listening to podcasts, I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and getting new perspectives on life. I can’t wait to see you in a Bubble!

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As 2021 begins to wind down (and what a year it’s been!), I start my annual ritual of preparing my new bullet journal. I’ve been bullet journaling since 2017 and it’s really helped me in so many areas: my health, my relationships, my education, and my professional life. I’m going to share some tips for setting up your bullet journal and using it for success.

Don’t worry about getting too fancy

I won’t lie – I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to people’s pictures of their beautiful, elaborate weekly and monthly spreads. Some people go all-out and do monthly themes, like the ocean or Disney. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting your bullet journal to be pretty

and personalized! But if you want to use it for better productivity, don’t get too bogged down in making it look gorgeous. Over my years of bullet journaling, I’ve settled on a simple basic layout that can be customized later if I have the time and inclination. Below is my standard weekly spread. It makes life so much easier - one glance and I know exactly what I'm doing that week.

Stay realistic

It’s really easy to look at your lovely, pristine bullet journal once you’ve gotten it set up and think, “This is it. I’m going to get my life completely on track, change my habits, and basically be the best, most productive version of myself ever.” I’ve definitely gotten overly ambitious and written that I was going to do an intense workout every single day, because I felt so good about seeing my whole week laid out for me. Unfortunately for that dream, other aspects of my life got in the way – as did the fact that taking breaks is important. Who would have thought? It can be satisfying to track your habits, but start small and work your way up. You might want to totally overhaul your behaviour starting now, but it’s more sustainable to do things gradually.

Make it work for you

Some people fill in their bullet journal gradually, not starting to set up the next month until the current one is almost done. That’s valid, but I like to get the whole thing set up before the year starts – the whole twelve months, or at least the bones of them. This is partly because I use my bullet journal to keep track of my schoolwork. When I get the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, the first thing I do is write down due dates and readings. This lets me structure my time and schedule my work, with the security of knowing that the important stuff is already plugged into my calendar. Using a calendar app can be handy but writing things down by hand helps me remember them better. I like to write down the Focus Bubbles that I’m attending and hosting, as well as what I plan to work on in the Bubble. Intention is everything!

It also helps me stick to commitments in my personal life. Plans aren’t really “real” for me unless I write them in my journal, so I schedule time with my partner, friends, and family – which has helped me get closer with them! With my weekly D&D session scheduled in my journal, I protect that time for fun and relaxation.

Use it every day

Or try to. I know hectic days happen, and I’ve had my share of them. But checking your journal each morning for your daily schedule and tasks and reviewing it each evening are nice little moments of mindfulness to bookend your day. You can also use the blank pages to really lean into the journaling aspect – I have pages where I list things I’m grateful for, songs I like at the moment, how I’m feeling, challenges I’m facing, and so on. You can include whatever you want in your journal – it’s a tool that is endlessly customizable, and its whole purpose is helping you.

This January cover page was inspired by this one from Martha's Journal on Instagram.

Emilie Charette

I’m a full-time university student, part-time Focus Bubbles host, and a part-time D&D dungeon master. When I’m not working on my journal, I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and getting new perspectives on life. I can’t wait to see you in a Bubble!

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