Digital Planning with OneNote

Over the past couple of years,  I have tried a few different paper planners of various sizes and layouts and I can't seem to find one that fits me over an entire year. And I have figured out why. My moods and my needs change throughout the year. I like the visual effects of a paper planner, but I didn't like lugging around a heavy planner with me.

So, being the techie that I am, I have started incorporating my Planner into Microsoft OneNote. Ta da!  Now my planner changes and grows with me and it's available on my phone, my laptop, my desktop or anywhere I might be where I can log in online. Events can be linked to pages with flyers about the events or to Facebook event listings and such. I can use my stylus to write or I can type in it, which is great because my handwriting is not going to win any flair awards.  I don't have to wait for stickers to come in the mail or try printing and cutting out ones I want to use. No need to have a cabinet full of half-used sticker sheets.

This particular layout was from The Happy Planner.  Most of the stickers came from a shop called Paper Candy Inc., but I couldn't find the info this year.

I can make daily, weekly and/or monthly layouts using Tables in OneNote. Tables can be kind of kluge to work with in this program, but I am learning how to manipulate it. Hey Microsoft!  Can you make Tables in OneNote work just like the ones in Word?  Please?!

Tags can be created to mirror the bullets and signifiers used in standard bullet journals and searching makes it easy to find them and any text I might be looking for.

This process and the idiosyncrasies has prompted me to work on my next training. Digital Planning and Bullet Journaling Using OneNote. It will be an overview of bullet journaling and creating calendar, to do lists, etc., but it will also be a a basic intro to OneNote and will cover many of the ins and outs of the program/app/online presence. It's a work-in-progress, but I'm wrapping it up so I can present it to my fellow City of Bryan staff in January.  If I want to finish something, I have to set a deadline...and put it in my planner, of course. 😊

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Outlook Contacts: More Than Meets the Eye


Outlook Contacts: More Than Meets the Eye

If you've used Outlook for personal or work purposes, there's a chance that you haven't used it to it's full potential. Many people are used to filling in what they see on screen and never diving in to find other features. Let's explore.
I like to look at the Business Card view when I am in Outlook and I'm a visual person, so I like to see more than just text on a card. Start a new contact card and you'll see Full Name... You can enter anything you want, including certifications, initials, nicknames, etc. The ... tells you that there are more options to come. Click it and you'll see separate blanks for Title, First, Middle, Last and Suffix. The first and last options have specific drop downs for consistency. Add the Company and Job Title name if needed. The File As... area is how you want to see the card listed in the Contact section. There are several options, such as First Name Last NameLast Name, First NameCompany Name (Contact Name), etc. Or you can complete ignore the suggestions and type whatever you like. If you're making a shared contact list and are adding reps from various companies, you might want to file it by the Company name and then also show the rep's name because someone looking for "that Dell rep" doesn't want to scroll and search around through individual's names.
There are 3 Email blanks all in the same location. Type in the first one, and use the drop-down to get to Email 2 and 3. The Display As will change as you use each one.
Tip: It's better to use a name and type for the Display As instead of just the email. IE...Denise Vajdak (Work) and Aunt Denise (Home) instead of denise@someplace.com and denisev@someotherplace.com. If you type an email and you send it multiple people and those people then forward it to others, It would be safer for everyone if you just see their names and not their actual emails. It's one way to cut down on spam. Adding the () with a description also helps be sure which address you are choosing when you see the Auto-fill options.
Add Web Page Address and IM Address if you like. There is just one blank for each.
Phone Numbers... have 4 options showing, but there are 19 selections that you can use for each of the 4 spots. Use the ones that are necessary, even if you have to use the drop-down on one of them and enter multiple number types. Click the ... button and you'll see the place to add the Country Code, Area Code, Local Number and Extension.
There are 3 choices for Addresses. Business will be the first option you see, but use the drop-down to get to Home and Other. On any of the choices, click the ... button and you will get individual blanks for the Street Address, City, State, Zip and Country.
As, I said, I'm a visual person, so I usually like to add a picture or a company logo. Double-click the grey profile picture button and navigate to an image saved on your computer.
Add Notes as needed. Emergency Contact info, account numbers or login info, customer numbers, etc.
All done? Nope!
In the Show section of the Contact ribbon, click Details. This will bring up another screen of options such as Department, Nickname, Manager's Name, Assistant's Name, Spouse, Birthday and Anniversary. Add dates here and when you Save & Close the contact, you will be asked if you want to add them to your calendar. Click on General in the Show section to get back to the main contact screen.
Adding Categories to your contacts makes it easier to filter your Contact list. "Family", "Co-Worker", "Supplier", "Customer" etc. Add new Categories and pick a color for each. Yes, you can have more than one Category per Contact. Again...there's that visual thing.
All done? Nope!
Double-click the image of the contact card at the top of the General screen. You can now format the card to look how you want and show only the info you want. Move the picture to the right, add a Background color, remove your Home phone and address, add the Assistant's name, click a field and change fonts, move fields up or down on the card, etc.
Now that you have all this info on the card, what if you want to send your info to a colleague or vendor? Do you need to make a separate card with less info to keep your personal info out of the limelight? Nope!
When you Forward a contact, you have 3 options. As a Business Card, In Internet Format (vcard) and As an Outlook Contact. Either of the options will start a new email message.
As a Business Card will send the image of the card that you created and it will send an Outlook contact card in .vcf format, which can easily be utilized by someone who might be using another client besides Outlook, but it will NOT show your Home phone, Home address, Notes, or info from the Details section. Use this option to send to your business contacts. Don't want to include the image? Just delete it from the email. It won't delete the attached contact card.
In Internet Format will send just the Outlook contact info in .vcf format. It does not include the image in your email. But it will include Home phone and address info and Notes, so this option might be better for coworkers or family who might need your Notes. It will not include info from the Details section.
As An Outlook Contact is very much like the Internet format, but it sends it as an Outlook item, so use it when you know someone is an Outlook user.
So, as you can see, there's more to Outlook Contact cards than meets the eye...but not if you know where to look. ;)

I'm a MCT!

My certificate finally came in the mail!  I actually feel like a Microsoft Certified Trainer now.


This certification took several years, lots of exams and quite a bit of money.  I had to have the Master level Microsoft Office Specialist certification for versions 2007, 2010 and 2013.  Each certification level was made up of 4 or more exams and half of them being Expert level exams. The exams were around $100 each just for the voucher.  Each exam was almost an hour long and for the last version, I had to travel an hour and a half to Austin or Houston as our local Certiport testing center in College Station no longer proctors the exams.

I think any major goal takes a lot of effort to make you appreciate it all the more.  If it was easy, it wouldn't be special.

I have actually had the Master MOS since the 2003 version. Lots of buttons and functions have been added, or more than likely, moved around and renamed. I have always been "into" the Microsoft Office suite of products and considered the certification and investment and betterment of myself. I have been a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) since 2008 and I have been fortunate enough to have my executives agree to send me to the Division and International conferences over the years. Many thanks to Gus and Bernie!

In 2013, I met Vickie Sokol Evans, MCT and owner of RedCape Company, at one of her sessions in our IAAP Texas-Louisiana Division conference. She was awesome! She taught us all so many things and had fun while doing it. I had found my role model. One of the things she said was that one of the best ways to remember how to do something is to teach others. It hit me that this is something I would like to do and so I have been working at it ever since. I signed up right then and there for one of her Boot Camps and I have taken many live sessions and online trainings from her since then and I always learn (or remember) something new every time.

I have been an Administrative Assistant at the City of Bryan for over 22 years now and, not to toot my own horn, I'm pretty good at what I do. I love taking long manual processes and coming up with spreadsheets or other methods of more efficiently accomplishing tasks. Is it possible to be "giddy" about spreadsheets, tables and OneNote? I have created and presented multiple training classes over the years, both live and webinar-style, to City personnel and even to some local groups in the Bryan/College Station area, including our previous IAAP chapters (I sure miss the local networking from the "chapters"). Teaching others is the favorite part of my job.

Almost all of the trainings have been as a volunteer or part of my job duties, but when I hear things like "Oooh" and "Aaah" or "OMG! I wish I had known that during my last project!", it just makes my day and confirms that I am on the right track. Of course, Starbucks and fuel gift cards have always been a favorite Thank You reward. At one of my presentations at Texas A&M University, one of the professors in the room semi-whispered to a colleague "<big sigh> Wow! She's magic!".  I think that has got to be one of my top favorite kudos so far. Thanks for the opportunity, Sharon Mena. At the most recent annual summit of the IAAP in New Orleans, I was thrilled to be able to assist Vickie in some of her sessions with the hand-on portions by moving about a room of over 100 participants and helping them one-on-one with their issues. It was an honor.

Now that my son is a college student and quite capable of taking care of himself, I would love to be able to take some time off and afford to be able to travel some and do classes elsewhere. See what I did there?  A new goal has been set.  This is not a destination, it's a journey and I'm so glad to be on it!

I know everyone has different personalities and various ways of accomplishing goals, but I have always thought that if you want to do something, you find those who are doing what you want to do and learn from them and try to incorporate what draws your attention into your own behaviors. Attend conferences, webinars, watch YouTube videos, follow your heroes on social media. Then, and here's the kicker, don't just follow from afar.
Go up and introduce yourself. Get to know them and don't just be a number in their "following" counts. They may be at the point where you want to be, but they didn't magically wake up one day on top of the pile. They had to work to get there. Let them know your goals and aspirations and they will most likely offer you encouragement and a few pointers and pitfalls to avoid.  (Photo bomb by the inspirational and entertaining Josh Sundquist.)

I have also enjoyed the training and support of some of the other greats in my area such as Bonnie Low-Kramen, former assistant to Olympia Dukakis, CEO of the Ultimate Assistant, speaker and consultant, and Melissa Esquibel, MCT and Office guru, and they were among the first to congratulate me on my accomplishment of attaining my MCT. God bless them all for being a part of this!

If you have also thought about becoming a MCT, click here for more info. I did the Microsoft Office certifications route.

Getting My House In Order

I'll be the first one to confess that I am NOT the world's best housekeeper. I have been a single mom of my 18-year old "baby" since he was just a couple of months old and it hasn't always been easy. As a matter of fact, I think the toddler was more tidy than the teenager. He has a habit of opening cabinets and not closing them, dropping things on the floor wherever he happens to be, leaving items on the counter and so on. After lots of arguments and not making much headway, I decided to pick my battles and let him do his thing in his own room. Then a few things made their way to the living room and little by little, you get used to things being out. And yes, I got lazy and didn't feel like messing with it.  Then one day I looked around and thought that if someone happened to pop in unannounced, I would be totally embarrassed. So, something had to give.

There are as many methods of cleaning and decluttering as there are ways to make a mess.  I have looked throuh the Fly Lady's method of tackling the house room (or zone) by room each week. Wow! It DOES make a huge difference to clean the dishes and start the day with a bright, shiny sink! Who'd a thunk it that just one thing could make you feel a glimmer of hope in a hopeless situation. And I was quite sure I could get my butt up off the couch to do the 15-minute declutter trash-a-thon.


Then I recently visited a cute, colorful little Airbnb casita in McKinney, Texas that was small, but neat, tidy and inviting and I was very impressed...and motivated. The homeowner told me about how she minimalized (is that a word?) everything after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I got the Kindle version when I got home and started reading it. Here's another tidying method by Marie Kondo called the KonMari (do you see what she did there?) where you declutter by category not by room.  So...starting with clothes, you get EVERY piece of clothing in the house. Yes, everything from the dirty hamper, dryer, thrown over the edge of the non-used athletic equipment, under the bed, on the shelves, hanging...well, you get the idea. The idea is that you will usually see how totally over-stocked you probably are and you go through handling each piece of clothing one-by-one and determine if it sparks joy. If you normally pass over it in your closet and doesn't fit well or you no longer need that shirt from that event back in 2008, you make a nice pile to donate or just toss it out after thanking it for its service.

I didn't think I could handle my stuff and my son's stuff all at the same time, so I started to focus on my piece of the house. I knew for a fact that I had WAY too many t-shirts, so I broke this task into manageable steps, or else I'd still be surrounded by the mound of clothes. I had several stacks of shirts on my closet shelf that were about 2' tall each and were toppling over on each other (and sometimes on me).  I pulled them all down and I pulled out the sweaters that I had in a few dresser drawers. After going through them all, pulling out lots of non-joy-sparking garments for donation and refolding the remaining shirts into small packages in  (mostly) KonMari style, I was able to store them vertically in the drawers. I can actually see and easily retrieve the ones I want to wear now. Because they are not pressing down on each other, there's less wrinkles, too. Win-win! The sweaters went into only a couple of boxes and went on the shelf, since in Texas, we only have winter for a couple of weeks each year. I got rid of about 30 pounds of shirts!

That gave me such a boost and it really did make my room feel lighter and more enjoyable to hang out out in. I enjoy listening to podcasts, so I searched around and found The Purposeful Home Podcast by Allie Casazza and Kelsey Van Kirk. Two Jesus-lovin' minimalist mamas that have a down-to-earth approach to decluttering and home care that seemed to click with me.
I started listening to them on Stitcher on my way to and from work and while I was here in my room sorting, tossing and folding items that brought me joy (or that I had to have for work). Did you know that if you don't have as many clothes to start with, you have less laundry to do? πŸ˜‰

Of course, as I mentioned, my "baby" just started college, so there are a couple of episodes on dealing with homeschooling and young children that I skipped, but I'm already almost caught up to real-time of over 30 episodes. They also cover getting out of financial debt, time management and more, so it's not just a podcast about decluttering.  I am also working on the debt part and have been for a while now and I'm making big strides there.

They like Trello for blocking out their time and I love my Google Calendar. I'm still overwhelmed by putting a monumental task on my To Do list as I like to see things crossed out or checked off, so I really like using Google Keep to keep up with individual tasks.
Declutter t-shirts...check.
Sock drawer...check.
Night gowns and underwear...check.
Pile of boxes and papers for recycling...check.
Nightstand...check.
Hanging clothes...check.
That looks better to me than All clothes...one little check. Checked off items move to the bottom of the list in this app and my "Still To Do" list is getting shorter and shorter.  Now I find myself voluntarily picking up things around the house as I walk through and I actually enjoy walking in from a long day of work and driving for Lyft and Uber.

There are many different methods out there and I think everyone has to find what works for them, and if you're like me, you may need to take a combo of several styles and put your own spin on it to make it work for you in the season you are in.  The one thing that they all have in common is that it has to start with motivation. Find your why and kick it in gear. You'll get there and you might even enjoy the ride. Take a deep breath, say a prayer and get moving. Don't forget your pedometer, you'll be happily surprised.

I still haven't finished Marie Kondo's book, but I haven't wanted to sit still and read it because I am in declutter mode. I am a long way from being done and being in maintenance mode, but it's a LOT better than it was. This house didn't get in this condition overnight and it certainly won't be fixed in a day. If someone says they need to drop by, I don't have to do the flight of the bumblebee and pray to God no one looks in the closet. Actually, I was quite proud to show my Mom my closet recently. 😊

Microsoft Office Specialist Certifications

I started off my day yesterday headed to Austin (almost 2 hours away) with the plan to take the last of my 2013 MOS exams at 10 am - the Expert Word Part 2 and also to start the 2016 exams with Outlook.  I was less than 20 miles from the testing center when I got a call that Certiport had done some updates and nothing was working right. I wasn't wanting to turn around empty-handed, so I went to do some Munzeeing up in Pflugerville. After a while, I got the call that they had it back up and running, so I headed back to their office only to find out they had loaded the Part 1 exam info, not Part 2.

I went ahead and took the Outlook exam while they downloaded the correct exam for the 2013 version.  I scored a 973 out of 1000.  That's not bad at all considering I barely studied for this one.


After a quick break, I sat down to take the Word exam. We logged in, entered my voucher info, went through the instructions and tutorial, read the first question and went to click on the ribbon to start the first task and BAM...a popup showed up stating that the "Subscription had expired" and all the ribbon buttons were greyed out. Timer was still ticking.  After 30 minutes or so, it was evident it wasn't going to be fixed right away, so I left to get lunch. It was still not up and running by the time I was done, so a little after 2 pm, I started working my way home. I only have 7 days to make the trip back to Austin to be able to use the voucher that is "In Progress".

They day wasn't a total loss, but it sure was frustrating. In addition to the Outlook exam, I did get over 8000 points on Munzee and I stopped by Buc-ee's in Bastrop on the way home to get Dippin' Dots.

I sure miss having a Certiport testing facility in Bryan/College Station!

Promo Codes

I have updated my list of Promo Codes. Check it out for apps/programs that might interest you and check back often for updates.

Recertified CAP-OM


I'm proud to announce that I have re-certified for another 5 years on my CAP-OM designation through IAAP. After taking 3 grueling 2-hour exams for the CAP and then another hefty exam to get the OM certification, certificate holders have 5 years to gather up enough points to re-certify. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish this in just 3 years. This is my second time to renew my certification.

For more info on certification for Administrative Professionals, visit the IAAP Certification site.

Rideshare in B/CS

It's official!  I'm now also a driver for Uber. Here's hoping the two programs overlap nicely.

My Referral Code is denisev472ue and you can get a 1st rider discount or a bonus for signing up as a driver using my code.

I am driving in the Brazos Valley - Brazos and Burleson Counties.

Need a Lyft?


#lyft is now in the Bryan/College Station (Aggieland) area and I'm a driver.
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Closing Jamberry Business

I am just letting you all know that I'm stepping away from my Jamberry business. With a full-time job and all the extra that I am doing for our church lately, I do not have the time to devote to this as much as I did previously. I appreciate the orders and the parties that you have done with me over the past couple of years. 

Don't worry, I'm not leaving you high and dry. You can contact any of these ladies for personal service from anywhere online. Locally, any of them can service the Bryan/College Station area. Carin Ponder can cover Iola area, Karol Garrett-Morales can cover Hearne area and Kelli Coleman can cover the Caldwell area.

I will continue to keep my AdvoCare distributorship. 

Icon Overload?


Are you using a Windows 7 or 10 machine? Do you feel the need to add shortcuts to the desktop for your most-used items and then spend loads of extra time searching through all of them for the needed program or file? Were you working on a file before lunch and you saved it "somewhere" and the food coma has muddled your memory?
STOP wasting time! Just use the Windows key...you know that extra key floating around the bottom left of your keyboard that you may never have used. Click it and start typing - either the file name or program name. As you type, you'll be presented with a list of programs, folders, files, music and photos that match your search criteria. Don't see what you need? Use the filters at the bottom of the search pane to narrow the search to just programs, files, photos, etc.
If you need to open Excel, don't send out an APB on the icon somewhere on your desktop lurking behind your open windows. Click the Windows key and start typing "Ex..." and when you see it highlighted, just hit Enter. No need to click around the screen or hunt for items. Keep your hands on the keyboard and keep on workin'.

Learn OneNote Conference 2018 Kicks Off

The Learn OneNote Conference officially starts today. I'm so excited to be a part of this 3rd Annual event!  If you haven't signed u...