Guest Writer | Marissa Kizer | Productivity for a Meaningful Life


So we chatted a bit about what she would like to share, and I gave her the reigns to my blog for this post! <3 We met up to take photos, and I just love yellow on her! Everything from here on is written by Marissa! ENJOY!

One of the most helpful resources in shaping my understanding of work is learning about the Montessori approach to education.  For children in a Montessori environment, work isn’t a necessary evil; it’s their life’s purpose. Their work is the foundation for living in community and developing as emotionally healthy, socially responsible, peaceful human beings. The work can range from tying their shoes and working with the Pythagorean theorem to reconciling with a friend and waiting patiently for their turn on the swing, and it is all viewed as purposeful and communal.

Their work also requires a high level of preparation—both external and internal. One key principle of Montessori education is the “prepared environment.” Montessori teachers prepare the classroom so that everything is in order and the children have access to what they need. Montessori guides must also prepare themselves internally so they may guide the child into a peaceful frame of mind conducive for working. As adults, we also need physical and emotional preparation in order to work well and use our work to benefit our communities.

Emotional Preparation


Setting goals and pursuing them are foundational to living a productive life. But if you’re mired in depression, grief, and trauma, just getting to the point of being able to set goals and not think they’re completely pointless can be a long process.  Setting goals and visions are incredibly vulnerable tasks that require digging deep into what you truly want and who you truly are—and that inevitably means coming to terms with not having everything you want and not being exactly who you want to be. 

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown writes, “In my work, I’ve found that moving out of powerlessness, and even despair, requires hope. Hope is not an emotion: it’s a cognitive process—a thought process made up of what researcher C.R. Snyder called the trilogy of ‘goals, pathways, and agency.’ Hope happens when we can set goals, have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue those goals, and believe in our own abilities to act.”



In Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes a therapy method he developed and used during his time in a concentration camp to keep people from succumbing to the despair and tortures they were experiencing. He believed in the ability of people to be resilient provided they have a sense of meaning and a belief that they have something to live for. He required each person to think of something they wanted to stay alive for—whether the possibility of reuniting with a loved one or, as for Frankl himself, the possibility of writing a book about their experiences and using them to help others. 

The principles of his method–called logotherapy– are essentially making sure each day includes:

  • something to do,
  • someone to love,
  • and some form of beauty to behold.

Work, community, and art. He viewed work as an essential component for a meaningful life. As creatives, a central part of our work is creating beauty for all of us to behold, as well as appreciating what others make. That’s part of the “someone to love” aspect of it—being in community and abiding by the principle of “community over competition.” When we are diligent about guarding our serenity and seeking out work, community, and creativity, I’m convinced that we really can experience a sense of meaning that can spur us on to even more amazing work.

Physical Preparation

Productivity also requires a lot of physical preparation, and this is the part that I think differs widely for each person. I’m constantly tweaking my calendars, planners, and notebooks to make them work best for me, but here are a few of my favorite ways to keep up with work, school, personal projects, and activities I have throughout the week.

Handwritten planners. I have a planner for personal life where I keep up with each week’s events, deadlines, and to-dos. I also have a work planner that mainly consists of social media plans and work events. Being able to write everything out makes me feel organized, but I typically transfer everything to digital calendars to keep up with deadlines.

Notebooks. I have a different notebook for pretty much every section of my life. Each class, each job, and each project has a separate notebook. It takes up more room but makes it so much easier to keep track of each area of my life. I brainstorm and take notes in my notebooks, but my favorite part is making lists.

Lists. I tend to make a master list every month or so with all the to-dos I can think of, organized by category like School, Home Repair, Blog, Work, Doctor Appointments, etc. Then generally on Mondays I make a weekly master list with goals, deadlines, and anything I want to get done that week. That usually consists of about 30 items. Then, each day when I sit down to get work done, I make a daily list of the most important 5-10 items to finish that particular day.

The Done List. One of my favorite new productivity hacks is the Done List. Every day I simply write “Done” underneath my to-do lists and write down tasks I do during my work period. It makes me feel productive and serves as a catch-all for little tasks like finally replying to a text as well as bigger tasks like choosing fonts or color schemes for a design project. It makes me feel more productive while also giving me flexibility and an opportunity to celebrate each task I complete.

Digital planning. I find digital planning most useful for keeping up with deadlines because I can set alarm reminders and back up my physical calendars and lists.


Rainy Memphis Weekend | Guest Writer: Abby Wolfzorn


I’ve invited one of my favorite humans to write about our day in Memphis a couple weeks ago. I hope this inspires you to visit this city, or if you live here, to take advantage and enjoy our incredible authentic food and sights.

Abby writes:

You know, Emily and I haven’t known each other that long. I like to think that when people see us, they think, “wow they must have been friends for forever” because that’s how it feels to be with her. Being with her is effortless and I wouldn’t trade our days exploring Memphis for anything. Here was our original plan for my fall break weekend: she would come and pick me up from school and then we’d go camping in our enos, make sandwiches and build fires for tea, and cuddle up in chunky sweaters and some gloves. I got a call a day earlier from her asking me if I wanted to be picked up that night, and spend the night at her house. There was no reason for me to say no (and let’s be honest-even if there was, I’d do everything I could to make sure I could go see Emily). Around 2 hours later, she showed up, and we were on our way to Memphis. Arriving around 10, we went to Avenue and ordered an apple cider tea that tasted like fall in a cup. Once it closed at midnight, we headed off to her cute little apartment as we talked about what we wanted to do with our free day before we went camping. A quick late night stop in Kroger inspired us to buy food to prepare a massive breakfast the next day. Dragon fruit was our little risky addition. I knew it looked pretty, but that’s about it. Looking forward to all our adventures, big and small, I knew it’d be a good next couple of days. Abby-15Once I woke up the next day, all I could think about was the dragon fruit waiting for me – but that wasn’t all. We went downstairs and cut up strawberries, bananas, and the dragon fruit, scrambled eggs, boiled tea, and toasted granola. After documenting our appealing array of colors and flavors, we got to eat it. It was one of those meals that even though you’ve already said “wow this is amazing!” you still feel the need to say it every five minutes, as if the first few times didn’t count. Emily still had to take some photos, so we flipped on Friends and continued to chat and plan out our day. Afterwards, she still needed to edit the photos and catch up on work, so we hopped from “workplace” to “workplace”. After eating lunch at Babaloo, we went to Muddys, famous for their desserts. We sat outside in the cool breeze as we both enjoyed one another’s company in silence while we worked on various tasks. Next, we went to Tamp & Tap which was a very unique sort of coffee shop. I wish I liked coffee, but I don’t, so I got tea. A nice, relaxing, layedback day to store up energy for our CAMPING TRIP! This was the plan: We were going to pack up our stuff and go camping the next night – her car was LOADED with all sorts of food, blankets, sleeping bags, tarps, ropes, enos, you name it. We could not have fit another person in the car… I could feel the camping trip was already going to be a success, and my mind was at ease when we went to bed.


After the best sleep I’ve had since in college, I woke up to the sound of raindrops on the window. I only appreciated it for a few moments until I remembered this was our camping day. I went downstairs to start breakfast, and when Emily came down later she said, “How do you feel about renting an Air B&B?” I was ALL FOR finding a cute house in a neat area and spending our day doing whatever we wanted, even though it was still disappointing to not go camping. After searching for a while, she remembered her grandparents were out of town. And you know what grandparent’s house means? Forts. With a quick call to her grandma, we had made up our minds to continue exploring Memphis during the day and build the best. Fort. Ever. Once we got to the house. Emily, being queen of spontaneity and fun, quickly mapped out our day full of “must sees” or “must eats” since we are both passionate foodies, you could say.


For breakfast, we went to Arcade, the oldest café in Memphis. Famous for – I’m drooling – sweet potato pancakes. I mean, c’mon. After eating a breakfast of the pancakes, fruit, an omelet, and biscuits, we decided to do some walking. Simply strolling through streets looking for unique doors, neat trees, and whatever else caught our eye. Once we had been walking for a couple hours, we started itching to go thrift shopping. Another shared passion. Goodwill it was. There was nothing standing in our way of trying on every single clothing item there. I mean, wow. If we thought we liked it, it went in the cart. If we knew it had potential, it went in the cart. If it was a Bill Cosby sweater, it DEFINITELY went in the cart. We each had a wardrobe to try on by the end. Talk about productivity.


Emily’s mom gave a call asking what Turkish food I had been missing, and after naming a few dishes, we hung up. Emily said, “we need to go hungry…” Well- she was right. Emily’s mom surprised me with a Turkish FEAST. Soup, salad, pastries, appetizers, rice, beans, and dumplings. Even some Turkish cookies! I think I ate enough to last me until I get to visit in January (plus- I got to take some leftovers). Blaring some Turkish pop music and getting to use some Turkish phrases made me feel like this one house in Memphis was in Ankara. I would’ve been willing to WALK back to Jackson just for these few hours. To top off the end of the night, we had a fort to make. We drove back to her grandparent’s hosue and like two little kids, we ran upstairs and found a closet filled with quilts, pillows, and anything else deemed worthy of our fort. We tossed it over the second floor railing and watched pillows roll down the stairs and sheets flood to the bottom floor. Blankets and sheets were draped over the bed, beside the bed, we used ropes to create an entry way, and Christmas lights were strung. It was simply from a dream. After a late night talk, I had another night of the best sleep I’ve had since college. Waking up? Even better.


Opening my eyes to see twinkling lights, enclosed in this cocoon of a fort made me smile. Memphis is filled with warming places. Every coffee shop, boutique, restaurant, and street had people inside ready to greet us. Passing colorful murals and cute houses makes me want to stay forever. Even though our camping trip didn’t work out, I wouldn’t trade our time for anything. Plus, it just means I’ll have to come back.