First Day Back at Panera

I made the choice to return to Panera Bread and my old and new coworkers. Today was my first day back, in shiny new non-slip shoes.

A couple things changed since I was there last: The panini presses were replaced with stone grills similar to the toaster in Subway. But with fancy stone and pizza-oven-like paddles for pulling sandwiches out of them. New food items!

I was looking forward to my favorite sandwich from last fall, the turkey cranberry flatbread. I was so excited about getting to eat it again, only to find out that it isn’t on the menu! We do have a new ham sandwich and a new Cuban sandwich. I haven’t tried the ham sandwich yet. I had the Cuban sandwich with extra slices of the sweet and spicy pickles for dinner, and it was really good! The garlic mustard and the delayed effect of the pickles paired with ham, pulled pork, and Swiss cheese was delicious!

Talking about the menu items makes me think of an idea for a blog post or several. Working at Panera, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the ingredients as well as what flavor combinations pair well together, and delicious modifications to the regular items. If you’d like a guide to the menu, what I like, how I modify it and why, comment below! I’d love to know you’re interested.

I learned how to make the new sandwiches and use and clean the new grills. I also noticed problems with how some of the new people are doing their work and plan to set an example to work on improving things.

The problems:

(1) The mid-shifters weren’t flipping pans every day. We’re supposed to get new pans and move the ingredients from their current pans into the new pans and make sure they have a current label telling when they expire. I made sure all the pans were flipped today, and I will continue doing that everyday I work.

(2) No one marked when the grills were cleaned. After my coworker and I cleaned the grills, I wrote in the little box for Thursday “Both” so the closer tomorrow knows both grills were cleaned. The boxes for earlier in the week are all empty. Hopefully other people will start marking when and which grill they clean.

(3) No one else takes all the supports in the bars to be cleaned. When we close, we put all the pans in the bar into the pull-out refrigerated drawers beneath the bar. I take out all the supports, including the four on the outside edges, to the dishwasher to be cleaned. When I asked the dishwasher if he’d rinse the long bars for me, he said he could, but no one had ever done that before. I plan to suggest to the other workers that they do that as well to improve the cleanliness of the bars.

I had a great first day back at Panera, and I’m sure I’ll have a great day tomorrow too!

Comment below if you’d like a post about the Panera menu items and what your favorite menu item is!

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.

31 Days of Blogging

Today makes 31 straight days of blogging everyday. This isn’t the first time I made it a whole month, but it is the first time I paid attention in order to point it out.

I had a few days where I was unmotivated or uninspired. I didn’t know what to write or I didn’t feel like writing or both. Those days were hard.

I had a lot of help with blog ideas from the Praxis program, and wrote about what I was up to in the program in addition to the deliverables.

Finishing my poetry collection turned into a deliverable to prepare for month two, and I wrote about that as well.

Overall, I think I did really well putting out daily content and putting my thoughts and ideas on this virtual paper. Running this blog, maintaining daily posts has helped me build my writing skills, given me a place to share thoughts, ideas, and creative writing I’ve done or am doing. It’s building a huge volume of work to look back on in the future and signaling my progress, my dedication, and my hardwork.

It also happens to be setting me up for module 3, the 30 day blogging challenge month.

It’s been a great 30 days and soon it’ll be a great 30 more.

(Also, for those wondering if they should bug me about the video I promised, I’m editing it right now. It will be up either tonight or in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.)

Module 2 Project Outline

For my portfolio project, I am going to employ a variety of methods to market my poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head. In my project ideas post, I had three ideas related to this. I want to combine these as best as possible to market my poetry collection in the most effective manner.

By the end of the month I want 500 people to have viewed a page where they can purchase the book or ebook and have sold at least 30 copies.

Week 1:

Write about choosing an organization method and formatting a poetry collection. 2 blog posts. Make a video discussing these two topics. Share the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Create daily posts featuring short exerpts of poems in the collection or about the same topic. Have a link for the ebook and a link to pre-order a physical copy. Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m thinking aesthetic text over a nature image or a plain colored background. Interact with anyone who interacts with the posts.

Week 2:

Write about choosing a self-publishing method/tool/service. Make a video to go with it. Share the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Adjust my approach based on which posts get the most engagement and replicating that.

Continue the daily posts. Get creative based on engagement with posts on the different platforms.

Week 3:

Write a guide to self-publishing ebooks with BookBaby and make a video. Share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Further adjust based on which posts get the most engagement.

Repeat the daily posts.

Week 4:

Write a guide to self-publishing physical books with BookBaby and make a video. Share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Final adjustments based on the most engaging posts.

Repeat the daily posts.

Praxis Module 1

Today I submitted my final deliverables for Module 1 of Praxis. So it’s time for another program recap!

I have a post specifically about week 1.

As I mentioned in that post, for the first week we had orientation and two blog posts to write. The two posts were my Top Three Skills post and the Five People Experiment post. We gave feedback on each other’s deliverables as well. In addition to these activities, I went above and beyond by writing Recap posts for Episodes 9, 29, and 36 of the Forward Tilt Podcast.

Week two we revised our pre-program deliverables (more on that here) and talked about productivity. I wrote a post reviewing the workshops we watched, and as a result of those workshops, a few other members of my cohort and I made an accountability group. I also wrote my How I Work post. During the Praxis Wednesday call, we talked about how our website and LinkedIn tell people about us, and worked on refining how we are perceived. We also discussed productivity and habits and such.

Week three was the hardest week. I made my about me pitch video (also on my Home page) and a video discussing the two articles we read. I also wrote a Recap post about one of them. As hard as it was making the videos, especially the pitch video, I discovered that I enjoyed the process! I actually wrote two posts about making videos, The Difficulty of Video Making and What I Learned About Video Making. I also have plans for another video that I will make over the next few days. Instead of just “I want to make more videos,” I will make a video over the next few days. If I haven’t posted a video and shared it on the blog by Wednesday night feel free to call me out on it.

Week four, this last week, we finished the month by learning about the apprenticeship and planning our project for next month. We filled out a placement survey, took the DISC assesment and the MBTI personality test, and wrote a Project Ideas blog post. (I wrote about the MBTI here, because I find it fascinating though it is pseudoscience.)

It’s been a really busy month, and next month will be just as busy! I’ll be marketing my poetry collection, which I just finished! It will be releasing the first of November as an ebook and a physical copy will be available for pre-order until December. I will have a few exclusive signed copies available. Very few, so if you want one, email me as soon as possible at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com to secure yours now.

How I Work

Location: St. Louis metropolitan area

Current gig: Crafts or Toys associate at Walmart, blogging here and at Over the Invisible Wall

Current mobile device: iPhone 6s

Current computer: I’m not sure, but I run Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritization

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Drive, notebooks and pens or pencils, Gmail, Facebook messenger, my phone calendar with notifications

What’s your workspace like?

Messy. Clutter tends to pile up as I prioritize my work for Praxis, blogging, and other projects over putting away the binder I got out two days ago and finding a more permanent place to store some other things.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Write down what is done and the next step before switching to a different task.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My notebook and gel pens. I also have calendar notifications for hard and fast obligations for the day. I made a larger list of ongoing to-dos in a Google doc which I’m still refining.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Probably my fitness tracker, headphones, and webcam. If non-electronics count as well, my notebooks and pens.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Creative problem solving, thinking outside the “box” to find or make a solution that may be unconventional when the conventional solution is not possible or available.

What are you currently reading?

Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Other books I’m in the middle of: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller, The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsburg, and How Could a Loving God…? by Ken Ham. There are probably others that I started reading and forgot about.

What do you listen to while you work?

I mostly don’t listen to anything while working because I find it distracts me more than it helps me focus. I probably just haven’t found the right kind of music for that, but I prefer songs with lyrics most of the time. I might try making a playlist of instrumental songs and listening to it while working to see if it is distracting or not.

I would welcome any suggestions for instrumental work music, leave your recommendations in the comments and I can make a follow-up post reviewing my experience listening to them while working.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I like to spend a lot of time alone and working on projects in my own space. I like spending time with people, but I get drained by long periods of in-person interaction even when I’m having a really good time and want to be socializing.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I stay up late and get up late, except when I have to get up early for a shift at my job. I tend to be up past midnight and get up around 9 am if the money making is in the afternoon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The quickest way to improve at anything is to work at it every day, even just a little bit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I consider how I make money work, my projects work, Praxis obligations work, etc. Anything I’m not doing “just for fun” is work. That doesn’t mean it’s unenjoyable or not fun, though. I spend the mornings before my shifts at Walmart working on my blog, Over the Invisible Wall, other projects, or stuff for Praxis. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling and satisfying rather than tiring and draining.