Organizing Photos


With the amazing cameras on smartphone these days, organizing photos has become even more complicated. I’m still working on a system to get my iPhone photos organized and saved, but for now I want to share how I organize my photos from my “big” camera.

For anyone who has had a external hard drive malfunction you’ll understand the importance of cloud storage. And even though I’ve had a external hard drive malfunction or two, I’m not sure why I haven’t been using cloud storage earlier! I went to a system where I backed up photos on two externals and put one of the copies in a fireproof safe, but hello, cloud storage is way better!

So here’s my process:

1. Get yourself 2 good external hard drives at either 1TB or 2TB depending on what size your files are. I have lots of RAW and high res JPGs for client photo shoots as well as big video and design files, so 2TB works best for me, but for most people 1TB is more than you will ever need. You can find some cheap alternatives on Amazon, just search and look for one with good reviews. (I don’t really have a good brand I recommend, but I will say my Lacie Hard Drive gave out on me, so while I use to only buy that brand, I don’t anymore…) Also, very important, get a case!!! This will help your hard drive not break down on you when you transport it or are not using it.

2. I prefer to organize my photos by date. So when I open my hard drive you will first see folders label as such: photos, design, video, documents, etc. (see screenshots below). Once you click on photos you will then see dates starting from 1999. Yes, 1999! I have scanned images in there and starting in 2003, begins my first digital files.

As you open each folder with a specific year you will then see folders labeled with events. Some people prefer to then go to months, but I can’t remember what dates happened in what months, so I like having events next. For example: Ezra’s 2nd birthday, Arboretum visit, etc…

Then inside each folder I have one folder for all the RAW images and one folder called JPGs. The JPGs are actually all the edited photos I decided to keep when I post processed in Lightroom. So I don’t have to worry about knowing there’s a bunch of non-useful photos in that folder.

3. So now that I have my JPG folders I then take that folder and upload to the cloud! I actually use two different systems for my cloud backup. I have Zenfolio, which is unlimited photo storage! But I only use this for clients. It’s a great system that sends emails and lets you password protect as well as order prints, so it’s great for business, but not as necessary for personal stuff.

For personal photos I actually use Flickr. I went with Flickr because they now offer 1TB of FREE storage! I mean, how can you beat that!? I use to use Flickr all the time back when I first started photography in 2005, but to conserve space I deleted all those photos that weren’t necessary (over processed sideways photos of plants anyone?) . . .

Other places I would recommend for uploading to the cloud are Dropbox and Google Photos. But depending on how many photos you have you will have to pay for these. Also, as a personal organization note I use flags on folders that still need to be uploaded to the cloud so I know what hasn’t been done. Since I started late on uploading to the cloud I have lots of flags…baby steps, y’all.

4. Okay, so now we have our “big” camera photos backed up, but what about iPhone photos? I am taking more and more photos on my phone these days and I really need to figure it out! One thing I do is pay the 99 cents a month for more cloud storage. So if I don’t get to saving them on my hard drive, it’s okay, because at least I know they are backed up somewhere. However, you have to make sure your phone is set to back up photos and you’re actually letting it work! Then I follow the same process for adding these photos to my hard drive. I may add them in photo albums (like Arborteum) but instead of adding them to the JPG folder, I actually call it iPhone photos. Feel free to mix however you want, but I like to keep my separate.

And that’s it! I’ve put a few screenshots below of my folders and if you follow me on Instagram I’ve done a few stories of things as well. I’d love to hear if anyone else has other suggestions for good photo storage, especially for those iPhone photos!!









Getting My Life in Order: Part 3, Rest is the New Hustle


I once saw this quote on a lock screen graphic and I instantly fell in love. We often equate success with a lack of rest and hustling with the only way to live. Instead it leaves us tired, burnt out, and cranky. What if we began to work smarter, not harder, and found a way to rest in between. 

Now you have to realize this may mean letting those dishes sit a little bit in the sink or having the laundry pile up for one more day, or even not getting your inbox cleaned out at the end of the day, but isn't our sanity worth it? 

Did you know that by resting our brains at night it allows our brain to properly store all the information we've absorbed throughout the day? That's right. So all those late nights you pulled in college cramming for an exam might have actually been better spent sleeping. That way your brain has a chance to file away the information and you are rested and ready to go. 

So what does rest have to do with organizing and getting things done? A lot. The more you rest the more joyful you feel and the more energy you have to...work smarter, not harder! 

That said, below I've outlined how I choose to rest. While this schedule is VERY tailored to life in Africa you can still apply the principles in your life. 



Find a way to incorporate rest into your daily routine. This can happen a number of ways: exercise, quiet time, or naps (my favorite). The culture I currently live in is a nap culture. From 2-4 business close and people sleep, and I mean sleep. They sleep on the street, under a tree, in their car on the side of the road...wherever they are. And this has been a lifesaver for me. Because the weather is harsh here I find myself so tired from the simplest of tasks. Getting to have a couple hours where I can't do anything lets my body gain strength for the afternoon and evening activities. And it also is why I tend to stay up till midnight working...not sure if that's a good thing yet.


Every week you should find a day where you do nothing buy play. Maybe it's binge watching Netflix or cooking a gourmet meal at home. Maybe it's eating out and letting someone else cook the gourmet meal. Whatever it is, make it happen! And if it's not feasible to take a whole day for fun, then at least try and take a meal or an evening to do something. We usually do one of two things—stay in our pjs all day and cook really good meals or adventure to the mall and get some free a/c. Other things we might do on a weekend are catching up on movies and tv shows, cooking brunch, splurge and have a little sugar, or take a bath instead of a shower.


Every month we take a day to do something fun. While the weekends are for "fun" like Netflix chilling and brunch having, one day a month we do something out of the ordinary. We may visit the pool at the really nice hotel or drive 45 minutes out of town for the only nice playground in the country or even eat out at fancy restaurant. These are the things good for our souls, and we know our budget allows them to only happen once or twice a month so we do it! Other ideas (not applicable in my location) might be to visit a museum, drive to a nature center, or go to the movies. 


This one is your vacation people, or family trip. Whatever you call it. Find a place, save up, and go! It doesn't even have to be far. Maybe it's a staycation at hotel or maybe it's a trip with the extended fam in Colorado. But plan for it, save for it, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. I cannot tell you how many yearly vacations have refreshed me and given me the energy to keep going, especially in really hard seasons. And if money is tight, just remember you have a whole year to save. Try staying out of town at a friend's house or looking at an Air BnB so you can cook your own meals. There are always ways to travel cheap, you just have to be willing to plan ahead.

So that's my advice for finding ways to rest and recharge your soul. What are some of your ways or things that give you rest? Leave a comment below so we can add them to the list!

QG6A5087 2.jpg

Getting My Life in Order: Part 2, Organizing Emails

Wonderlass Stock Photo 3.jpg

First off, if you missed part one of this series, start here.

Let’s talk emails. 

I am big on communicating via email and I also can’t stand to let emails go unanswered. But answering emails every time you receive one is one of the most inefficient ways to manage your time…at least that’s what everyone swears by! But I also use to work in an office where not being tied to your email wasn’t much of an option.

So here’s my strategy:

I check emails on my phone or computer whenever I think about. So basically I make my rounds through social and then end on my emails. If it’s an email that requires an answer and I know the answer, I respond right away with a short reply. If I need to find out more information I simply let the person know I’ll respond later with more information, but I want them to know I received the email and am working on it.

While there are some people who are not into the answering email thing, I believe it’s important for those in any kind of business. You are trying to establish customer service and genuine connections with people, and one way to do this is by promptly answering their email. I also hold a fast email responder in high regard! Seriously, if I’m ever in charge of hiring an office manager I will ask them how fast they respond to email. Also, I’m a receiver for multiple contact pages for websites and I want my potential clients/donors to know we value and care for them and are on top of their request—even if we don’t have the answer just yet.

That said, it’s also important to set boundaries. If you are working from home or have office hours just put an autoreply on your emails so that if someone emails you outside of those hours they know why. This is especially important because I’m working with a 9 hour time difference for Central Time. This allows me to not feel pressured to answer every email all day long. Again, I’m only checking emails periodically during the day.


Okay, so that’s daily replies. If it’s an email that does not require a reply I have a few actions I take:

1.     Flag, so I know to look at it later as soon as I can

2.     Delete it, because I either skimmed it or am not interested

3.     Don’t flag it but leave it in my inbox to read later (this is usually for newsletters or websites I send myself to check out)

As for email organization I have A TON of folders where I then move emails from inbox. For example, purchases with tracking info, important bills, useful newsletters from friends or companies, etc.


Then once a week (or sometimes longer) I do a full clean-out. I will get 20 plus emails in my inbox and I take a couple hours to sit down and slowly go through everyone:

1.     Read all the flag emails and either delete or file

2.     Read all the newsletter emails and then delete or file

3.     Answer any unanswered emails and then delete or file


Don’t stop until the inbox is done! I usually still have a few emails left in my inbox because they may contain events happening soon or I’m still waiting on some information. But that’s how I stay on top of email, making sure to answer people promptly and keep everything organized.

1.     Check and answer important emails a few times a day

2.     Use flags to mark important emails

3.     File emails that don’t need to be deleted but don’t need to be in your inbox eithe

Alright, in the next post we will talk about taking time to rest. This is the one I'm most passionate about and what I truly believe makes or breaks you in doing anything long-term (or just keeping your sanity).

Getting My Life in Order: Part 1


I wanted to do a follow-up blog about my day in the life with a one year old. But in this post I want to talk more in depth with how I organize my days. I’ve always been a fan of organization, I mean, I use to play office in lieu of the ever popular "house" as a kid. But over the years I’ve had to adapt to not just an organized way for life, but also an efficient way of life.

I’m a big fan of worker smarter,
not harder.

So here are a few of my tools and tricks that help me work full-time from home for a non-profit, take care of a one year old, and run a side-hustle business, all while navigating the waters of living overseas in Africa.

First off, you have to be dedicated.

These things won’t work unless you actually have the desire to get stuff done. And let’s be honest, most days I don’t! And for those really low days where I have absolutely no energy and no motivation...I just rest. Yep, sometimes that’s allowed. Because, when I am working, I work smart.

So what are my ways for working smart?

I'm going to try and break it down into a few steps. Then I'll expand on some of these things in separate blog posts. Today, I just want to give you an overview so you can get the basics of what I do for my life. 

1.     Organize your day on paper

Be specific! Write out each task that needs to happen and try to write at what time it will happen. Refer back to it everyday. 

2.     Dedicate specific times to work on emails

Be willing to reply back to those who need it, even if it’s only to say I got your email and I’m on it! (Read tomorrow's post for how I organize my email life and why I think it's important to answer quickly)

3.     Take time to rest.

Seems counter-intuitive right? But if you take a little time for yourself each day then you will actually be more productive during the time you do work. (Part three of this series will go in-depth on how I find time to rest daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly) 

4.     Limit social media during work times.

I actually only post to Instagram when I’m in bed for the night and everything else is done.  That’s when I take the time to comment, interact, and post, not just for my personal page, but for my business pages as well. I manage 4 Facebook pages and 2 Instagram accounts, so I schedule everything in advance, but in order to grow anything online you have to interact!

Since I was already using social media at night anyways, I just decided to be intentional about also interacting on the business accounts. (Part 4 of the series will go in depth on how I manage all the social media accounts, as well as my night-time routine for getting things done -- see next point)

sidenote: I also get on social media if I ever find myself in a lull at home or while I'm out waiting in a forever long line. But I don’t do social media why I’m trying to get things done; it never works out!

5.     Take advantage of the times of day that you are most active.

For me, I’m my best at night. Mornings are my enemy and it takes me forever to get going. But at night I get a second wind and it’s all I can do to stop working and go to sleep. For some people it may be that mornings are their best time, so wake up a couple hours before your kids or before you have to go work and use that time to get emails answered or books read or whatever it is. (Part 4 will cover how I use my nights to get the final things crossed of my to-do list and how I use that time for cracking down on my goals like social media, reading more, and listening to podcasts)

6.     Block out Distractions

We are focusing on working smarter, this means we have to limit all distractions. For me I know if I'm working in the same room with someone I will tend to just talk. So if I am in the same room with my husband working I usually put my headphones on and have an upbeat playlist going. This helps me block out the distraction to talk and it allows me to focus on the task at hand. Other times I’m simply working to beat of the clock, which is really my best motivater of all…

7. Use your tribe/village/community/whoever

Who are your people? Do you have any people? There have many many times in my life where I felt I didn't have people, but this season I have a whole team working behind me, many who don't even realize the importance they play in helping me accomplish all the things. And it's really the number one reason why I can do all of this. There have been seasons in my life where I didn't have a tribe and I didn't have the energy, so my workload was less and I just made up my mind to be okay with that. Remember you may not be accomplishing everything because you are in a season of something else! 

Last year after having Ezra I could only manage taking care of newborn, pumping exclusively, getting the bare minimum of my duties done for the non-profit, and figuring out how to live life overseas. That was it. No more. But it didn't last forever. Eventually I found my rhythm, I was no longer pumping, and I had people who came around me to help babysit and offer support. So lean into whatever season you are in and don't beat yourself up if you just can't get it all done. Maybe it's because you are actually getting the most important thing done—like taking care of yourself or your family! 

So what does my tribe do for me?
(Also, I'd do any of things for them in a heartbeat...let me make it clear it's not a one way street!!)

Well, These people are essential to me getting things done. I could not get everything done if it wasn’t for my house helper. I love that having a house helper here is normal and not just a luxury of the upper class. Our house helper is a friend who cleans, cooks, and watches Ezra during the mornings and three nights a week while Reed is at language class and I’m at practices.

I also could not do what I do without the most helpful husband. He changes diapers, cooks meals, gives baths, and basically anything I do he does just as much. We don’t see our jobs as defined by mommy or daddy. (Except when it comes to boogers…) But one person gets the bottle ready and the other helps with bath time. One day he cooks dinner, and another day it’s my turn. We alternate and lean on each other. We both work from home and so we have the luxury to be flexible in our schedules. It also means we have the luxury to pick up the slack when needed. I know that this is a unique aspect to our relationship, but I encourage stay at home mammas to find someone who can help you. Maybe it’s a nanny or a grandma or another mamma or a younger single bestie. It’s about finding your tribe and helping each other when times get tough. I also have a handful of people I know I could call here in Africa and would jump at any chance to help us out.


So I want to hear from you?

Is there a tool or trick that really helps you get things done or is there a question you have for me after reading this? Comment below and let's learn from each other! 

Intentionality: My 2017 Plan

Goal Setting. I've always been someone who loves taking time sit down, dream, write, and make a plan to get things done. But there's always been one problem with all that, actually doing it. 

While it looks pretty on paper and I might stick with it for a month maybe even two, it eventually trails off. So this year, I wanted to try something different with goals. And by definition of "goals" these probably won't even qualify, so let's call them something else—my plan for living on purpose.

First off, I highly recommend Lara Casey's blog on goal setting. You may have seen her powersheets on Instagram or book, Making it Happen. I have wanted to do her powersheets for a couple years now, but they are always sold out once I get around to spending my Christmas money. But this year she did a 4 part blog series that helps you work through some of the things she discusses in her book and powersheets. 

So after working through her blog series there were a few things that stood out. The first is that I have one word that came to mind for 2017. I've heard of people choosing a word for the year before, but I never understood how that word actually changed anything. I think this is where Casey's blog series really puts it all together. Instead of just claiming a word I now see how that word needs to play out in certain areas of my life. And I'm laying it all out on the blog so that through my vulnerability I might have some accountability—even if it's only with myself!

So what's my word?


And I want to be intentional in these four areas:

1. Community

2. Health

3. Spirituality

4. Creativity

So what does that mean exactly? Yes, Jess, it looks great when you write out with numbers and have a pretty graphic, but how do you really go about making change? Glad you asked. :)

Let's look at each one of the areas and I'll break down my plan for you. 

1. Community - Since we live in Africa it's imperative that we form community among our team, nationals, and find ways to keep up with friendships back home. I have never been really good at keeping up with people who I don't see on a daily basis, and I hate this. Because I mean, these people have been with my as I stood at the altar promising to love my husband through it all. These are the friends who have witnessed good times and bad times, and when more good times and bad times come, I want to have them standing with again. But I also need a community of people to love in person, here in Africa. So that means being intentional about inviting people over, asking how they are doing, and getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people with the intention to love. 

2. Health - After having a baby, I'm officially in the worst health of my life. Understand me, I don't just mean weight, though that plays a big part. I have no muscle tone, food allergies, thyroid problems, and too many cravings. I want to get back to the person who use to crave work-outs, eat healthy, and fit into something other than maternity pants. :) But for real, as I was working through this plan on paper, something occurred to me. And while this may seem like a no-brainer to others, it really hit home for me the first time. "I have to be intentional about my health, it's not something that will just happen."

I mean duh, right? But for some reason I have been living as if getting healthy will just happen! But it's more than just eating right and exercising, it's getting to the heart of the matter. So that's why I'm reading Made To Crave. I want to get to the heart of cravings, and not be defined by a number on the scale, but instead by how my heart reacts. Guys, if this is something that you struggle with or something you have down as a goal for 2017, please, please read this book! That's all.

So as part of my intention for health, I plan to work on my heart, eat less sugars and bread and eat more veggies and water, and exercise 5 times a week. While I'm still working on the right eating plan for my family and for living in Africa, we have already made some changes in our daily diets. And since I use to blog about my allergy-free diet I'm restarting the blog series, but tailoring it to life in Africa. I plan to share easy to make recipes that are both healthy and quick, because when you have a newborn and are cooking in a kitchen without a/c in one of the hottest places on earth, you better believe it's not going to take more than 30 minutes!

3. Spirituality - In short, I want to be intentional with my own daily devotional time, and I want to be intentional about teaching our baby boy to love Jesus well. On that note, if anyone has some good book recommendations for teaching your kids, please send them my way! As for what my daily quiet time looks like, I have found that 40 minutes of pumping breast milk in the morning is a great time to pull out my Jesus Calling Journal Book and Journaling Bible. I love working through one days' devotion by reading it and then answering the questions and writing out a prayer in the space provided. Afterwards, I look up the 2-3 verses provided and read them in the journal Bible and pick out a part of the passage that stands out to me and doodle it. Because I'm a kinetic learning, this has been one of the most successful ways for me to really hear and understand God's word. I just wish I had discovered 2o+ years ago!

4. Creativity - As most people know I am a photographer. I love photographing people, whether it's a newly engaged couple or a mom in Africa loving on her children. But these things don't happen every day, and I've come to learn that if I'm not picking up my camera more than when I just have the opportunity that I'm not really pushing myself creatively. So I'm doing something that I've done before, a 365 challenge. I'll be posting a photo everyday following along with the prompts from #thebethadillychallenge. When I did this in 2015 I could see a huge difference in my posts from January to December and how much I had grown in trying to capture a specific shot. I hope that it will also challenge me in thinking outside the box. 

My other way to intentionally nurture my creativity is by blogging. I mean, it may just be my fam reading these things (hi, mom) but I don't care. I've decided that blogging isn't really about who reads it, but that I get my thoughts down on paper. It allows me to "feel" like I have an audience for my writings and photography, therefore I put thought and effort into what I say. It's an accountability of sorts. So if you do happen to read the blog, you can look forward to see a few things habitually showing up on the blog this year: a monthly health post, a monthly refresh my soul post (like this one), updates on baby boy Ezra and life in Africa, and my most passionate blogs: stories of lives changed here in Africa

So there you have it, my plan of intent for 2017. I would LOVE to hear from each of you on what your goals, word, or hopes and dreams are for 2017. I think the best way we can actually try to work on these things is by telling others and not keeping it to ourselves. 

February Recap in Photos

While I tried to write this post several days ago I had one of those "encounters" with technology...ya know, the one where it won? Ugh. Needless to say after spending an hour trying to upload photos from my February Photo Day Challenge it quit on me and I lost it all. After sulking for a few days I've decided to try again, but sadly this time I won't be posting everything photo. Just a few of my favorites. 

And if you want to follow along be sure to check me out on instagram.com/jessicaleegardner. This month I'm posting photos I've taken in the past that follow along with the prompts from #thebethadillychallenge. 

So here's a look at February!

{034|365} S T A R T S   W I T H    P. Pretty Pink Sky.

{034|365} S T A R T S   W I T H    P.
Pretty Pink Sky.

{036|365} O L D    S C H O O L
A globe older than me. I love looking at how the country names have changed over the years. South Rhodesia anyone? 

{040|365} W R I T I N G
There's a lot of writing I need to do, but first, coffee.

{044|365} L O V E
Tonight's #ootd for Valentine's Day Weekend kickoff!

{046|365} M A C R O
It's about as macro as I can get with my lenses. Doesn't this cotton remind you of Spring? Kind of crazy that we have 70 degree weather today and chance of snow tomorrow. That's life in Texas for ya!

Surprisingly this was my popular photo of February.

2015: Let's Do This


Last year the hubs and I tried to be all organized and fill out some crazy detailed New Year's Resolution Worksheet. I'm sure you see where this is going... let's just say anything with the words worksheet in it just has all kinds of room for failure. So to make it more simple and to be able to actually achieve something this year I'm going to strive for three simple, tangible things:

1. Complete a 365 Project. In an effort to improve on my photography and creativity I'm committing to taking one a photo a day for a whole year. I'm hoping it will stretch me on days when I boredom is reigning and give me a digital scrapbook for 2015, because in my heart of hearts this is the year of change, y'all!

2. Journey to Health. After fighting for the past couple years with tummy troubles and beyond, I've finally reached a point where I can make a change. I want to continue sticking to my allergy-free diet and supplements, but also begin to add back in my exercise regime. 

3. Love God. I want to look back next Dec. 31st and be able say I love God more than I did today. I want to hold my dreams in open hands so that I can be ready at anytime to follow God's dreams. The Lord has already been so gracious to us to show us where he wants us for the next however many years. I can't wait to continue walking on this journey but I must prepare for the fight. The fight agains the enemy whose goal is to distract us, weaken us, and make us lose sight of the ultimate goal. So here's to gearing up this year and getting in the fight.

Small Goals for 2015:

1. Read more books than movies I watch.
2. Travel someplace new.
3. Retreat in the mountains at least once this year.
4. Visit the beach at least once this year.
5. Try something new and scary.
6. Make a new friend.
7. Blog more.
8. Begin writing down my life.
9. Give myself more grace.
10. Press into Joy.

Happy New Year!

Gettin' Healthy: The Color Run

If you haven't been around us lately then you might know that we are on a mission to get healthy. After lots of research and a little experimenting we've decided that it's time to get rid of refined flours and sugars. But we've also made a commitment to increase our exercise regimen. We were both athletes in high school and college so this is something that should be that hard...ha. Anyways, I decided to sign up for The Color Run with a few friends from work. And thanks to the LifeProof case for iPhone I was able to document the fun!