Lake Life and New Adventures for The Blogcademy, Minneapolis

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When you’re visiting a new city and the first thing your hosts do is invite you to hang out on their pontoon on Lake Minnetonka, you kinda know you’re in for a bit of an adventure. I had no preconceptions about Minneapolis before I visited it last month, well actually less than none – I knew absolutely nothing about this mid-western city. I had a rough idea of where it was in the country (after checking a map) but that was pretty much it. I was oblivious to it’s lively hip hop scene, it’s lake culture and all the deep friend delicacies that are served in almost every restaurant (deep fried pickles and cheese curds are both much more delicious than they sound and cream cheese wontons are definitely oh so wrong but oh so right…)

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So you might wonder why, knowing so little about a city, did we choose it as a destination for a workshop. Well, we decided early on that if were were going to be travelling so much we might as well use it as a handy excuse to visit some places we’ve never been before. Gala, who is a hip hop fiend, made a brilliant case for Minneapolis and Shauna’s husband who was born here also convinced us that we’d love it. He was right. Our class also just happened to fall on Pride weekend which made our evenings out after class about a hundred times more entertaining!

The workshop was held at Public Functionary, a brand new art gallery space. We were lucky that they’d just wrapped one of their first art exhibits before we arrived, which meant the walls were still decorated with black and gold paintwork and deep burgundy velvet.

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Business Bites: Powering Through

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Photography: A Subtle Revelry

It’s been one of those treadmill weeks. I feel like I’ve been pounding one for 8 hours a day, just trying to keep up. If only my story was more literal than metaphorical, I’d be fit as a fiddle! Weeks like this one can feel like they’re sent to test us, but really, it’s just all part of the ebb and flow of running your own business. Sometimes it’s fun and frolics for days, and other times it’s all about getting your head down, powering through and doing the very best you can.

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“No one should glorify working long and hard hours. Working hard does not mean you are working smart or even getting more done. It might even mean you can’t figure out how to focus on the important stuff.”

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How To Get Shit Done When You Have No Time At All

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As most of you will probably know, I got back from a two week trip to The States late last Wednesday. While I love nothing more than getting away from the humdrumality (is that even a word?!) of everyday life and work, there is pretty much nothing more stressful than coming home to a to do list as long as my arm and an inbox fit to bursting.

I joked on Twitter that I should write a post entitled “How to get shit done when you have no time at all” to which many of you responded saying you’d love to know the secret too. While I can’t claim to be some kind of productivity wizard, as I powered through everything I had to do in the latter part of last week, I wrote down just how I did it. I hope you find it helpful and if you have any other tips I’d love to hear about them in the comments too!

A task will take as much time as you give it

Parkinson’s law states that any task will take you exactly the time that you give it. If you allow yourself a week to write a blog post then that’s how long it will take you – you’ll likely put it off until the last day because you know you have all that time or you’ll write it and then keep working and reworking it until your deadline. However if you’re up against it and you only have a few hours to write something, you’ll get it done. Why? Because you have no other option. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, it states, so set yourself some achievable deadlines and get on with it!

Do the biggest, ugliest jobs first

It’s very easy to think “Oh I’ll quickly do this or update that because it will only take me a few minutes” but doing the small, insignificant jobs first is a recipe for disaster. We often feel that by doing lots of little things we’ve achieved a lot but actually, getting through just one mammoth task will not only be much more satisfying, it will mean you’re much more productive in the long run.

Firstly, if you do the small and easy jobs first you’ll be using up that vital ‘just getting started’ energy on (by comparison) insignificant things. Then, when it comes to the monster task that requires more brain power (doing your accounts/ editing a wedding/ tacking your inbox/ writing a blog post) you’ll be wiped out… or at least less efficient than if you’d done the big job first.

Have a system

It’s vital that you have a system in place for anything that needs constant attention. For me, email templates mean I can wizz through this job with greater ease than if I had to handwrite a personalised response for every one.

Think about some systems that you can employ in your own job. If you’re a photographer maybe maybe you need to refine and streamline how you cull and process your images… if you’re a designer maybe you need to spend some time really learning the ins and outs of inDesign or Photoshop. Instead of muddling through each time, learning as you go, make the effort to really hone your craft so that in the long term you can do these jobs better and quicker.

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Know when you work best

Everyone has a particular time of day when they focus better and get more quality work done so make sure this is the time that you’re doing it. Turn off your phone, shut down your email and close Tweetdeck. Get rid of any distractions and just get on with it. Also make sure you’re always keeping this time free. Don’t schedule meetings when you know you do your best work and make sure you’re always able to be at your desk when you’re going to be the most efficient.

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Vintage Furniture, 35°C Heat & Brand New Blogging BFFs

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I’ve been throwing the word ‘whirlwind’ around a lot lately, but goodness these past few weeks have really been one! I’ve strolled around the streets of Manhattan, danced with a disco ball, made custom lipsticks, got a crazy Japanese glitter manicure, found my perfect wrist candy, had a coughing fit live on the internet, hosted a lunch date with our past students, eaten a tub of popcorn larger than my head, posed on velvet couches on city block corners and got locked on a rooftop… and that was just in the first few days!

We did two Blogcademy classes on this trip and I’ll be blogging all about the Minneapolis adventures soon, but today it’s all about my favourite city in the whole wide world – New Yaaawk!

We held our class at the amazing Rent Patina in Brooklyn, the most glorious white walled loft space filled to the brim with vintage furniture, knick knacks and oddities. I’d never been over the bridge before (except when a taxi driver got lost one time but that’s a story for another day) so it was super fun to explore a brand new neighbourhood. As we walked in on day one we were overcome with awe and wonder at all the pretty things to look at!

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Business Bites: Working Like a Machine…

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Photography: Kitchen Konfidence

My feet have not touched the ground since I got home on Wednesday night… I literally feel like an old machine cranking back up to full speed… I’ll get there but it might take me a few days! I’m not going to lie though, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed and a little stressed out about everything I have on right now, but it’s all good, I’m just taking each day hour at a time! Sheesh maybe I need to write a blog post titled ‘How to get shit done in no time at all…’

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“Many marketers work overtime to confuse us about money. They take advantage of our misunderstanding of the time value of money, of our aversion to reading the fine print, of our childish need for instant gratification and most of all, our conflicted emotional connection to money,” Seth Godin

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Ask Me Anything…#3

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I hope you enjoyed last week’s Ask Me Anything post. It was a biggie but this one is just as beastly I’m afraid! I truly appreciate you all sending in all these questions and I hope my answers have been useful so far. Onwards…

I’m a blogger and really stumped as to how to get the best pictures for my blog. I’d love to share really beautiful photography alongside my posts but obviously I want to avoid copyright issues. How do I find beautiful photos and how do I know when it’s OK to use something?

This can be a tricky topic and one that instils the fear of God into a lot of bloggers, and quite rightly so, copyright is a scary subject! I’d like to start by saying that obviously I’m not a lawyer but this is just how I’ve done things so far and I don’t seem to have gone far wrong.

When I first started blogging I was super eager to share as much content as I could get my hands on. It literally never even crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be OK to share other people’s images. I was linking to the original source (which was sometimes the photographer, sometimes a third party site) and I figured they’ve already been posted online so surely that’s OK right? Wrong.

I lifted content from everywhere. This is something I bet many now-established bloggers will have done once upon a time but nobody ever talks about it – why? Because they now know it’s wrong and because it’s embarrassing. I would go to Flickr and find photos, I’d see weddings on other blogs that I liked and re-blog them, I’d find weddings on wedding photographer’s sites and post them without a second thought… and if Pinterest had been around then, I daresay I’d have been nicking stuff from there too.

Then one day I got called out. Another wedding blogger emailed me to tell me they knew what I was doing and that they were annoyed. Really annoyed. They knew some of the weddings I’d posted had originated from them as they had the exclusive right to publish those weddings… I was mortified.

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OK so onto your question. If you didn’t take a photograph you are not allowed to post it without express permission of the photographer. End of. But there are a few ways you can get imagery that is OK to publish. Firstly there are a bunch of places you can get photos with creative commons licences which basically means you can use them on (usually not for profit, although there are various options) blogs. Both Flickr and Wikipedia offer these kinds of images. Just make sure the usage of each image you want to post fits in with what you’re doing (some won’t let you use them if your making money from your blog for example). This is a great post listing the breakdown of creative commons licenses and includes some other ideas of places you can get photos that are OK to use.

I also discovered Unsplash recently, a tumblr site that allows photographers to share a set of images what can be re-blogged for free (in exchange for exposure, I assume). If you use these just be sure you are crediting and linking back to the photographer, it’s just good karma.

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