New Year, New Productivity

happy new year

Pablo Alfieri

It isn’t rocket science, but unfortunately there’s no magic bullet that will transform you into a productivity wizard either. While getting sucked into social media, crap on the telly or Pinterest are all key factors, it is your overall mindset that really needs to change if you’re going to be your most productive self.

First of all you must realise that time spent on a task is not an indicator to it’s success or importance. For many people there seems to be a mystifying and inherent badge of honour mentality associated with how long a task takes (“Ooooh I’ve been working on this project / doing emails / writing this blog post for sooo long. Everybody notice how hard I’ve worked!”) To break free from this vicious circle, you must first realise that that is complete bullshit.

There is a theory that a task will take you exactly the amount of time that you give it. If something takes you weeks, it’s most likely because that’s how long you’ve mentally allotted to it. Of course this isn’t always the case, with some things taking much longer than you hope, but giving yourself shorter deadlines is a brilliant – and simple – way to get things done quicker.

Here are a few other ways you can get more done, in less time:

Unsubscribe from any newsletters you don’t value, unfollow people on social media that don’t interest you and trim down any blogs you no longer enjoy from your RSS feed.

Close Tweetdeck, Facebook and your email client when you are working. Turn off the TV. Silence your mobile phone. Turn off notifications. Distraction feeds procrastination and is the antithesis of getting stuff done.

Take charge of your email. I’ve written about this extensively before but email can suck the life right out of you if you allow it. Yes, there are many things you can do to try and keep on top of that ever-expanding inbox of yours, but my advice to you here would be to let. it. go.

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How to Comment on Blogs to Boost Your Own Business

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Across the board comments on blog posts are down. I’ve written about this before and why I don’t think this is a negative thing, but today I wanted to share a few thoughts on blog commenting etiquette and highlight some ways you can do it to help your own business.

There are still benefits of leaving comments on blogs. I personally believe that social media (especially Facebook) comments are of much more value, but if you are wanting to get on a blogger’s radar then commenting on their actual posts is a great way to do this. If you are posting informed and interesting comments you may also gain new followers for your own site because people can click through to find out more about you.

This must be done with caution though. If you are only leaving comments to try and boost your own traffic or help your website’s SEO, then it is usually pretty obvious and can really hurt your brand and reputation.

Here are a few things you must never do when leaving blog comments:

Spam

It kinda goes without saying right? Never ever ever leave blog comments for the sole purpose of attempting to drive traffic back to your own site. Most bloggers won’t approve them and if they’re stuffed with keywords or links they’ll get caught in their spam filters anyway. Don’t waste your time.

Post links to your own site

Unless a link is relevant to the discussion, don’t post it in the body of the comment! It looks super spammy. Instead put your URL in the field above the comment. Most people know how comments work and that if they want to see more from you they just click your name to go to your site.

It is usually pretty obvious if someone is only leaving a comment to try and get links back to their own site. Even if the comment is relevant to this discussion, it’s really irritating. A lot of bloggers will simply delete these comments (or edit them to take out the links) anyway. A big tell tale sign of someone doing this is when they also post under the name of their business rather than their real name.

Write anonymous hate

Again, this should really go without saying but if you’re posting anonymously (or using a fake name and email address) to write hateful or mean things those comments aren’t going to get approved! Disagreeing with something, in a polite way, is fine but don’t try and get into some kind of flame war for the sake of it. Always be constructive and respectful in your feedback. Remember, all comments can be tracked back to your own unique IP address (even if they are anonymous). Does what you’re saying reflect well on you and your business?

Post one or two word responses

If you haven’t got anything worthwhile to add then you probably shouldn’t bother! Yes, writing “good job!” or “cool!” might show the blogger that you enjoyed the article, but if that’s all you ever write it can start to be quite counter-productive. If you want to show your appreciation for a post but haven’t really got anything to add, why not tweet a link to the article instead (and @ the blogger in it so they can see)?

Reply to all your comments

Yes, this is in the ‘don’t’ pile! If you’re the post author you should definitely make the effort to reply to your comments, especially if someone asks you a question, but don’t feel like you have to reply to every single one. If you do it can look a little desperate and, honestly, not every single statement needs it’s own “Thanks so much!” response.

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

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The majority of the women we meet and teach at The Blogcademy are just starting their blogs or businesses and most of them simultaneously hold down a full or part time job. Most of them tell us that their ultimate goal is to quit these jobs so they can focus on working for themselves. While we encourage them to do that when they’re ready, we’re also keen to share with them the huge benefits of working a day job while pursuing their dreams.

You won’t be stressing about money

You’re never going to be at your most creative when you’re stressing about money. Having a day job that pays the bills and puts food on your table really takes that pressure off your baby business. Stressing about money is never fun, so I’d encourage you to hold onto that safety net for as long as you can!

When I got to the stage where I felt like I wanted to quit my job as a TV producer Gareth (ever the voice of reason) said that I should really wait until I was earning the same – or more! – from Rock n Roll Bride as I was my day job. At the time this seemed like a huge benchmark to aim for (I am forever impatient) but in retrospect I am so glad that I followed this advice. Far from stifling me, having a job that paid the bills allowed me the freedom of growing my business without the pressure of worrying about money.

It was also a lot easier for me to reinvest in the business with any (however small) profit I was making from it. Spending money on my branding for example was a massive game changer for me and really helped step up the appearance of being a ‘professional blogger’. If I was solely relying on what I was earning from the blog at that time I would have not only have gone very hungry, but the blog wouldn’t have been able to progress as quickly.

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It makes you a time management wizard

It’s amazing what you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time when you really focus! Let’s be honest, most of us ‘full timers’ probably spend half of our working days being productive and the rest of it on Facebook or watching endless cat videos on YouTube!

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How to Create Blog Content That Goes Viral

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The holy grail for most bloggers is writing content that gets shared organically to the point of going viral. While many people before me have shared tips and tricks about making this happen such as stuffing an article with keywords, submitting it to various social platforms and content aggregators, and posting about it on forums, there really is just one thing you need to do – write content that resonates with people.

Easier said than done you might think, and you’d be right, but here are a few crucial questions you can ask yourself before you publish anything. Doing so will help you create something that your readers will want to share with others.

1. Who do you want to read it?

You need to know exactly who you’re writing your post for so you can use language and cover topics that will appeal to them. Your ideal reader is not everybody. If you’re in the wedding industry your ideal reader is not even ‘people getting married’. It is much more specific than that.

My ideal reader for Rock n Roll Bride is female and between the ages of 24 and 30. She’s planning an alternative, budget friendly wedding in the next 12 months. When it comes to formulating my content, I think about what this very specific person might like to read. There are always people on the fringes, of course, but by targeting this person precisely I am able to write in a much more cohesive way and easily second-guess what their reaction to it might be.

2. How can you help them?

Often it is the things that you think are really obvious that turn out to be the most popular. My Want Great Wedding Photographs? blog post is a great example of this.

Another of my posts that was widely shared was 50 Pieces of Advice for a Happy Marriage. I know my ideal reader is a girl planning a wedding, and so the likelihood is she’ll also be thinking about marriage too. What bride-to-be wouldn’t want to read 50 simple tips that she can easily implement to make sure her marriage is a happy one? This article was doubly successful because it also was an attractive read to those on the fringes that are already married.

3. What personal stories or insights can you share?

Putting your personal spin onto a story will create a much stronger message that one that’s just completely factual. If people enjoy reading your blog the likelihood is that they do so because they like your voice and want to hear your opinion.

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Don’t Wait to Start on Those New Year’s Resolutions – Take Action Now!

Liron Erel Photographer

I rarely set New Year’s resolutions and if I do they’re usually just intentions to do certain things better or more productively. Statistically speaking, New Year’s resolutions usually fail anyway so why set yourself up for a fall like that?! But I am a big believer in goal setting. Goals focus the mind and give you something concrete to aim for so you’re not just flailing around and making it all up as you go along (well, for some of the time). However, instead of waiting until January 1st to start that new project, I’d like to encourage you to start working on it right now. Here’s why:

One of the main reasons that I believe starting new things in January is a bad idea is that then mentally you’ve told yourself that you have the whole year to achieve it. This kind of time frame is perfectly acceptable of course, but the real problem is that in January, a full 12 months away from your deadline, there is no sense of urgency so you are unlikely to really jump in to it full steam ahead. Whereas if you start working on your plans now, in December, subconsciously you’ll feel like time (i.e. the year) is running out so you’ll be much more proactive and productive.

Liron Erel Photographer

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How to Take a Great ‘About Me’ Photo

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I don’t know if it’s just because I’m incredibly nosey, but whenever I go to a new blog or website and enjoy the content, the next thing I want to do is find out what the author looks like. It always nice to put a face to the name after all. A lot of us are afraid of having our photos taken or showing the world what we look like (why!? you are beautiful!) but having one is super important. Using a photo of yourself not only builds trust and makes people feel like they’re talking to/ reading the words of a real person but it’s a great way to filter out your non-ideal clients.

I obviously have quite a strong ‘look’. Some people will love the pink hair and tattoos and that’s awesome, we’ll probably get on great and I want them to keep reading my site. Others will look at me and think “What a hot mess, pink hair is tacky and tattoos are gross!” and that’s fine too, why would I want someone to keep reading my site if they think that? They clearly aren’t going to enjoy my content. It’s actually a great filtration method.

Even if your personal style isn’t a polarising as mine, having photos of yourself on your About page and as your social media profile photo is imperative. So stop being scared of the camera and start embracing the chance to show the world who you are and what you look like!

When it comes to taking a great About Me photo, here are some of the most important things to think about:

The light

Photography is essentially painting with light so it is crucial for taking a great shot. There is no point trying to take the photo when it’s dark. If you schedule in a shoot, make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the sun goes down.

At the other end of the scale, never stand in direct sunlight. The harsh shadows on your face will not only be incredibly unflattering, but you’ll be squinting. Never a good look. If it’s a bright day, find a patch of shade to stand in. The diffused light will be a lot more forgiving.

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