How to Use CoSchedule – a Review

One Blog, Two? More?

A few years ago I decided to start a blog for my therapies business, then I started another one for my writing/creative business, and I have another blog idea bubbling away at the moment. I know other bloggers who have 5, 10 or even more blogs on the go. So how do we all manage to juggle the blog, the social media, the editorial calendar and if we have a team, co-ordinate pieces of work and flow?

The answer is CoSchedule!

coschedule homepage

When I first started, CoSchedule wasn’t really on my horizon. At the time I was too small, and they seemed aimed at bigger fish than me. However, they did offer some free tools that I could use, such as the Headline Analzyer which I found very useful and quite fun too! Then, I was offered a free trial and after just one week was hooked.

I am not really much bigger than I was back then, still just me, doing all the stuff, but Coschedule has expanded its offerings. It has also become more accessible to smaller businesses through a wider payment option, plus great opportunities to reduce your bill (more of this later). It is no longer just a way of scheduling social media. You now get a whole package which allows you to chuck away those piles of sticky notes, scraps of paper and multiple notebooks and have all your blogs, social media and calendar planned and prepared in one place.

So, what is it? How does it work?


Well, luckily CoSchedule have a short video which is a good place to start. Watch it below.

CoSchedule from Garrett Moon on Vimeo.

 

As I mentioned, I have more than one blog. So, life could get quite confusing. Is today the day I am meant to write blog A, or is that next week? And what about the Pinterest campaign or the Facebook ‘top tips’ post that was to go with that other blog? I have found myself with big gaps in my calendar because I was just too confused to produce anything worth publishing.

Now that Coschedule allows you to have multiple websites in the plan, I can use it to do all my blogs in one place. This means that I can see all my content planned on the calendar, then filter it to see just one blog at a time. I can see where my posts are going and when. Then I can choose a time to post or let CoSchedule’s ‘Best Time’ option choose for me.
There is also the fantastic ‘Requeue’ option to make sure that I never run out of content. I went on holiday for two weeks and forgot to schedule content for that time, but it was okay because CoSchedule filled the gaps with Requeue material for me.

Calendar Chaos?

Sometimes I am an off the cuff writer, doing this week’s post today, and I don’t want to think too far ahead. Other times I do the ‘batch’ method. Coschedule allows me to do either of these. I can sit and bulk prepare, and schedule in advance, see my calendar all filled in with multiple posts and social media. Or I can swap things around, and add a new post in for today anytime I want to.

coschedule calendar

 

If I was doing that on a paper calendar, it would quickly get very messy. Plus, a paper calendar isn’t doing the posting for me, I would still need to go in and reschedule things. And while I like Google calendar, I prefer to have a separate place for my content, otherwise, it’s just too full. Also, I want to be able to tick off the jobs as I do them. I know some people use Trello or Asana to do this sort of thing, but that is still just planning.
CoSchedule lets you PLAN and DO the task within the system. So you are not hopping between screens as you go.

Life is just easier if everything is in one place, and that place is CoSchedule. Click To Tweet

Coschedule also integrates with all the best apps and software you are probably already using.

Use WordPress? Brilliant – Coschedule has a WordPress Plugin. So you can write the post and set up the calendar plan of social media, right there in your WordPress post edit.

coschedule wordpress

What about Google Docs? Yup. Evernote? That too. Zapier? Bitly? Yes and Yes. Check out their website to see the full list of up to date integration options.

Surely its limited in what social media it links to?

Use Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? You get all those plus Linkedin and more.

I don’t have a team, so I can’t comment on how it works for multiple people on the account, but I’m pretty sure it will be great. I assign tasks to myself, so I can see what I am doing next, and also get the satisfaction of ticking them off!

Ok, sounds great, but all this must cost a fortune, right?

Well, no, it’s actually pretty reasonable.

There are various plans available, and the best way is to check them out for the most up to date options. You can do that here.

Also, note that they have a referral scheme. So if you are on the ‘Essential’ plan, you can get 10% for anyone who signs up through your link, plus money off your annual bill by writing a review like this one. Now, it has to be an honest review. Personally, I don’t do any other type. All my resource recommendations are based on what I use and believe others can benefit from.

So, if this is an honest review, is there a’con’ to all these ‘pros’? Well, the cost is the only one I can think of now that you can have multiple websites associated with the one account, and you get Requeue as well. But, the referral program and discount can make it a lot more affordable, and as a blogger you have to assess what is worth spending money on, and what is not. I have signed up for other so-called ‘must haves’ for bloggers in the past and then never used them, so even if they were only $20, that is a waste of money. Whereas Coschedule is something I use every day, so the cost per use is low.
I would say try it for the free trial , or even pay for 1 month, and see the benefits to your scheduling and blogging process, then decide if it’s worth your investment or not. I’ll wager it will be!

Check Coschedule out here.  

coschedule is your secret weapon

How to Be More Creative – Top Tips to Deal with Fear

Dealing with the Fear

Fear is a sneaky thing. It comes in many forms, creeps up on us, and jumps out just as we think we are doing okay.
Which type of fear do you have?
Fear of Missing Out? Fear of Success? Fear of Failure? Of being seen as a fraud? Of being laughed at? Of being not good enough? Of being ‘found out’? Being wrong?

write your own story

The list goes on and on. Fear comes in many forms for the typical creative. Just as you think you have got one sorted, another one raises up and says ‘Don’t forget about me…..’

Fear is probably the number one reason why more people don’t follow their creative dreams. It may disguise itself as procrastination or being too busy, but underlying those things is one of the many fears and worries. The result is the not doing, or the filling our time with other things, but the cause is our fear. And yet just as we can worry about not being good enough, we can lie awake fretting over ‘what if I never…’. We can’t win with these internal fears, so we need to beat them!

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
What have you not done over the years because you were scared to?
Travel? Study a creative course at University instead of the ‘safe’ one you did choose? Take a year out to follow your dream?

What would you create if you weren't afraid? Click To Tweet

The trouble with creatives is that we are often fairly introverted, quiet people who don’t want to attract attention or be on show. This is at odds with the whole ’show your work’ aspect of creativity. We want to draw or write etc, and we want to share this with others. Then we don’t because that is opening ourselves up, exposing ourselves. What if they laugh, what if they don’t like it…What if! What if!

And there is our old friend fear, sitting back in his comfy chair and sniggering at us. Again. Click To Tweet

In order to succeed we need to be willing to fail, to get it wrong, to screw it up, to look a fool. And let’s face it, that’s hard, especially for us quiet introverted types who spend most of the time avoiding all of those things.

don't be afraid to make mistakes

Some tips to get past fear –

The ‘fake it til you make it’ approach. If you want to be a writer, ask yourself, what does a writer do? What do your favourite authors do? if you are an artist think about your favourite artist.
Do they sit around reading books on ‘How to be a…’, or writing journals of why they want to be a an artist, and how they might the able to do it one day?
Ummm….no. They probably write or paint. So even if you are just starting out, try doing the thing you want to do most days.
I know, its hard, that’s why I wrote a book on getting more creativity in your life. But it boils down to – do the thing you want to do. Make it a priority.
Act like a professional even if you only intend to be an amateur.

Picture ‘future you’. Say 20 years from now.
What are they doing? What would their biggest regret be?
What would you love them to be saying?
What would hate them to be wishing they’d done?

I have talked before about a favourite film of mine, (We Bought a Zoo) and the idea of needing ’20 seconds of courage’ to get past fear. Those few seconds it takes to make a start, to take the first steps.
All art takes courage. Unless we are being commissioned to do something, there is no guarantee anyone else will want it or admire it. We do it because we love it, because we have to, and that takes courage, and determination.
What can you do in 20 seconds? Not much you think, but you can send an email about studio space, or being in a gallery. You can send that competition entry off. You can get up when your alarm goes off, and do that creative session you keep promising yourself before breakfast.

Do other forms of creativity to tiptoe past the fear monster in the corner. Short bursts of drawing for writers, using writing prompts for artists, to use different parts of our brain, and get our creativity flowing, but not waking the fears. Once we get the hang of just creating something, we can bring in more of our preferred thing, and build that up slowly too. Small, steady steps will get us just as far as trying to do a whole lot at once.

Imagine the future, we have to picture the finished article, the positive result. It is also easy to picture the opposite, so we need to practise the positive outlook and keep the fear based negatives at bay.
We can use affirmations, and listen to visualizations, to help us.
Some useful affirmations are –

‘I am becoming my true self’
‘I am allowed to express my creativity’
‘I am a writer/artist….’
‘I release the self doubt. I embrace my inner creative’

 

Try writing 2 or 3 affirmations out every morning. Or saying them out loud while you do your morning yoga. Or record positive statements on to your phone, and then you can play them to yourself while you are running/walking etc. Make them part of your playlist! The fears in your head CAN be overcome, they CAN be changed. New ones may come along, but you  now have some tools to deal with them.

fear of failure

Self Care for Desk Workers

How To Take Care of Yourself if you Sit All Day

A version of this post first appeared on www.jstherapies.co.uk

When I am wearing my ‘massage therapist’ hat, I see people from all walks of life, sports people, doctors, teachers, call centre workers, retirees. However no matter what THEY do, almost all of the work I do is massage for back pain. Apart from specific injuries/accidents, the one thing they all have in common is back, shoulder, neck or arm issues that are related to sitting too much, and the set up of the desk while they are there. So, I thought it was time I looked at some self care for desk workers, because it doesn’t have to be a recipe for aches and pains.

avoid back problems

Unfortunately most jobs these days involve sitting a lot. Especially if you are a writer, I mean that’s just the way it is, you sit and write.
The old ‘bum in chair’ quote.
For hours at a time.
With a mouse to one side, a keyboard in front of you and a standard chair because everyone’s back and body is the same aren’t they?

Sadly, no, everyone’s bodies are different, and in an ideal world we would all have unique set ups for desks, plus there would be obligatory ‘get up and move around’ sessions (dance breaks I think they are called) every 30 minutes in every office (and home office) up and down the land.
I used to work in an open plan office of about 300 people, the idea of them all getting up and doing dance moves or stretches every 30 minutes, is…frightening! And is never going to happen.

So what can you do to help yourself, and avoid the aches and pains that seem to be a part of modern life?

Firstly we need to look at the set up of your desk.

  1. Do you work with a laptop and end up hunching over it? You can get platforms to raise it up, or just use a few books. Then you need a separate keyboard (like this one) so you are not having to awkwardly use the laptop one. If you are using the laptop away from a desk, then you can also get folding stands and angled supports to make life more comfortable. I work with a laptop at home, but have a separate monitor like this and a bluetooth keyboard so it is set up more like a standard computer.
  2. Even if you have a standard computer, you can still adjust monitor height and keyboard position so that you are able to sit better. The diagram below shows the ideal positions.how to sit at a desk
  3. Mouse – Ah, the mouse, I think I might be out of business if everyone stopped using these things, or at least started using them in a more back/shoulder friendly fashion. Most of the time people find themselves stretching out to the side to use their mouse. This means that their arm is unsupported and in a strained position. You can see in the picture – the arm should be kept in and angled. Most keyboards are too long and the mouse is forced out to the side. To avoid this you can get a shorter keyboard (without number pad) which would help bring it in a bit. Or you can go for one of the various alternatives to the standard mouse. They come in a range of shapes and actions, but many will eventually cause their own set of issues.

Which is the same for the standard Occupational Health advice in my old office which was to ‘use the mouse in the left hand’. Because my weaker arm won’t get strained due to over use will it! (rolls eyes). I had RSI in my old IT job, it’s one of the reasons I discovered remedial massage and ended up changing job, and I was given a fair few of the mouse alternatives to try. Eventually a new OH woman came along and she basically flipped the ‘alternative mouse catalogue’ to the back, and said that the rest were pointless and we should all just have one of THESE. More expensive than the other options, but the only thing that truly works in my experience.
I had one in the office and when I left I bought one for my home computer, it’s still going strong 10 years on with daily use, whereas the other options would have been replaced several times over by now. So, actually a good economic option.
I recommend these to everyone with RSI and a few clients have got them and also not looked back. There are a few time when I do need a mouse, (when I make images in Canva for example) so I have a little wireless one sitting on my desk, ready for use when I need it. When I do use it I always shove my keyboard out the way and use it directly in front of me to avoid the dreaded arm strain.

4. Chair –  since you can easily spend 6-9 hours of the day sat in the chair it should be the best chair for you. Unfortunately most offices buy their chairs in bulk and it is one size fits all. If you do have a say in which chair you get, or you work from home, then most people swear by Herman Miller chairs. But, yes they are a tad on the expensive side! However, you don’t need to spend eye watering amounts but you do need to have a seat with –
adjustable height so you can get your feet on the floor (or if you are a smaller person, you may need a foot rest to allow you to have your feet on something solid);
adjustable arms  i.e ones that go up and down or fold out the way so you can get the chair close into the desk;
– a lumbar support which you can adjust to your back, or you can get add ons to chairs which allow you to do this
– a good supportive seat which is comfortable for you.

If you want a helpful tool to work out your ideal position for your desk set up, try this online tool – https://www.ergotron.com/tools/workspace-planner

So now we have you set up properly, what else can you do to avoid the stiffness and risk of back/neck/shoulder issues?
Because it’s all very well having the correct set up, but we are still not designed to sit all day, so we need to look after our bodies as well as our desk position.

The best thing is to not sit all day.sitting posture
Get up and move around, every hour at least, every half hour in an ideal world. Even just a few minutes to walk to the toilet, get a drink of water, and go the long way round if you can. The worst thing you can do is stay in one position for several hours.

There has been a lot of talk about standing desks lately, I know a few folk that have them. And yes they are good, especially the ones that allow you to sit and then stand up, they adjust with you, but really standing all day is not the answer either. Some people sit on gym balls, which can be fun for a while. I have a pad for my seat which is the equivalent of siting on a gym ball, and that is good, it certainly makes my core work (which helps my lower back strength and posture), but I don’t sit on it all day, perhaps a couple of hours at a time at most. I still need to get up and move around if I want to avoid sitting related back and shoulder strains.

Finally, while you are sitting, you can do stretches at your desk to help your body cope. I recommend yoga or pilates classes to most of my clients who don’t already do them. Even once a week will help you become more aware of where you are stiff and it will encourage you to stretch or do some of what you learn in class at home. There are also apps available to remind you to move, or to take you through a set of desk based stretches. This one is good for both eye strain/breaks AND stretches.

If you’d like a handy PDF of some easy desk stretches to keep next to your desk, then enter your details below for a download.

 

 

How Are Those Resolutions Coming Along?

Resolutions? What Resolutions?

stick to your resolutions

Are you in the small percent of people who actually make it past ‘Blue Monday’ (last week) and are still sticking to their resolutions by the end of the month?

Yes? Well done you! You get a prize!

For the rest of us, well never mind. You can start again, you don’t HAVE to only do these things in January when our northern Hemisphere weather is not exactly helpful when we try to give up lovely, cosy, comforting things like chocolate, wine or whatever else people swear off for the month.

Because January has become THAT month where people set all sorts of ambitious resolutions, not just to stop something for a few weeks but to make life changing decisions. It’s become quite a thing, there are lots of plans with ‘-anuary’ names – Veganuary, Dryanuary…I’m sure there are lots more. I know a few folk doing the dry January option who were struggling around week 2 when they went back to work. Because lets face it, coming straight off Christmas, holidays, over indulgence, and into work, along with dark mornings, dark nights, cold, ice snow….life suddenly seems a bit grim. No wonder the idea of a ‘treat’ is hard to resist.

Your Creative Resolutions

Just as people set these ‘better person’ type goals, if you are a creative type, and want to write more, draw more, or go to a class on something new, maybe that is what you resolved to do instead of stopping drinking wine or whatever. These types of goals often fall by the way side too. It seems we humans are not that great at sticking to plans! So, what can we do about it?
Well, as I said back in December, there are various tricks which work for all types of resolutions such as – set lower targets, so that you can meet them and build on them. This means you are more likely to succeed, instead of setting them too high in the first place and ensuring that you fail at the first attempt.

Keep on Starting

You also need to keep restarting even if you fall of the wagon many, many times. It’s tedious, but it really is the only way to succeed. That old ‘try, try again’ motto. Don’t let one missed day dictate the rest of your life, just reset and restart the next day, or the next week. See how far you can get each time, your goal could simply be to do it longer than before.
Obviously ones like stopping drinking for a month are for health reasons, and you don’t need to say it’s for ever so hopefully that is ‘easier’ to stick to (not saying its EASY’!) but ones like being more creative as an ongoing thing can be hard to stick to because life has a pesky way of putting blocks in our path. So for our creative ambitions, we need to develop a good ‘rinse repeat’ approach. So we missed a few days/weeks, jump back in. Remember to start small and build up. Maybe you had managed an hour a day, but after a break you wonder how you ever did that, so go back to 15 minutes a day, or whatever you are able to do. Remember the various things that helped you get into flow, I looked at these last time, the tricks to trigger your creativity. I also gave you some resources to help you – timers and music etc

What is Your WHY?

Remember WHY you wanted to do this in the first place.

Health?
You just HAVE to write (or whatever creative thing it is you do)
Because a person you dislike is doing better than you at it, and you want to show them?
Happiness?
Escape from mundane job?

Whatever it is, remind yourself. Write it out, or get an image that reflects your ‘why’ and stick it up on your wall, or on your screensaver. Somewhere you see it, and can remember, THAT”S why!

 

Don’t forget – keep your creativity flowing, and it will be easier to stick to that resolution!

creative flow image

How to Get Into Creative Flow – 5 Top Tips

 How to Get Into Creative Flow

5 tips for cretaive flow

In my previous post I looked at how taking small steps and setting our goals to do-able levels can help us maintain our resolve, and get us past the end of January with our creative resolutions.
This time I wanted to explore how we can get ourselves into ‘flow’ quickly. This means that even if we only have short periods to create in, we can lose ourselves in that moment and still experience a good flow feeling. You will probably surprise yourself with what you can do in short periods of time.
The aim is that we create more but that we don’t need to ‘carve out chunks of time’  (or one of those other irritating phrases the get bandied about but no-one really explains). Instead we can use the gaps we already have, and yes expand them a bit if we can, but even if that is not possible, we can still use what we have to START the process of getting more creativity into our days.

Wherever, Whenever.

So, say you are waiting at the bus stop, or on the bus, you could be drawing, or writing, or at least coming up with ideas to jot down. But do you? Or do you read the free paper, or scroll through Facebook, or worry about something that you can’t actually do anything about at that moment in time? You could be using that time in lots of productive ways, reading, planning, whatever, but why not use it to create? People say that they can’t, that they feel self conscious writing or drawing, or that they can’t concentrate in public with other people around or knowing that they have a short period of time, that they get distracted.
So, the solution to this is to look at the issues that stop you doing it, wherever it is. I’m using public transport as an example as most people who don’t have enough creative time have a job that they have to go to. If you drive to work, then you don’t have the same options, but perhaps you could be recording yourself talking out loud as you ponder ideas, or you could be listening to a creative podcast for inspiration and too keep you in the frame of mind.
But, back to the people that do have the time/place to do it, but block themselves.

5 ways to get into flow/shut out the world

1. Music – earphones and music that you know works for you. Ideally you have some kind of music that you already like to listen to, take it with you and train yourself to hear the music and feel in flow wherever you are. Streaming services like Spotify and Amazon music have playlists set up for genres or moods. I use a couple of Spotify ones that are for concentration or relaxing which work for me. And once you have used them a few times of course, it becomes that trigger. Or some times its not music while you work but a ‘power’ song that gets you started. Having music on also blocks out the distraction of other people and noise around you. There are also apps that can just block out sound with. I’ve listed some useful resources below. Sometimes I have put my headphones on, but forgotten to play the music, and I’ve still had the same ‘flow’ experience, so the headphones themselves are obviously part of my triggers.

2. Have a mantra or word that you can say to yourself, or write down that trigger to get your head into your creative zone. When I was doing Nanowrimo, some days I would sit at the computer and just be blank headed, nothing came to me at all, all my plot ideas seemed stupid and I could barely lift my hands to get them on the keyboard. I found that writing, ‘Sam Sam Sam’ (the name of the main character in the book) just seemed to get me going. I would ‘see’ Sam where I left him and be able to continue his story.

3. Coffee or food/drink of choice. Some people just can’t work without a coffee, other need their chai latte, or their green juice. Whatever works for you. Again, its not the what, it’s the trigger in your head. If you have managed a regular hour of writing every week, and in that hour you always had a coffee and a muffin, well having a coffee (and maybe the muffin), will be a link in your brain to being creative. You have to play around and see what works for you, your trigger is unique to you.

creative flow

4. Timer. If you are concerned about time, as in you might miss your bus when it comes or your stop. Or you’re worried that you will be late back to work if you are doing the creative thing in your lunch break. Then you can set a timer on your phone or watch to stop you in plenty of time. Having a set time is actually a great way to focus your head and get into flow. eg Pomodoro type timers

5. Small Steps Keep those goals small. You have a set period of time that you are trying to make good use of,  even if it is just a few minutes. So don’t let the gremlin start whispering about there being no point because your actual intention is to write a novel. Your goal for the session is just whatever you know you can easily do in that period. How many words can you write in 20 minutes? (if that is how long you have before you need to get ready to get off the train/bus). That’s your goal, even if it is 50 words! That is still 50 words more than you had (and you can write more than 50 words in 20 minutes!). Surprise yourself, and that inner gremlin, by setting small goals, and meeting them, then you can build them up if that seems realistic.
Small goals + small steps = big results.

Other things to think about –

Planning ahead so that you have the things you need to hand. If you get on the bus/train and then have to dig for your notebook, pen, tablet, earphones, all while balancing your coffee and having your travel pass ready. That’s not going to be a good start. So, make sure everything is easily to hand in your bag or pockets.

Maybe you don’t have any time, you have a 5 minute bus ride or you never get a seat so can’t possibly write on your form of transport, or other reasons that this scenario just doesn’t work for you. OK, but when can you fit it in? When do you have free time that you currently don’t even notice, or haven’t thought of using? Use these techniques wherever you can to get your head in creative mode and train it to get into flow quicker, so that you can make use of even small pockets of time.

You don’t have to work on your ‘creative thing’.  Even just jotting ideas, using a prompt to write or sketch for 5 minutes, stopping to take a photo on your walk to work, or  doodling ideas while you wait for the kettle to boil. Wherever you can fit in a wee bit of creativity, makes it easier to access the creative part of your brain whenever you want to and get yourself into creative flow quicker. It’s all about keeping that flow ready to go with it’s engine turning over, rather than having to cold start it on a frosty morning. Then when you DO get a chance, it’s that bit easier to re-trigger your creativity.

Resources to help boost creative flow

Apps that help you block distractions – Concentrate (Mac), Freedom (Mac) and Focus Booster (Mac and PC), there are many more but these are a good place to start. There are also timers such as Be Focused which don’t block anything but set a timer for you to work in, and then take a break. It’s important to take breaks too – something I will be looking at in future blogs.
Apps that block out sound – Sound Curtain (Apple) White Noise (Android) – these are for mobiles, and they create ambient sounds. There is also Noizio for Mac which creates a variety of soothing background sounds.
Music to help you concentrate – Then there are the streaming services such as Spotify which have their own playlists for concentration.