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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
Resolutions? What 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.
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?
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!
How to Get Into Creative 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.
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.
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.
Planning for the next creative year
In the previous blog post I was looking backwards, reviewing 2017, and I shared a coaching tool called the wheel of life which can help identify areas you are doing well, and not so well, in. Which helps you to plan for improvements in the areas where you score lowest.
2018 is just around the corner, so now that we have looked backwards, we can use the information to look ahead.
Let’s Make 2018 Your Best Creative Year, Ever!
Many of us start a new year with this idea of a ‘new year, new you’, a fresh start when all the wrongs of previous behaviours can be resolved. We make lists of resolutions – to lose weight, get fit, stop drinking (alcohol), drink more water, stop smoking etc etc etc. You know, if everyone stuck to these lists whole industries would go out of business and the entire human race would be happier, healthier and possibly a whole lot more boring 🙂
But, most of us don’t stick at them beyond a few weeks, or even days. Statistics suggest that only about 8% of new year resolutions ‘stick’. The reasons for this are many, but the main ones are –
1. We give ourselves too much to do,
2. We try to do it all at once
3. We don’t restart when we do stop.
So what can you do to make this coming year different and actually stick to your plans for creativity having a place in your life?
Instead of trying to sort all the areas at once, pick just 1 or 2. So, since this is a creative and wellbeing blog, let’s start with something to boost your creativity, which will in turn boost your wellbeing.
Say you want to write more, finish a book, enter a competition or something like that. You could have the goal to write a short story for a specific competition. Now, if you just say ‘I’m going to enter the competition‘, that won’t work because you need to plan for it. How many words is it? How fast do you type? So how many days will you need for writing, rewrites, edits?
Make a Realistic Plan.
If you currently write sporadically and never finish, your resolution might be to write every day and enter the comp, but is every day realistic? You need to look at your normal current routine. Much of the ‘write more’ advice out there will say to get up earlier, but what if you have kids, partner etc and your mornings already start early and are chaotic. What if you already tried to get up even earlier but then the kids got up too, or what if you are just too tired and the morning is not for you? Can you change anything else in your day, lunchtime routine, evenings?
In my book and course I get people to really grind down their current routine and habits to find out where their time really goes, and where they might be able to find more. But the reality is that not everyone will be able to write every day. So if you set that to be your resolution, it won’t stick because it’s not realistic. But maybe 2-3 days a week is. So you’d need to think how much you need to write if you can definitely fit it 2-3 sessions a week and write so many words in those sessions.
Deal With the Gremlin
Perhaps for you it’s not so much time that is the issue, perhaps it is the inner belief, and that annoying little voice that says ‘YOU can’t do that’. How to get past that voice is another whole chapter in my book/course, but one thing you can try is to have a regular routine, and start small. The routine comes back to the time, so set aside at least one session a week, where you do your creative thing. The gremlin likes routine, it’s your attempts to step away from your normal day that sets him off. Then, the other thing is to start small, maybe just a few minutes a day, you’d be surprised what you can do in just 5 minutes – go on try it, I’ll wait…..what can you write or draw or plan in 5 minutes?
Doing that every day, just when you get a chance, keeping it nice and small, not saying ‘I’m going to write a novel/paint a huge picture’, leaves the gremlin snoozing so to speak, again he only starts jumping up and down when you step towards big scary things. A few doodles on a piece of paper as you wait for the bus? That’s fine with the gremlin. That way you can build up more time and effort, without over exciting your inner doubter.
So, this new year, keep your plans small and do-able, and if you slip, re-set and start again. Don’t let one or two missed days ruin it for you. The people who finish are the ones who just keep on starting, and restarting. Surprise yourself with getting your creative resolution past the 1st of February!
Was 2017 your creative year?
As 2017 draws to a close, you may have started to think about your year, and what you have or haven’t achieved. It’s a popular time for looking back, especially for businesses, but why not do it for your creativity and wellbeing?
What was your hope for the year?
To finish your book ?
To sell your work somewhere?
To get fitter, to lose weight, to be….better?
And did you do those things?
Seeing how far you have come can help you keep motivated going forward. Or, if you haven’t achieved what you hoped, even looking at what you HAVE done, can help. Because it is too easy to feel we haven’t done ANYTHING, when in reality we have moved forward, maybe we just haven’t finished. Maybe that element of finishing is the area you need to look at, not the actual doing of the creativity. Or perhaps for you it is the regular practise?
Reviewing can help us see our weak areas, and our stronger areas.
There are various ways to approach this, you may have kept a diary or have a word tracker for writing, so you can see your periods of busyness and the times it fell to one side. Perhaps you can look at what else was going on in those times, and what was going on when you were doing well? What else were you doing? Or not doing?
Even just your social media or if you are in an online forum, you can see your input, review your moods, your photos and posts.
There is also a tool that is used by psychologists and counsellors, but we can adapt it for creative coaching. This is the Wheel of Life approach. Basically we can use a wheel with the various areas of our lives to rate them, and see where we want to improve the score, and also where we are doing okay. I have an example for you below.
You put the areas of interest and rate them 0-10. You can just do the ratings if you don’t want to use the circle, but the point of the circle is to see the relative ups and downs of the different areas. So, rate the areas, where 0 is you’ve done nothing, and 10 is you are super happy with where you are in that area.
Click Here to Download a Printable copy
Now, this might show you some disappointing news maybe you haven’t written as much or as regularly as you planned, maybe you still haven’t finished the book. But this review period is not to criticise yourself, there is no point beating yourself up, that never does any good. You can’t change what you didn’t do last month, but you CAN change what you do tomorrow and next week and next year.
Focus on the positive steps you can take rather than the things you didn’t do.
First of all what did you do? Did you attend courses or workshops, did you meet new people that share your creative passion. What made you feel happy? What made you feel empowered and positive?
How many words did you write?
What did you do for self care – did you attend a yoga class, or take up a fitness class, running, meditation…a new diet or regular massage treatment. All these things are positive, and, as I keep saying, creativity goes hand in hand with well-being, they feed each other. If we are happier we become more creative. Being fitter, eating good food, getting enough sleep…these things help us feel more positive, and increase our energy, and…. we create more.
Then, yes we need to look at the less good stuff, what we didn’t do. But rather than just saying how useless you are for not writing every day. Let’s think about the WHY? What stops you? Your own inner self? Or external influences? Can you change anything? In my book and course I talk about the 3D vision you need to develop – which is basically seeing what you can Dump, Delegate or get with Dollars (pay for).
So, consider what you can get help with, pay for or just get rid of?
Maybe you don’t sleep well, so you feel so groggy in the morning that you can’t get up and that is the time you say you will write? Can you get help with that? A better pre-bed routine, new pillow, see a sleep coach?
Can others in the household be more involved with chores to free up some of your time? Are the rest of your family sitting watching tv while you tidy up and do the laundry of an evening? If you shared the jobs how much time could you have back for yourself?
Or have you avoided employing a cleaner, or getting your ironing/gardening/laundry done by a local company because you feel that ‘people like you’ don’t do that sort of thing? Maybe that idea feels selfish or a waste of money…or some other reason why you don’t do it. Can we re-frame it, see it as employing someone, a small business, putting money into the local economy. A positive thing that comes from freeing up a few hours a week for your creativity?
Next time I’m going to look at planning for the next year, so we can hit those goals better going forward. But in order to change the future we do need to assess what has worked or not in the past, but then move on, make the changes. Commit to challenging your self and your blocks, commit to surprising yourself as to what you can achieve! Download the PDF if you want and have a go at the wheel. Or if you prefer to draw your own, or just make a list of areas and score them, do that. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but the exercise itself can be quite enlightening and help you plan how things might change for the better for you and your creativity in the next year.