Preparation and Planning Blog Posts

Yesterday, I shared some time management and organizational tips. Today’s subject expands on those categories but focuses primarily on blog planning. I will make this a short post since I realize not everyone maintains a blog. But, for those of you who do have a blog, I think you are going to relate to this post. And, I think you will love the blog planner solution.

Cautionary Tale:

Last year, I started exploring ways I could plan blog posts in advance. I cobbled together a system, and, while it was not perfect, it allowed me to see the benefits of having a plan, as well as the advantage of using an editorial calendar. Unfortunately, life happened, and I spent a few months of unplanned obligations that took me away from my studio, my research, my plan… Guess what got neglected? Yep. My system fell apart because I was writing blog posts as they came up on my make-do editorial calendar. I now know writing and scheduling the posts in advance is a FAR better plan. Lesson learned.

Enter Ultimate Blog Planner:

This year, I found Designer Blogs Studio and their Ultimate Blog Planner. Oh. My. Goodness! Talk about “eye candy”!! Oh la la! These pages are beautiful. I have already been opening the notebook I assembled just to feel like I am confidently in the driver’s seat this year. In addition to being beautiful, the forms and planner pages are packed with information to help you plan and schedule your blog posts. I will be scheduling at least one day in the coming weeks completely devoted to planning posts so I can enjoy these pretty pages plan the posts and start writing – in advance. I am looking forward to putting these little beauties into action.

As we are winding down this “series” of planning and organizing, I wanted to pose this question to you. Do you have any planning tools that work for you? Are there areas or topics you would like more information about? Let me know in the comments … because you know I will be working on my Editorial Calendar in the coming days.

Wishing us ALL a productive 2018! Have fun planning and organizing!

Quick Tips for Time Management

While I may not have always been a goal setter, I have always been a time management fan-girl. I have always made lists, maintained follow-up systems, etc. Over the years, I had a system that I loved using and worked well for me. This system relied heavily on Outlook to set reminders, maintain contact information, … it synced with my smartphone… BEAUTIFUL. However, recent software updates rendered all the work setting up my beautiful system practically useless. And, apparently, since customer needs are low on priorities these days, it left me looking for ways to sever my dependence from that system. Enter (cue the trumpets) – my lovely little bullet journal, and a few bonus tools.

Bullet Journal:

If you are looking for a way to organize and track your daily tasks in a customized way, the Bullet Journal is your friend. You can learn how to get started by clicking HERE. One of the many positives of this system is that you do NOT need a special journal or tools to get started. However, the journal I use is a Leuchtturm 1917 you can find on Amazon , as well as other places. I selected the journal with grid pages because I feel like I can “decorate” and make the pages a little more graphically pleasing. A little eye candy always makes me happy and, therefore, I look forward to showing up to populate my journal each day. I also like that I can choose what I’m tracking, like daily water intake, weather, social media, etc. There are so many ideas on the internet for pages and subjects to include in a bullet journal. I love, love, love my bullet journal.

Follow-up/”Tickler” System:

I worked in offices where reminder systems are referred to as Tickler Systems. This solution is an old-school, low-tech, solution I have personal experience using. And, since I have little faith in relying on a modern, technology-based reminder system after Outlook has repeatedly let me down, I returned to my old-school tickler roots. Folders. Yep. You read that right. Folders. I have twelve, beautiful, decorative, colorful folders labeled for each month. I also have thirty-one plain white folders labeled 1 through 31. Each monthly folder holds a checklist for that month (more below). The current month folder is at the front of the cabinet with the numbered folders filed behind it. I file anything time sensitive (like hotel reservations, doctor appointment reminders, call for entry information, course registrations, etc.) in the folder for that day. The next month starts all over again. Again, it is low-tech but it works for me right now. HERE is a full description of the folder tickler system if you are interested.

Checklists:

As I mentioned already, I created checklists for the tasks and follow-ups that I routinely needed to do, which is another post entirely. But, for the folder system, I created a quick and easy spreadsheet for each month.  The spreadsheet has the name of the month with two columns below. The column on the left is numbered for each day in that month. The right column includes things that need to be done on that particular date year after year; like birthdays I want to remember, due dates for quarterly tax reports, domain name renewal deadlines, reminders to change your copyright date (hint, hint)… you get the idea.

Time Management Tools:

I am sure you have heard the adage: “Work smarter, not harder.” I agree with this moto and often have those “slap your forehead” moments when I discover ways I could simplify and streamline my processes. Thanks to my bullet journal, I have an idea of how I need to break down my day. For example, I may spend an hour each day writing, an hour post-processing images, …  But, I rarely adhere to that kind of schedule and usually push through until I complete a task at the sacrifice of other tasks on my list. Since the Pomodoro Technique time management topic was a common reoccurrence in courses, reading materials, etc. I decided I needed to check it out for myself and I skeptically took the idea out for a test drive this past year. (I have linked the website that explains how the blocks of time work. Just click on Pomodoro Technique. ) I admit that my skepticism was misplaced and I honestly think I am more productive on days I set my timer and work in blocks of time. At first, I used a kitchen timer. You know the magnet type that you can get at any box store? I put it on my file cabinet and set it for my blocks of time. I was using a lot of batteries and did not always take the time to reset the timer for the next block of time, so I  started exploring other options. There are several apps for your smartphone, but I like using the Focus Keeper app. You can set the block of work time for a longer amount of time (like a 50-minute block rather than 25-minutes), and the timer automatically sets itself for breaks, etc. No resetting once you get it going. Yeah! As an added bonus, I find that I actually get up out of my chair and add more movement to my day.

BONUS:

I highly recommend Sebastian Michaels’s course “21 Days to  Creative Abundance“. I have a reminder set to go through the course every 6 months. And, every time I go through the course, I always get something new to put into practice.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite system? AND, if you use a bullet journal, please share some of your favorite pages. I would love to see them.

Tomorrow let’s talk about blogging and how an editorial calendar can be your friend.

Setting and Putting Yearly Goals Into Action

First, I want to wish you a happy, healthy 2018! We made it through 2017 my friends. I am so excited to start 2018 with you and this little beginning of the year “series” of posts. But before we get started, here is a friendly reminder that now is the time to update your copyright date on your website, photography programs, etc. Type in that 2018 date loud and proud. Now, with that little bit of business out of the way, let’s get started on making plans for the New Year.

Setting goals for the New Year is one thing, putting said goals into action is another ball of wax. To be honest, I have never been much of a goal setter – until recently. This Stephen Covey quote sums up my history with setting goals. I finally realized that unless I have a clear plan, with a clearly defined work plan, I’m probably not going to consistently work on specific, long-term goals on a regular basis. Sure, I regularly work on what needs my attention most at any given time. But the long-term goals, with no immediate deadline, seem to get lost in the shuffle. This past year I have been working on systems that best suit me and the way I work. The overall system is surely a work in progress, but I hope that some of these tools might be useful to you. And, I am certainly interested in learning about any tools you have found that work for you. I hope that, together, we can help each other make 2018 our most productive year yet. So, let’s start with planners.

Passion Planner

A couple of years ago, I was gifted a Passion Planner to use for 2016. I really liked the Mind Mapping, Goal Setting, and regular reminders to review your goals. Overall, I think it was a good planner for me, but I am still in search for a system with more customization because I think I need more help in making sure I am consistently working on my goals. This is not any fault of the planner, but rather my novice status at goal setting. As I mentioned previously, I am rather new to the whole goal setting arena and I am still trying to “educate” myself. I am certainly not ruling out the possibility of returning to this system, but I need to refine my system first. More information is good, right?

Your Best Year 2018

In 2016, I bought Lisa Jacobs book, Your Best Year 2016, but I never put it into action because I was using the Passion Planner. The Passion Planner is pre-dated and therefore, I perceived it as time-sensitive to put into use. Well, I returned to Lisa Jacobs this year and purchased Your Best Year 2018. I have printed the pages, organized them in a 3-ring binder, completed the “exercises”, and I’m ready to get the 2018 party started.

So, now it is your turn. How do you set goals? And, more importantly, how do you hold yourself accountable for working on your goals or track progress?

I do hope you will return tomorrow. I will reveal the details of my primary planner for 2017, time management tools, and why I will still be using them in 2018.

What is Your One Word for the Year?

In the January 2017 Newsletter, I mentioned that the word I intended to focus on for the next 12 months was Gratitude.

I begin each morning with my journal, and in 2017 I started the day by listing three things that filled me with gratitude. Some mornings my gratitude included things as simple as my morning coffee, a comfortable bed to rest and renew my body, the luxury of warm running water that I didn’t have to haul or heat for my shower… And other gratitudes included much more complex or personal focus. I have to say it was (and is) a great way to start my day and has become a habit I hope to continue for years to come. I found the whole experience of focusing on Gratitude rather like a snowball effect. I say this because, I found that the more I focused on what I was grateful for, the more I found to be grateful about. I even found myself making notes throughout my day to tuck inside my journal as reminders of gratitude so I would not forget some seemingly small moment that happened when I journaled the next morning.

With my year of actively acknowledging Gratitude, I realized it was time to select a new word for 2018. So, I became curious about how other folks choose a word, and how they keep themselves accountable for 12 months. So, I purchased the book, My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen to read. I also have a new journal with fresh, clean, crisp, pages at the ready. (I guess you can tell by the description of my journal, that I love fresh new beginnings all full of possibility.)

I think I know what I want my word to be for 2018, but I’m still thinking about it to be sure. However, I am curious if you select a word for your yearly focus? If you do select a word, what is YOUR word for 2018? Please do tell.

And, please come back tomorrow for more conversation on New Year planning ideas and tips. I have some ideas to share that worked for me in 2017, as well as some new things I’m going to try in 2018.

BUT, before you leave, be sure to post your Word for 2018 in the comments.