The Last Two Weeks

As I am half way through the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I can’t believe it’s already day 15, so I have decided to do a bit of a cheat post today (plus, my Internet connection is likely to be disconnected at some point today, so I need to be quick!) and list all the posts I have published over the last 14 days.  I wouldn’t normally do it like this, but as I have been posting both on this blog and my eBook formatting blog you may have missed some.

Day 1

My Top 10 Posts of 2012

Day 2

Social Media for Authors – Part 1

Day 3

Why France?

Day 4

Paperback or eBook?

Day 5

Incredible Goal Setting for 2013!

Day 6

Virtual Author Services – DIY or Outsource?

Day 7

5 Simple WordPress Plugins

Day 8

How are eBooks Evolving?

Day 9

Who needs a schedule?

Day 10

Sneak Preview – eBook Marketing eCourse

Day 11

Flick the Off Switch More Often!

Day 12

Education Never Ends

Day 13

Twitter Follow Back Rules

Day 14

12 Steps to Format an eBook

Twitter Follow Back Rules

While I was scrolling through my new Twitter follower’s this morning I came up with this idea for a blog post.  

How many of you take time each day to see who your new followers are and decide whether to follow them back? Or, do you just follow everyone back?

In my opinion it pays to keep an eye on who you are following, and who unfollows you.  You can check out a previous post on the tool I use to look at all this sort of information, 5 Ways to Analyse Twitter with SocialBro.

But this blog post is all about Twitter profiles and what to look for when deciding who to follow.  First though, a little quiz (the answers are at the bottom), out of the following 10 Twitter followers, which ones did I follow back?  Put your answers in a comment before checking your answers.

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

5.

 

6.

 

7.

 

8.

 

9.

 

10.

 

Without giving away just yet which ones I followed back I want to just go over the things I look for when deciding whether to follow or not.

Am I interested in any of the information they have provided in their profile?

The first thing I look at is whether this person interests me, as a general rule I tend to follow back all authors and writers because this is the niche of my business, and books interest me. If they are neither authors or writers, then I check for other interests such as France, cooking, pets etc… If they come across as normal people who tweet normal things that interest me then I follow back.

Do we have something in common?

Similar to the above, if we have interests or business goals in common it’s likely I will follow back.

Could they be a potential client?

This is a difficult one because everyone could be a potential client. If someone sounds normal, has a genuine sounding profile and I am interested in what they have to say then I follow back. Sometimes I will look at the last few tweets they have made if I’m really not sure, that usually confirms whether I follow or not.

Does the profile contain any hashtags such as #teamfollow or similar?

This may be personal opinion, but I really hate it when people use these hashtags in Twitter profiles, it’s even more likely I won’t follow you if you have this stupid hashtag in your profile.

Do I know what this person tweets about?

I like to know by just reading the profile what this person tweets about, if it’s not clear then I will have a look at the last few tweets, and if it’s still not clear I don’t follow back. You can see one of my examples above is in a language I don’t even understand, so there is no reason why I would follow someone when I won’t even understand their language… oops given that one away!

Do they have the default profile image?

If you have the default egg image as your profile picture it’s usually a sure fire way of me not following you back. There are exceptions to this rule of mine, one is personal friends/family who don’t know much about Twitter to begin with, I let them off for a while. Another is those people who explain the reason they use the default image such as one of my followers the other day, she had set-up a new account and was preparing an image for this new account. Explanations go a long way…

I hope that’s given you some ideas about what you can look for on Twitter if you’re constantly umming and ahhing about who you should and shouldn’t follow. In fact as I was writing this I realised that I did some similar posts last year, which you can check out here (I don’t think my rules have changed much) – 5 Followers NOT to Follow on Twitter! and Who do you Follow on Twitter?

And here are the answers… (really small so you can’t cheat easily!)
3, 5, 8, 10

Flick the Off Switch More Often!

Well this is a first, I am writing this blog post directly from my iPhone while watching (or listening) to the TV – it’s in French anyway, so I’m not missing much!

It’s nearly 10pm and I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to write and post today’s blog challenge post. I then remembered that I had the WordPress app on my iPhone which I haven’t ever used before.

So today’s blog post is about the importance of switching off from work, ironic yes?

I spend many an evening telling myself to put my iPhone down and read a book, or do something other than work but it’s difficult when you run your own business. Each hour if the day is another hour you could be earning money or finding that new client.

But… when I do switch off one evening (like I did last night) I sleep better and I wake up with tons of motivation the next day.

So here are a few tips on how you can learn to switch off more, even if you’re a workaholic:

  • Start by switching off once or twice during the week, gradually you’ll notice how it benefits the way you work and you’ll want to do it more often
  • If you must work in the evenings, then take time out during the day, even if it’s just an hour for lunch – my favourite thing to do at lunchtime is watch an episode of a TV series I enjoy (most recently that was Once Upon A Time) while chilling on the sofa with the dog
  • At the very least try not to check those emails or social media networks right before bedtime – this is hard for me, but imagine a client sends you an email last thing at night that really stresses you out (it’s happened to me), you spend the night worrying about it and your sleep is disrupted!

So I am going to follow my own advice right now and publish this post so I can switch off before bedtime. Apologies for the lack of formatting on this post (which hopefully I have now made better), the first job in the morning for me will be tidying it up – but at least I’ve not got behind on the blog challenge!

Let me know your switching off tips in the comments and I’ll give them a try, I need all the help I can get.

Who needs a schedule?

I read many articles which suggest you become more disciplined, create a schedule and stick to it, or plan every hour of the day so you know exactly what you’re doing and when.  But having tried and tested these suggestions over the last year or so I have come to the conclusion that having a set schedule does not agree with me.

Stress

One of the main reasons it doesn’t agree with me is because when I write down an hour by hour schedule, if something ‘off the schedule’ happens it cascades down the rest of the days activities causing me to stress about what I should be doing, rather than actually getting on with the work in question.

© Jean Valley – Fotolia.com

For example… a few months ago I set out a day by day schedule to include the following:

  • Walking the dog
  • Checking and responding to emails
  • Client work
  • Social media
  • Power Hour

It was a pretty vague schedule, but I had put these activities within a time bracket.  So dog walking between 9.30 and 10.30 (and again between 3.30 and 4.30), and client work between 10.30 and 12.00 (and again between 2.00 and 3.30).  What happened when I got up late one morning?  I was behind before I’d even got started for the day which created stress for the rest of the day, constantly trying to catch up with my schedule.

I read this great article yesterday which gave me inspiration to write this post – 7 Ways to Be a Stress-Free Workaholic

Change of plan…

I ripped that schedule off the wall and decided to work on things when I was in the right frame of mind to work on them.  I still have to walk the dog in the morning, but if I haven’t left the house at 9.30 I’m not getting stressed about it.

For now I’ve decided to follow the workbooks by Leonie Dawson which I mentioned in my previous post Incredible Goal Setting for 2013!.  Her suggestion is to write down your 3 MIT’s (Most Important Tasks) for the day. That way, I have written down everything I need to get done each day (or month) and I can break bigger tasks down into smaller ones.  The same can be applied to client work, for example, I am currently formatting a book which requires me to insert 111 images.  It’s going to take some time, so I have broken it down into smaller chunks, rather than sitting for hours trying to get it all done in one sitting and going cross-eyed.

What I find easier than creating a schedule is working out how I can spend less time doing something.  This morning I decided to create some rules in Outlook to redirect all the newsletters I get into a folder other than the inbox.  I also decided that I would start implementing the 4 D’s for my email – Do it, Delegate it, Delete it or Defer it.  I hope this will improve my overflowing inbox!  As I just had to look up the 4 D’s to remind myself, I thought I would link to the article I found, lots of tips for email – Empty your Inbox: 4 ways to take control of your email

Here is another article from the same site as the previous one about stress – 10 Easy Ways to Get More Done

So from now on, I won’t be scheduling, I will be flying through the day as it happens but trying to make my tasks more fun and take less time.  Any tips on how I can improve on this please leave me a comment.

5 Simple WordPress Plugins

© vectomart – Fotolia.com

All these plugins I have used on either my own websites or on client websites and they are all very simple to implement.  In fact simple is the key word in this blog post.

Spam

I used to use Akismet for my spam, but as a business website I was paying $5 per month for it.  It isn’t a great deal of money, but it wasn’t stopping the spam, it was just redirecting it. I then came across a plugin by the creator of CommentLuv (Andy Bailey) and have been using it ever since, on both mine and client websites.  It’s called Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin and it just creates a little tick box after your comments asking you to confirm you’re not a spammer.

I very rarely have any spam now, there is the odd occasion some gets through but it’s usually in the form of pingbacks rather than comments.

Back-up

I didn’t really think about backing my website up to begin with, I assumed my hosting company would have a back-up. I don’t know why I changed my mind, but I thought it a good idea to have something, just in case the terrible happens and my site vanishes into thin air. As a massive Dropbox fan I was pleased to see they have a plugin which saves your back-up to your Dropbox account. It’s very easy to set-up and now I have daily back-ups of all my websites just in case!  It’s called WordPress Backup to Dropbox and you will need to connect it to your Dropbox account, so make sure you open an account if you don’t already have one.

Images

I have two plugins under images because I found a great one today, which I’ll start with.  I was working on a redesign of a client website today and the new theme I was using had a great front page which used various widgets and images. My client has been posting to her website for around 3 years so there were a lot of images, I think around 1800. The problem was the thumbnails just didn’t line up properly.  After searching for a solution I came across Regenerate Thumbnails, it basically regenerates the thumbnails of all your image attachments.  I clicked regenerate all 1800 or so, and it whizzed through them really quickly.  The front page of the website now looks how it should do, and I’m really pleased I found this plugin, it’s saved me lots of work!

The other plugin I use a lot is the simplest of them all. it’s called Image Widget and you just place it in your sidebar, or other widget area and upload an image to it, or choose something from the media library. It just makes it so simple, you can include a caption, description and link and also change the dimensions if necessary.  I use this a lot, and it’s very simple to use!

Social Media

I have tried out a few plugins to present all my social media networks in a simple way, and finally found one that is simple but effective.  It’s called Simple Social Icons and you can customise it in many different ways, it has all the main social networks to choose from and in my opinion the most important ones, it also has RSS and email options too.

I hope you find my list helpful, I am always looking for new plugins to test on my websites – anything that makes creating websites easier is always a good thing.  If you have any you’d like to recommend, please comment below, and remember to tick that box confirming you’re not a spammer! 

Incredible Goal Setting for 2013!

Having recently moved to France at the beginning of 2012 I wasn’t really in a position to sit down and take stock of how my business performed in 2011, it was only 4 months old.  That’s why looking back I feel as though I worked through 2012 in a bit of a haze, I had lots of ideas, but they were in my head and I very rarely wrote anything down. I had things I wanted to work on, I was jumping from one thing to another, not finishing things I had started. Obviously client work was my priority so my own business plans went down the drain.

Then…

Towards the end of 2012 I started to realise that I couldn’t spend another year doing what I had been doing.  I needed to build my business rather than just letting it move along as it did in 2012, in a bit of a haze.  So during those last few months of 2012 I made a conscious effort to start writing all my ideas and plans down. I even started allocating 1 hour per day to my business, as I mentioned in this blog post here, How You Can Get Those Projects Off The Ground and Finished.

A few months ago I attended a webinar with Alicia Rittenhouse via The Virtual Assistant Forums and she mentioned that she took 1 whole day a week to work on her business, not just new ideas, but things like invoicing and her own admin needs.  I thought this was a great idea and decided that I would put this into practice in 2013. In fact I am writing this blog post on my new business day today!

As well as getting some great advice from Ali I also discovered Leonie Dawson back in November.  I don’t normally ‘get‘ spiritual people, I’m not religious nor spiritual so to find Leonie and actually ‘get‘ some of what she says is brilliant for me. I quickly decided to purchase her 2013 Create Your Incredible Year Workbook and Planner for Life and Business, they are such great value (although very colourful so make sure you have lots of ink in your printer!). Leonie is a very creative person and she designed and created all the workbook and planner herself, it really is lovely.

Over the last few weeks I have been completing my workbooks and planners.  To start with you have to take stock of the previous year, and then go on to make your new goals and dreams for this year.  It’s a great way of getting everything down in writing, and the colours and drawings just make you want to go back to it time and again.  Along with the workbooks there are calendars to go with each, a Life and Business version.  I’ve already completed January (see image on the right) and now have a clear plan for what I need to achieve this month.  

Last night I sat down to complete my Life workbook and calendar and actually found it more difficult to complete.  One of the sections is 100 things you want to do in 2013 – I got to about 40, I think it just shows I need to get my life/work balance back!

I haven’t fully completed either workbook, as I want to go back to each week and reflect on what I have written, change or add new things to it when I can.  Just opening up the calendar for January makes me feel motivated for the coming year.

As well as setting out my goals for the coming year, the workbooks have given me the inspiration for some more blog posts for the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  I’ll be sharing some of my inspiration with you over the coming weeks.

Do let me know if you purchase the workbooks, or if you’ve used them before (this is the third year Leonie has produced them).