So, yea, it’s June! How about that?!? I literally can’t believe that nearly half the year is over already! It’s also that time of the month for me to share with you my latest freebies. This month I have a lovely little list of 30 Ways to Enjoy June to go along with your June Dashboard. Now, I know that June may mark the start of summer in the US, but that isn’t how it is across the globe, so I made sure to incorporate activities and simple tasks for this list that aren’t region specific! Since June is the start of my summer, however, I really wanted to focus on little things that I could do each and everyday to put me in a good mood and help me to enjoy the summer, instead of stressing over plans and tasks and whatever other nonsense usually plagues my mind during this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I always feel a great deal of pressure at the start of summer around making plans and enjoying the warmer weather since summer is stereotypically the time of year that everyone waits for. This printable is an attempt to be more mindful and take summer slowly and with purpose. I sincerely hope you enjoy it!
If you do download these free inserts and wallpapers, please let me know about it by taking a picture and tagging me on Instagram with the hashtag #CharmedGTD so I can see how you are making use of these inserts in your own planners. I love seeing your pictures, and I can’t wait to like them and interact with you on IG! Make sure you’re following me @MissTrenchcoat!!
Truth:Your visual marketing assets are most of the reason people follow you online and purchase your products. Even if you don’t have a product based business, the images you use and share to represent your brand online are crucial to the success of your service based business and even your brick and mortar locations. For me, putting together a strong photography based marketing strategy was much of the reason my business skyrocketed over a year ago, and it remains one of the main reasons why I am still growing at a quick and steady pace.
Like it or not the photography and graphics we use to represent our brand and business online are some of the most important assets we have, and yet many of us are not familiar with the basic principles that go into not only creating great images, but also using those images properly online! Times are changing and what was the norm a few years ago in the online marketing space has changed drastically in terms of using images online.
If you aren’t aware of these changes and/or don’t have a defined marketing strategy that includes using images and graphics to promote your brand online, you are missing a major opportunity. On top of that, if you are currently using images and graphics online to represent your brand without that strategy, chances are you are putting your brand and business at risk! This includes sharing images on branded Instagram, Twitter or other social media accounts! The content you put out into the world for the public to see matters and if you aren’t aware of the trends and essential marketing strategies for promoting growth online, you aren’t just going to lag behind in followers, but you will also confuse your customers and loose out on sales!
You’ve seen it before, on Instagram, on that blog you love, all over Pinterest! Styled Stock Photography is used by brands and businesses everyday to convey a specific customer experience with their online audience. Essentially, Styled Stock Photography is a form of still-life photography that is used by marketers to help brand build visually online. From immersive visuals on a website to perfectly styled product shots on a ecommerce shop, Styled Stock Photography is the way we sell our brands online visually. The web and social media presents a unique challenge to brands and businesses that Styled Stock Photography solves. On one hand, we can use the power of the internet to connect with more people than ever and share our vision for our brands and products in a matter of moments. But on the other hand, the congestion of the internet and the lack of a real human touch online makes it harder for businesses to stand out and develop a personal connection with their potential customers. This is where Styled Stock Photography comes in. It’s trite, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and the images that you use to convey your brand, business and products to the world is an essential part of developing that personal human connection with your audience.
Maybe… You are a blogger who wants to up level their brand to attract more readers, more sponsors and more opportunities online.
Perhaps… You are a creative business owner that needs to create eye catching and drool worthy images of their products for social media or their ecommerce shop.
Or… You are an online marketer that wants to build a cohesive, and worry-free brand online!
Why can’t I just take styled photography from online? I see people doing it all the time!
Great question! The Digital Styling Lightroom is a course that was designed to help bloggers, online marketers and creative business owners create a cohesive brand online, and unfortunately, using other peoples images online won’t just hurt your brand, it can also put you in legal trouble! Years ago it was the norm for people to turn to the internet to find images to use in their blog posts or sales pages, but now copyright laws are cracking down on internet fair use and more and more you hear about bloggers or businesses that are being sued for thousands of dollars for using an image without permission. Whenever you use an image that isn’t your own, you are taking a major risk, and I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want to put my business at risk like that!You may also be familiar that there are now many places online you can go to purchase styled photography. Ever since copyright became a major issue for online brands, photographers and businesses have been popping up all over the place to sell styled stock images to bloggers and business owners. However, the plain fact of the matter is that if you can buy an image from one of these sources, so can anyone else, including your competitors! Remember, the Digital Styling Lightroom is all about building a cohesive band, and you can’t build your own brand and expect it to stand out online if you are using images that anyone can buy sold by photographers that are taking generic styled shots that can appeal to businesses across the board. Your Styled Stock Photography needs to be personalized and branded to YOU!
What you will learn in the Digital Styling Lightroom!
The Digital Styling Lightroom (or DSLR for short) teaches you everything you need to know in order to compose, shoot and edit Styled Stock Photography. The aim of the course is to guide you to create your own Styled Stock Photography Library, a collection of branded images that you can use in a variety of places online to help promote and strengthen your brand. Everyday I need new images for social media posts, blog headers, website banners, product shots and more, and your Styled Stock Photography Library is going to be the most valuable resource you have for your business.
Let me walk you through the course and what you will learn!
The Digital Styling Lightroom is a 5 Module Video Course. After you purchase DSLR, you will be given a QuickStart Guide to help you access the Course Members Area where you will find the 5 Video Modules ready for you to hit PLAY! The Members Area is completely mobile friendly, so you can enjoy the course from any internet enabled device.
Module #1: The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will teach you…
The Equipment I Recommend
How to Use a DSLR Camera
Where and when to use Styled Stock Photography
Module #2: How to Create a Set for a Styled Photoshoot will teach you…
How to get perfect lighting
The essential elements of a set
How to brand your set to your business
Module #3: Formal Photography Composition will teach you…
Classical and modern composition
Using multiple composition types in an image
Where to place your props
Module #4: My Exact Styled Photography Workflow will teach you…
How I set up and shoot my styled images
The 5 types of styled shots I recommend you have in your Styled Stock Photography Library
My thought process for composing great images.
Module #5: How to Edit Your Photos & Create Effective Advertisements for Your Business in Photoshop will teach you…
How to turn your photos into visual graphics for your website or social media
Common photo editing techniques and adjustments
How to create popular, eye catching advertisements for your website or ecommerce shop
In total you receive over 3.5 hours of video training from this course!
Downloads, Course Materials & BONUS CONTENT!
Don’t forget that the Digital Styling Lightroom also comes with a number of downloads and course materials in PDF format to help you make the most of your learning experience! Inside the Members Area you will also find:
The Course Slides
The Course Notes
A Photography Resource Guide
An Exposure Triangle Cheatsheet
My Lighting Guide
A Branded Prop Brainstorm Worksheet
A Styled Shot Guide
A Styled Shot Checklist
A Photoshop Tipsheet
BONUS MODULE #6: Shooting with a Smartphone!
When you purchase the Digital Styling Lightroom today, you will also receive my BONUS Module #6 that is all about how to shoot and edit Styled Stock Photography on a Smartphone!
This was a highly requested module that will give you insight into how I use my smartphone to shoot styled stock photography on the go or when it’s just not convenient for me to get out my dslr camera.
The Digital Styling Lightroom Course is truly a living, breathing course and I am always thinking of ways to improve the course and make it the best it can be! When you purchase the course, future updates are yours automatically inside the Members Area!
Pretty cool, huh?
That’s my commitment to quality and value for you as my student and customer!
Still on the fence? No problem! I’m here to help you decide if this course is right for you, so if you aren’t sure your business will benefit from great styled images, eye catching graphics and perfected product shots, click here to send me an email and we can figure it out together! The best part about my course is that you are never alone- I’m here to help you every step of the way, from deciding to buy to shooting and uploading your glorious images to the web. I’m here to answer your questions and support you through the learning process!
I hear it all the time, “Blogging is dead! You can’t grow a brand with a blog anymore! Starting a blog is a waste of time!” There are a lot of people out there on the internet who believe that blogging as a medium is dying. Sure, blogging isn’t what it used to be, things have changed drastically online in the last three to five years with the rise of certain social platforms, but that doesn’t mean that blogging is dead or even in decline. With the passage of time, things change, there are a lot of new cool kids on the internet block who are jockeying for position and page views, but to say blogging is dead underlines a fatal misunderstanding of the nature of online marketing and current digital content trends. If you’ve been worried that blogging is dead, rest assured, I have 7 signs (and statistics) that prove that blogging is NOT dead, and in fact underscores the power of great digital content creation.
1. Over 12 Billion Searches are conducted each month
That’s 12 billion opportunities to attract a reader to your blog by creating engaging, thoughtful and useful blog content. Okay, so not all 12 Billion of these searches are going to pertain to your blog, however, the popularity of search via google and other engines is a sign that the time and effort you spend blogging can pay off if you are creating the right content! Remember, unless you are already a famous or influential person, the way your blog is discovered online is through search. This is why topics like SEO (search engine optimization) are so important for bloggers to understand. Although the concept of SEO or effecting the visibility of your blog in search may seem like a complicated and high tech endeavor, the truth is, most principles of good SEO are common sense. If you are interested in learning more about good SEO habits and principles, click this link to read more!
2. Blogging gives brands a 13x higher ROI
ROI meaning return on investment. This means that the time and effort you spend blogging can pay off big time for your brand in potential viewers, sponsorships, sales and general influence. The fact that blogging is so effective is a testament to the fact that the practice is alive and kicking! From a digital marketing standpoint, content creation via a blog is the best form of advertising so long as you practice good principles of SEO (as explained above) and create compelling content. There are billions of people online right now searching for content, answers and entertainment, and if you can attract the right eyes to your site with great content, the pay off is massive!
3. 80% of blog traffic comes from new viewers
Although this number is just an average, I can personally attest that even in my own statistics, I see that a majority of my page views come from people who are new to my site. Each of these new, one-time only hits is an individual that I have an opportunity to turn from a one hit wonder, to a regular loyal reader. With such a high average for one-time visitors there are things blogs and bloggers are doing right to get the eyes on their posts, but still have work to do to keep those eyes coming back for more. With that amount of potential influence and traffic, I am fully aware that I have many opportunities to expand my blog, and if 80% is an average number, it’s a big sign that blogging still has a long life ahead of it.
4. Blog posts with 1,500 words or greater receive 68% more Tweets and 22% more Facebook Likes
Now, this is probably my favorite stat because not only does it illustrate that blogging is not dead, but it also explains why some people may believe blogging is dead, when it really isn’t. The trend with blogging really seems to be that longer blog posts do better. Why? Because longer blog posts provide a greater amount of content to attract readers via SEO; more words mean more chances of your post popping up in search results! Longer posts are also more engaging because they theoretically go deeper in content and information, which means the quality of the post is better and a reader that finds quality content is more likely to share it! Finally, these longer form blog posts are trending because they give blogs the ability to do what they do best- showcase great writing! One of the major reasons some people believe blogging is dead is because social media platforms have changed the game for how we share content online. Years ago, a blog that posted a daily OOTD (outfit of the day) picture with a short description may have been heavily trafficked, but now, it’s easier to create (and view) that type of content via Instagram. So, the type of content that is working for blogs specifically tend to be longer form posts with a lot of writing and a lot of illustrative images on top of that as well! Blogging isn’t dead, but the definition of what makes a good blog post is certainly changing!
5. 61% of US online consumers have made a purchase based on a recommendation found in a blog
If this stat doesn’t seem like it pertains to the topic of this post, you aren’t paying enough attention! The life or death of blogging is always going to center around the successfulness of blogs to do one single thing- help readers! The more readers, or customers in this example, that go looking for answers and finding them on in a blog post, the more reliable blogs become. If most people who buy things online turn to trusted bloggers to give them a recommendation and then take that recommendation and turn around to spend their money, this co-dependent relationship between consumers and blogs illustrates how important blogs remain to our economy. When people like things enough to spend their money on them, you know you have something good, and when people go to blogs to find answers for what they should be spending their money on, blogs become a very powerful living force!
6. 21 to 35 year olds make up 53% of the total blogging population
Blogging is debatably a younger persons game. With over half of bloggers ranging from 21-35, we aren’t talking about an age group that is going away any time soon, but again, this statistic is a sign that may explain why many believe blogging is dead, when it really isn’t. If most bloggers are under 35 and blogging has been around for a solid decade at this point, it’s clear that in time, many bloggers are getting out of the game and closing up shop. Not all, but many. This high turnover may lead some to believe that the medium is dying, when in fact the change is all just part of the churn (churn is a business term that refers to the average change in an industry, people come and people go, it’s all part of the churn). All industries experience some sort of churn, however, its easy to get distracted by one side of the churn, either the negative or positive results, and forget that two sides exist together to come to an overall result. If we are focused on the number of blogs that are dying and ignore the number of new blogs that are joining the churn, we end up seeing only the decline!
7. Blogging is still the #1 Digital Marketing Strategy
From business’ big to small, blogging is still the #1 way online marketers create digital content. Granted, social media is hot on it’s tail, and for good reason, however, blogging is a form of content creation that works for businesses which means it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Now, if you are a blogger or want to start a blog but you don’t have a business, you may think that this and many other of the statistics I have shared in this post are not relevant to you, however, you don’t have to be a business to benefit from the strategies and information businesses use to advance their brand online. The topic of this blog post is the 7 Signs that Blogging is Not Dead, and if you came to read this article, you most likely are concerned that your time and effort spent on blogging may not pay off in the long run for you, whatever your blogging goals and aspirations may be. The fact remains, however, that if businesses are still spending their time and money blogging, it’s for good reason and you shouldn’t worry about the future solvency of blogging as a medium. It’s going to be here for a while, you can bet on it!
What do you think? Is blogging dead or has it just reinvented itself? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments, so make sure to let me know your experience with blogs as either a reader or writer of blog content!
If you’re reading the title of this post and thinking to yourself, “a paper planner, automated? I don’t think so!” just hang in there for a minute! I get it, when we think automation, we think machines, but at the root of the word automatic is the concept of something happening on its own without conscious thought or effort. I don’t know about you but I am always intrigued by the idea of not having to think about things in order for them to happen, so creating an automated system for my planning means, yes, I need to input data and do the work, but it means not having to put effort into planning. It’s about knowing what I am going to do or how I will be spending my time without having to exert the time and effort of deciding it for myself. The process of automating your planner is akin to laying out your clothing the night before or meal planning for the week. You still need to do things but by systematizing the process you save yourself time and brain power. The human brain really only has a finite amount of processing power for the day and we humans tend to use much of it up on silly little choices and thoughts. Spending 30 minutes agonizing over what to wear means you have less patience at 3pm to deal with a difficult email or customer. Staring aimlessly into the fridge for 10 minutes only increases the chance that you will make the poor decision to swing by the drive thru on your way to work. Time and time again, we prove to ourselves that when we have to make too many choices, we end up making poor choices, when we spend too much time thinking, we loose the ability to focus. So, back to the whole automating your planner concept- not such a crazy concept now, eh? Okay, well, if you are curious to know how I use my planner to automate my life, get ready to take some notes!
Bulk process routine tasks
The tasks we do on a regular frequency should always be handled together to automate our lives. For example, meal planning. Why decide your meals one day at a time when you can use your planner to map out all your meals for a week or more! This saves you time, because you can focus on one topic in a sitting which helps conserve brain power, you can create a single grocery list with everything you need to make your meals, and then when it comes time to prepare your meals you know exactly what you have to make, and again, save on processing power. I tend to meal plan in my planner by keeping a sticker with all my dinner options laid out for the week. Because I like to choose what I’m eating on a daily basis, I keep my options laid out in my planner and check them off as I make them. Although this may not be the most ideal meal planning scenario, I find it’s easier for me to pick from the 7 dinner options in my planner when I have them outlined!
Schedule the essentials
Anything that must be done should always be scheduled, specifically essential life activities like doctors appointments and scheduled maintenance, but you can also use this life hack to apply to any activity in your life from personal projects to office work. When we schedule time to do something, we take the pressure off deciding what to do and when, and we have a ready made period of time available that prevents us from using the excuse of having no time (probably the worlds most overused excuse!). I schedule events and tasks in my planner by writing them on a functional sticker so the event stands out to me. This way, I can literally see how I will be spending my day!
Utilize a next action list
When we don’t have to think about what we have to do “next” we save both our time and our mental energy. That’s why I keep my project plans as part of my daily planner so that I can see all the next actions I need to accomplish in order to complete a project or goal. I transfer my next actions from their project planning pages to my master monthly task list. Some items get scheduled as explained above, but others stay on the list and are moved to my daily to do list based on my workload. That way, when I am planning my days or week, I can look at the list and see what’s next, and if I have extra time in a day, all I need to do is check the list and work on the next item I see!
Theme your days
One of the sneakiest wasters of time in our days is when we switch our focus from topic to topic. Topic switching forces us to stop the flow of ideas and thoughts, refocus to a new topic and then wait for the ideas and thoughts to start flowing again. Because this can be such a waste of time and mental energy, I find that I am most productive and mentally engaged in my work when I deliberately stay on a single topic of focus by theme-ing my work for a day. So, for example, I will decide before the week begins what topic will hold my focus for that day and I will add items to my to do list for that day that pertain to that topic. So I will do all my blog posts on one day, film all my videos one day, do all editing one day, and schedule my customer calls for one day. This keeps my week automated and my mind sharp because I am truly able to sustain my focus.
Keep your routine consistent
Consider your daily routines your automated systems for living. Keeping your daily routines consistent in terms of when you wake up, how much time you spend working or performing certain tasks and the order in which you take care of your day to day minutiae should stay consistent so that your brain is working on auto pilot. If you are’t sure what your daily routine is, keep an eye on it for a week or so and then write it out formally in your planner so you stick to it. If you need to, optimize the routine so that you fit important tasks into your day seamlessly and it will help you plan less because you have automated more!
Do you like this concept of automating your life? If this is something you strive for with your own planning or want to learn more about, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to share more on the subject!
As a blogger and online business owner, I rely on digital photography for much of my online presence. From adding an image to a blog post to sharing a post on Instagram, images and photography are a key way I promote my brand online, so I rely on a whole virtual toolbox of photo editing applications on my smartphone to ensure I can optimize any image I need in a snap and on the go if need be! Here is
For general photo editing: Afterlight
Afterlight is the go to app in my toolbox that I use for general editing like adjusting the brightness, contrast and saturation of the image. I have used many different apps to adjust these basic features, but Afterlight produces the best results by far! I also love the temperature feature inside the app that gives you the ability to remove those casts of colored light on your image that result when you aren’t shooting in full natural light! Definitely worth the download and an all purpose photo saver!
For adding and editing details: FaceTune
FaceTune is a recent addition to my iPhone photo editing toolbox that I like to use to edit the details of my images. Specifically I like to use the whiten, details, patch and tone features of the app to perfect my images. Whiten will help me change any weird color cast to a bright white color, details helps accentuate small details of the image, patch is great to cover up imperfections in a photo and tone helps me change or saturate color for an item in the image. Although this app was clearly created for selfies, it works wonders on my styled photos!
For a DSLR look: BigLens
I’ve been using BigLens for years to add a faux blur to images in order to give them that DSLR shallow depth of field look. This isn’t an app that works for all images, but for those where the subject and background have significant separation but you want your background to blur away to keep the focus on the subject, it works perfectly!
For adding text: Over
Over is a serious oldie but a goodie for adding text to any image. Although I have a few apps that can add text to images, Over is very easy to use and has a lot of simple text features that go a long way to give you precise control over the result of an image!
For making collages: PicFrame
PicFrame is another app I’ve had in my toolbox for a while and this one pretty much serves one specific purpose. PicFrame helps you create collages out of your photos which is very handy for product shots, Instagram and blog posts! Even though I also use Photoshop to edit my blog and shop images, I tend to use PicFrame to create collages so I don’t have to bother with Photoshop. It’s a very easy and straightforward app to use!
For fun promo style graphics: Rhonna Designs
Rhonna Designs is a very fun app that is great for creating fun, promotional style images. It includes a feature for adding text which I do like to use, but it also has a lot of fun “stamps” and effects built into the app to help you create eye catching graphics. Usually, these sorts of images will be shared on Instagram or Facebook because they are more of a one-time use graphic as opposed to a staple styled shot or product graphic that I would want to reuse!
For adding layers to an image: Union
Finally, we have Union, a surprisingly powerful app that I tend to use for one single purpose; overlaying screen shots on gadgets! As the name suggests, Union is a layers based photo editor that has some very powerful masking features that give you the ability to blend different images into one, however, these powerful features tend to be lost on me as I just like to use this app to merge a lay flat image of a gadget with a screen shot so that it appears as though the gadgets screen is bright and vivid in the original image.
7 Simple Ways to Lower Stress While Increasing Productivity
As a type A control freak, living with stress is a daily struggle! In my quest for productivity, I am always looking for new ways to to remove stress and stressors from my day so I can focus on the events and tasks that will bring me more happiness and gratification. The more I learn about stress and productivity, however, the more I find that the best solutions are often the simplest ones that are essentially common knowledge at this point. But, as we all know, and I can personally attest, common knowledge isn’t always common practice. Yep, I may know everything I need to know about control my stress and increasing my productivity but I don’t always execute. Learning to manage your stress is a life-long commitment. It’s not something you get the answer to and voila, your problems are solved. We actually have to spend time each day developing the positive habits and building the routines that will help us manage stress effectively. Of course, stress and productivity seem to go hand in hand. Whenever I am feeling stressed out, I also tend to lack drive to be productive. Likewise, when I am feeling very productive, I find that I’m not aware of stress presently affecting me, or at least, I don’t feel the pressure of bad stress! So, today I want to share with you 7 simple ways to lower stress while increasing productivity, because at the end of the day, we all want to feel good about our day, what we have achieved and know we put in our best effort!
Sleep: Sleep is the key to everything in life isn’t it? The more time we spend in bed, the less stressed we are (unless, of course, we are spending time in bed to procrastinate on our work which is never good) and the more productive we end up becoming. Try building the positive habit of going to bed earlier at night and waking up earlier in the morning after a full nights rest. The extra time in the morning will give you time for all your work and daily activities and after an action packed day you can turn in early and start the cycle again the next day!
Drink Water: Lack of hydration can be a major stressor in our bodies. It’s common knowledge that we are supposed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, but this doesn’t work for every body. In order to determine how much liquid your body needs, take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half and that is the number of ounces of liquid your body needs to remain properly hydrated. Make sure to drink a majority of this liquid in water during breaks between meals throughout the day so your body can clean itself out properly, which will result in increased energy and productivity for you!
Stretch: We all know that we should be exercising but most of us dread working out. If you have a hard time getting into the swing of exercise, start by just building the habit of stretching several times a day. Stretching in the morning and during breaks in your workday will help you alleviate tension in your muscles, reducing your stress and increasing energy! It may not be as powerful as a full workout, but it’s a good place to start and something we all need to do!
Listen to Music: The benefits of music for our stress levels and productivity are undeniable and in fact, earlier this week I even shared my latest Productivity Playlist. Take some time to check out the post and use one of my suggested soundtracks to help you concentrate on your work today!
Have a Healthy Snack: Snacking is a very productive habit to get into. After all, when we are stressed, many of us turn to food to relieve our tension, but if we choose healthy snacks like fruits and veggies, cheese or nuts, we can lower our stress while also providing energy to sustain us for the rest of our work day!
Take Mindful Breaths:Breathing is a very simple but powerful activity that can help us to simultaneously lower our stress and increase our productivity. Yes, I get it, we breath automatically everyday, so how is this helping? Well, if you take a moment to become aware of your breathing, especially in times of anxiety or stress, you have the power to control yourself. You can start practicing mindful breathing very quickly right now by sitting upright and still or laying down. Then close your eyes and inhale for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 7 seconds. If you have a hard time doing the full seven second round, start with 4 or 5 seconds and work your way up to 7. Once you can complete a few rounds of this mindful breathing, you will start to feel much calmer because of the rush of oxygen to your body, and then with your stress levels subdued you will be able to make progress on difficult tasks in your day! Make sure to practice this breathing regularly, whenever you feel the stress creep back up on you.
Practice Gratitude:Nothing has the ability to instantly change my mental state like gratitude. When I am just feeling stressed, down or in a sour mood, it’s so important to stop and acknowledge all the wonderful things in my life. Even by listing a simple 3 to 5 things I’m grateful for has the ability to turn my negative stress into positive and productive energy.
I hope these simple, everyday tips help remind you that controlling your stress and productivity are completely within your control. Stress is something we all live with, it will never go away, but we can learn to manage it so that we feel it’s pressure less and less in our lives and are able to achieve all our dreams and goals despite its ever looming presence. Let me know in the comments which of these strategies works best for you, or which strategy you need to keep in mind more often!
How to achieve a Zen-Like Focus while you Work or Relax! Productivity Playlist May 2016
It’s no secret, I love putting together my monthly Productivity Playlists. Music is one of the things in life that I’m pretty passionate about. I find that it can help me solve a number of problems from a lack of inspiration to a need for an energy boost, but today I want to talk about some soundtracks I personally use to help me focus while I’m working and then help me relax at the end of the day. Focus is certainly something that is hard for most of us to achieve. I know that productivity is an inconsistent stream that ebbs and flows, but sometimes we need to get ourselves in the zone and achieve a zen-like focus in order to get important things done. For me there are some tasks that always feel like work and in order to act, I turn to music.
I know previously on my blog, I have discussed an app I liked called Focus @ Will, but did you know that other than their paid subscription service app, they also have a YouTube channel where they share free mixes of their music, perfect for helping you with your concentration and focus. Most of their tracks are about an hour long, which is the perfect amount of time to get yourself into the zone and accomplish a solid amount of work, even on a difficult project. I really like a few of their soundtracks and will leave my favorite two below!
These soundtracks will help you focus at work!
Now, once work is over and its time for relax for the evening, I have also been turning to a few more soundtracks I’ve found on YouTube to help me achieve a zen calm in the evenings after dinner. If you are someone, like me, who has a hard time falling asleep because of overstimulation in the evening with our gadgets and media, I highly suggest turning on one of these playlists about an hour before you go to sleep and let yourself fall as sleep naturally to the music. I’ve been trying lately to get into the habit of performing a skin care regimen a night, and I like to turn this music on and listen while I wear a sheet mask or apply my evening moisturizers after a bath. I’ll even add to the ambience by turning on my Dotera diffuser with my favorite serenity oil laced with lavender to help me fall asleep naturally. Not only do I fall asleep on time, but I find that my nights are more restful when I listen to these tracks before bed while I perform my evening rituals.
These tracks will send you naturally to sleep in no time!
I hope you have enjoyed this special edition of my productivity playlist. I am hoping to share more than just Spotify playlists with you in the future to give this feature a bit of variety, so please let me know if you liked this post and what sorts of productivity playlist topics you would like me to cover in the future! Happy listening!
The 6 Business Assets that are More Important than Your Business Plan
One of the most popular questions I get asked whenever I talk about online business building is always about business plans. For one reason or another, the concept of a business plan, what it is, why it’s necessary and how to create your own, always seems to be a primary concern to beginner business owners and/or those who are curious about online business and thinking about starting their own. When you are first getting started creating a business, you have dozens if not hundreds of tasks on your plate all at the same time. If you are lucky, you may have help with your workload, but that still means you have many priorities to balance in order to get your business off the ground. Your business plan is just a document that explains what you are trying to do with our business, which, often times when we are getting started, is a hard concept to define! Until you truly have your business up and running, doesn’t help you with anything, nor does it legitimize your hard work and effort. For that reason, I think there are way more important items and business assets to tackle before you ever even worry about your business plan. Today, I want to talk about six such items that I think you should have in order as a small business owner before you even worry about writing a business plan!
If you are operating a business of any kind, online or off, having a website is a must. When people hear about your business, products or services, the first thing they are going to do is Google you to find out more about you and unless you have throw a stake in the ground with your own website and claimed your distinct area of the internet, you are loosing a very powerful opportunity to engage with potential customers and clients. People will search for you online and make many instant decisions over whether or not they want to purchase from or work with your business based on information they find or do not find online. For this reason, putting the necessary time and effort into your website to ensure it provides an accurate and intriguing face to your business is a must!
Another term that I often find thrown around along with business plan is business model. Your business model is the way in which you plan to make money with your business. Remember, until you earn money from your effort, you don’t actually have a business, just a hobby! Your business model is a defined strategy for how money will flow into your business. Until you have your business model worked out and begin earning a steady income from it, there is no reason to even think about a business plan! Until you truly begin earning income from your business, so many factors are up in the air. Spend your time thinking about ways you can earn income and execute on those actions before you worry about your business plan.
Your products and/or services are definitely the most important part of your business! Like I mentioned earlier, if your business isn’t earning revenue, it’s not a business, so making sure you are creating and offering the right products and services is crucial. Your products and services go hand in hand with your business model. Working to develop not only great products that people are eager for, but also defining the right methods for distribution and production (which are essential elements of your business model) will help you to maximize your revenue and grow your business.
Your business runs on systems. They are the actions or sets of actions you take on a regular basis to perform your business tasks. As a business owner you could have systems for processing payments, systems for paying bills, systems for managing tasks and creating products. Or systems for working with clients! There are a variety of systems that business owners use to manage their day to day workload and keep their business running, and the more deliberate and thought out you can make these systems, the easier your work will be. The most important system that you will want to spend a good deal of time and thought on is your customer service system- those actions you will take to manage customer service inquiries and interact with or troubleshoot issues for your customers and potential customers! Because the success of these systems has a direct impact on your business revenue and growth, this is the first system you should define once you begin making money from your products and services. It will go a long way to helping you develop a customer-centric culture within your organization, and will be your best form of PR!
Perhaps you don’t think of your daily work schedule as an asset for your business, but the truth of the matter is that your time is your ultimate business asset! As a business owner who works solo or even has a team of people working with them, the way you choose to spend your time working on your business is critical to its success. You should first strive to define all the necessary work for your business and then understand which actives and tasks are the highest use of your time and executive function. You will want to do all you can to maximize the time you spend performing duties that actually earn your business revenue and streamline or delegate administrative items that keep the business afloat but don’t earn. If you were to place an hourly rate on your time and an hourly rate on the different activities that need to be accomplished for your business, you want to do higher value work more often!
The online marketplace is saturated with content, there is no doubt about that, but there is a clear trend illustrating that visual content and visual platforms are where businesses get the most bang for their buck! If you have minimal time to produce content, even promotional or marketing content, spend your time wisely and focus on visual mediums and platforms. Places like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube command the most traffic and attention online, so learning how to optimize your business for these types of platforms will give you a competitive edge. To optimize your business visually, you need to get very clear on your visual branding and start using graphics and styled stock photography to tell your brand story. Sharing visuals of your products or styled images that define your services, help your potential customers connect and engage with your business.
Don’t let the idea of needing a business plan hold you back from moving your business forward, especially in infancy stages. You have more important work to do for getting your business off the ground and writing a business plan before you have clear proof of income and concept for your business is a waste of time. With time your most precious commodity, everything you choose to spend it on should be moving your business forward or growing your revenue! So, know I want to hear from you! When starting your business, what did you consider to be the most important activities you spent your time on? If you are thinking about starting a business, what’s currently holding you back or causing you pause? Let me know in the comments below!
5 Simple Planner Tips that Helped me Gain Control of My Schedule
It’s no secret that I have been struggling this year to get myself onto a regular work schedule. As someone who works for themselves and is also a naturally lazy person, I fell into the bad habit of procrastinating on my work and cutting corners too often this year. It was seriously causing me a lot of stress and anxiety because I had set myself deadlines for important tasks but waiting until the last minute to work on a large project wasn’t going to cut it. My work ethic was lacking and I needed to take control of my schedule. So, I started getting serious about my planning, specifically about setting myself a schedule and now after a few months of work trying to get these good habits to stick, I think I’ve finally fallen into a good work pattern! So, I wanted to share with you some of the key tips I picked up for helping me gain control of my schedule. If you are someone who works for themselves or you are someone who finds that they are naturally a procrastinator, hopefully these tips will help you start implementing better habits into your life so you are executing more and achieving your goals.
Tip #1: Define your responsibilities
The first thing I did that was very helpful to me when I was getting my schedule ironed out, was write out a list of all the work and responsibilities I had to manage. If I needed to find a way to balance my schedule, it was important that I understand how I needed to spend my time. Now, when I first made this list, I found that there were items that I listed that I ultimately decided to remove. Editing your schedule and responsibilities is a crucial part of ensuring that you have time for everything that’s important. If a certain activity isn’t really a priority or if there are things you can take off your plate and delegate to someone else, you are making room in your schedule to complete the priorities!
Tip #2: Write every appointment and task down
This one may seem like common knowledge, but we all know that common knowledge is not always common practice. For me, I was really bad about writing down every task or appointment I had and therefore, I ended up missing things or remembering at the last minute without giving myself necessary prep time. It was hard to train myself to write down everything, but I just kept seeing the pattern I was creating working out which was very motivating. When I wrote things down, I remembered them; when I didn’t, I forgot and became anxious. I wanted to keep myself from feeling that anxiety as much as possible, so I kept writing things down and not relying on my poor memory to serve me.
Tip #3: Utilize block scheduling
Block scheduling has been another game changer for me in my daily work routine. This has been something that has taken me at least 8 months to successfully implement. Basically, each day of the week is assigned a category of work. So Mondays are for blog posts, Tuesdays for filming, Wednesdays for editing, etc. That way, I don’t have to really plan my week from scratch, I have a guide to help me assign tasks and activities befitting with the day’s category. This block scheduling also helps me to bulk my work, which was a major issue for me for the last year. Thanks to the block scheduling, I actually find that I am able to take weekends off more often, which is a great treat for me and proof that I’m now more productive during the week if I can take the weekend off!
Tip #4: Don’t plan too far in advance
Although my block scheduling gives me a sense of what I will be working on for any given day, another tip I use to keep myself on schedule is that I don’t make any exact daily plans too far in advance with the exception of scheduled appointments. Scheduling myself one day at a time gives me the ability to be very flexible with my tasks and prevents me from planning out actions that may not end up coming to fruition. For example, if I were to plan my full week and early on in the week something derails my work, that will end up throwing off all my work for the rest of the week and cause me to loose productive momentum. But if I leave the days possibilities open until it’s time to plan them, I find that I am more open to possibility and it helps to stay motivated.
Tip #5: Check your planner every morning
This is another one of those common knowledge but not common practice tips that has really helped me stay accountable. Obviously, we write down all our tasks and scheduled appointments so that when the day comes we read our plans and then execute on them, but for me, I was in the bad habit of often forgetting to check my planner because I *thought* I remembered everything I had to do. Let’s be honest, this is pure laziness run amuck! It takes a minute to check your planner and prevent embarrassing hiccups in your schedule, so get into the habit of checking yours and if you still keep forgetting, set an alarm on your phone to remind you!
So, what do you think about these tips? I know for me, these seem very simple, but the practice of implementing them has been the struggle. I finally just feel like I’ve reached a point of control over my schedule so that I’m achieving at a high level without having to constantly sprint! If you have any other suggestions or tips for helping to get control of your schedule, please leave them in the comments or feel free to tweet me @MissTrenchcoat and I’ll share your tips with my followers. I know we all appreciate sharing the knowledge because when it comes to time management, the struggle is real!!