The Anatomy of a Style Guide + Bonus Download

Ever since I started this blog four months ago, I have been playing around with themes and trying to establish its visual branding guidelines (I realize I will have to purchase a premium theme and/or hire a designer eventually, but for now, I enjoy playing with the available resources). While I have been pretty sure about the style of content this blog will carry, I have been quite fickle with the visual aspect. So, every time I changed the theme, I wanted to update the color scheme of all images on the blog and social media. I have experimented with so many colors pallets (all in the same color family though) and fonts, it was difficult to keep track. And then it hit me! Why wasn’t I using the #1 tool I have used throughout my professional life? I needed to create a style guide–or, a prescribed set of guidelines that help keep your brand’s message and messaging consistent.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

Do You Need a Style Guide For Your Blog?

If you are anything like me, you have played around with your blog appearance several times. Experimenting with font styles, colors, images…an overall theme…trying to create a unique style for your unique brand. It may take you several iterations to come up with a style that truly reflects your brand. While the visual aspect of the blog gets a lot of attention from your readers and you, it’s equally important to realize your content style. Your content style adds as much value as the visual style to your brand quotient.

In addition, as you grow and bring in more hands on the deck, you need to ensure that the changes in the backend are not visible on the frontend. Your message and tone should be consistent across your blog. Your reader must not be able to tell the difference between the posts that you write yourself and the posts that your content writer writes (unless you want your readers to know!). Your style guide will be the one-stop reference material you and your team can consult.

A well-researched style guide:

  • Allows uniformity: By establishing branding guidelines, your style guide allows uniformity across all your products—think eBooks, eCourses, printables, emails, and blog posts following the same style that is consistent with your brand.
  • Provides reference: Consider your brand’s style guide as a legacy handbook. Any person who needs to know about your branding guidelines can consult the style guide.
  • Saves time: Imagine how much time you would waste if you or your team did not have the style guide to consult. A new team member may need to sit around waiting for a more experienced person to guide frequently.

Which Style Guide Is Right For Me?

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It is a common practice in the publishing industry to create one’s own style guide based on the unique requirements of your brand. While the visual aspect is often built from the scratch, most organizations adapt their content style to existing industry-standard style guides.

Two common style guides you can follow or borrow from are the *Chicago Manual of Style and the *Yahoo Style Guide. I have used both of these style guides in my professional life, and base most of my current writing on these as well. Both resources are beneficial for those using informal language, i.e. most bloggers. For example, if you have a parenting blog, your content should be easy to understand, use the active voice, and provide actionable tasks or steps. It should be informative but presented as quick tips (parents don’t have time to sit through a 3000-words paragraph format post). It should have a reassuring tone and highly trusted voice.

Another popular resource for establishing writing style is the *AP Stylebook. This resource is apt for serious writing. For example, if you have a website on mental illnesses, then your writing will be very different from a more casual beauty blog. The AP Stylebook will be more apt for a blog on mental illnesses.

Download a free, fully customizable style guide for your blog NOW!

Common Sections of a Style Guide

Writing Style: This section provides guidance on the expected writing style and formatting for your content.

  • General
  • Formatting
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Industry Language and Jargon
  • Credits and References

Visual Style: This section provides guidance on the expected visual style and formatting for your content.

  • Logo: Where does your logo appear? What is the size of your logo?
  • Color and Fonts: What fonts do you use for your text and headers?
  • Images
  • Placement and alignment
  • Templates: Add the image template for each social media platform you use.

At face value, this may look like a lot of unnecessary work. But you should work with the mindset of a business owner. Your aim should be to optimize your processes such that you or any new member that works on your blog knows exactly what to do. Maintaining a style guide is one such resource that helps maintain business continuity. A style guide can be as concise or as detailed as you like. It is not a fossil document; remember to modify it as your brand evolves.

To get you started, I have created a fully customizable style guide template for you. You can work with this template as is, or add further sections to your own liking. For example, if you start writing eBooks or eCourses, you can create a separate section for the content and visual guidelines to follow. Much of this guide will overlap with your existing style guide.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

As a new blogger/online business owner, you need to be visible. People should see you. The name of your blog/product/service should start to register. Your brand should intrigue your readers. And you, in turn, need to find your niche audience and gain traffic. One way of ensuring this is to promote your blog/business on social media platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook groups.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post that I am no longer participating in the “all-or-nothing” Facebook promotion threads. To participate in such threads, one needs to set aside a good amount of time. But as someone who not only has a young kid as well as a thriving freelance business, I cannot afford to set aside that much time. But more importantly, I spoke about how these threads often do not comprise of my target audience.

So what have I been doing to promote my blog posts? Well, I am still using social media to get the word around. I am also focusing on Pinterest and Facebook because that’s where the majority of my traffic comes from. So let’s talk Facebook!

I share a love-hate relationship with this platform that has over one billion active users. While I am very nervous about the privacy of my personal page, it would be foolish of me to ignore the reach of Facebook for my business.

Facebook groups help:

  • Connect and collaborate with other bloggers
  • Gain and provide support
  • Promote content (though some groups do not allow any kind of promotion)

So, I continue to promote my work on select few Facebook groups that are well-moderated and have helpful and thriving communities.

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

Facebook Group Promp Social 1

  1. Boost Your Blog: Hosted by Helene Sula, this is one of my favorite Facebook groups. The group allows promotion of your blog post any day of the week but disallows “like-for-like” type of threads (YES!). You are also expected to participate in the discussions and add value in return. Blog Your Blog has more than 25K members, so there’s a fair chance your target audience is hanging there J
  2. Blogging Newbs: Hosted by McKinzie Bean, this group is a thriving community of over 16K members who support each other by sharing knowledge. The group allows promotional posts on Tuesdays (direct promo) and Thursdays (via social media).
  3. Bloggers Supporting Bloggers: This group, hosted by Allie Barke, has over 23K members who have a chance to promote their business every day of the week. The themes or source of promotion may vary depending on the day, but its promotion nonetheless.
  4. Secret Blogger’s + Bosses Society: If you haven’t watched the very useful free webinars hosted by Kate McKibbin, you are missing out. But I digress! This was one of the first groups I joined on Facebook and have found the discussions immensely helpful. Kate hosts promotion threads on Saturdays and Sundays.
  5. Women Winning Online: I consider Jennifer Snyder one of my unofficial mentors 😛 But that’s absolutely not the reason her group finds a mention in this list. I have found Women Winning Online to be an extremely close-knit and supportive group of over 4.5K members. The group is alive but not noisy. Jennifer hosts promotion threads on Fridays but the threads during the rest of the week are worth participating in too.

Bonus Group

Pinterest Traders: I am sure you all must have been inundated with articles about the importance of Pinterest in growing your business. That’s where Pinterest Traders comes into the picture. Compared to the aforementioned groups, Pinterest Traders is a small group of 1500+ members. It is open to people who have at least 120 high-quality pins on a single board comprising their own work. I am not a member of this group because I don’t have those many self-promo pins yet but I have kept the group on my radar for when I do hit that number. But I don’t want you to miss out! What I like about this group is their unique promotion strategy, which requires some work from you. In the process, it makes you accountable and comfortable with the pinning process. Join the group only if you can keep your end of the deal. This group is unlike most other FB groups. So, please see the group details for more information and before requesting to join.

Conclusion (and a confession)

So, there you have it: my top 5 Facebook groups for promotion. That said, I hope you also understand that these groups are extremely useful not just for promotion, but also for networking, building visibility, and self-education.

I am not as active on Facebook as I would love to because of certain personal circumstances but I try to spend as much time as I can to participate in the groups that I mentioned above. I would love for you to join these groups, if you haven’t already, and connect with me if you are already a part of the group. I go by the name ‘Mala Magotra’.

See you around.

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5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm

How often have you sat at your desk after putting your children to sleep or finishing your day job, and suddenly did not know where to start? As a new blogger, you feel overwhelmed even before you start working on your new blog post. You are not sure whether you should finalize the post first, or separate your draft from your editing process. You sit at your desk and stare at your computer. Finally, you give up and call it a day. I wrote about my frustrations as a new blogger. But, I wasn’t going to let that keep me down for too long. I needed to address those issues and tackle them head-on.

Here’s what I realized: this feeling of overwhelm is natural when you are being pulled in five different directions. Perhaps you have young kids and they need your attention. Perhaps you have a large family and you want to cook three square meals for them every day. Perhaps you work full-time and have a small home-based business on the side. Which way do you go first?

I knew there are things I CAN do to eliminate the overwhelm from my busy mom life. I decided to apply those same principles and guidelines to my blogging life and replicate the results.

5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm 

1. Make Prioritization your Best Friend

The key to productivity is prioritization. Writing a simple To-Do list in no particular order does NOT count. It is essential to identify and mark the order of priority. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to determine my priorities but you may have your own system. The important thing is to have a system.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique

Consider using the Pomodoro technique. For those of you who do not know, Pomodoro is a productivity technique of working for 25 minutes on a single task and then taking a 5-minute break. Each 25-minute window is called a Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros (i.e. around the 2-hour mark), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This refreshes your brain and helps you maintain focus for longer durations. The technique by itself is more detailed, and I will write a separate post on it.

3. Simplify and Automate the Systems/Processes

As you gain experience in the blogging field, you will start to see patterns emerging in the way you work, such as tasks that can be grouped together and executed together at a later time. Based on your findings, simplify the processes. For example, I once read a lifestyle blogger who admitted they pass their images through three different editing apps on their phones and then finally through Picmonkey. I think that’s too much. Unless you are a professional photographer, I don’t see why you want to edit your photos so extensively. But to each his own. What is important is that for your unique situation, identify the time suckers in your routines and eliminate those. Additionally, automate what you can. You are not just a blogger; you have other roles to fulfill too. Save some time by automating tasks. As a new blogger, it is not practical to purchase all the essential automation tools at one go. But most of these tools have a free trial you can use for 15-30 days or longer with limited features. Try them out and see what works for you. For example, I have been using the free version of Tailwind for a month now and I have hit my 100 auto-scheduled pins limit. As I go about upping my social media game, I will purchase a subscription from Tailwind. There are other tools I am interested in too, but those will have to wait for now.

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4. Take Time for Self-care

All work and no play make you a dull person. Remember to take some time off every now and then. When you hustle hard, you are likely to burn out fast if you don’t take care of yourself. Using the Pomodoro technique will take care of your work hours but take some time to chill outside of your work hours too. I know it may be difficult for some of you but self-care does not necessarily mean spending a weekday afternoon in the spa (wouldn’t that be nice though?) Self-care can be something as simple as spending 15 minutes in the shower instead of 5 minutes. Or, perhaps watching a few funny cat videos on YouTube for 10 minutes may make you forget your worries. Think about the little things that make you happy. And find the time to do those things.

5. Educate Yourself

Blogging is a fast-evolving medium and you need to keep yourself up-to-date. Every day, I am reading about social platforms changing their algorithm and I don’t even know how exactly that affects my work. By the time you come up to speed with Technology X, another technology will come knocking at your door. Therefore, it is very important to stay up to date. Schedule time in your calendar (daily, weekly, or monthly) to educate yourself, whether through free webinars, articles, blog posts, or through paid courses. My Facebook feed is mostly filled with blogging-related posts because that’s what I am focusing on these days. But I cannot afford to spend too much time reading long articles or watching webinars for hours every day. So, I save the article links throughout the week, and on Thursdays, I open those links and read them. Or, if I have enrolled for a course, I will go through that course.

With time and with the aforementioned tips, I am slowly settling into the bloggers’ groove and finding my pace. I can literally feel some of my fears and stress addressed. I am determined to create more and better content in the near future. I hope you will stick around. J

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Batch Processing + My Blogging Routine

There was a time I was wildly fascinated with the lifestyle of the French. I wanted to know everything about their lifestyle: how they dress, how they live, how they raise children, what they eat…everything. So, I started following a few bloggers who write about the “Parisian Chic” life. In one of the posts, the writer mentioned how French women build exercise into their daily routines. They walk everywhere. They take the stairs. They grocery shop several times a week. Wait, what?! Call me lazy but I don’t want to step out of the house multiple times a day. When I am out, I better finish all (or most) of the errands, return home, and kick off my shoes. I grocery shop weekly. I go to the gym directly after dropping my son to the school, I visit in in-laws on the way to or back from somewhere else. That’s me, batch processing my life!

And I follow the same principles in my blogging life too. I batch process my blog production.

Batch processing + blogging routine + productivity Social 1 Momchakra.com

What is Batch Processing?

Batch processing, as the name suggests, is a technique to process tasks in batches. It’s based on one and only one principle: single tasking. In today’s day and age, everyone multitasks. When I was still part of the corporate world until five years ago, I was even evaluated on how well I could multitask (can I just say I rocked multitasking?). But let’s be honest: I used to slip up every now and then. Recently, I have seen a lot more articles urging people to adopt a single-tasking mindset.

Remember, batch processing is not a process, it is a technique. It simply helps you group similar tasks that can be processed together. For example, you may choose to write your SEO even before writing your post, or you may choose to create your images before writing the SEO. These tasks are not necessarily linear (it helps me though to keep it linear but that’s the “process” that I follow—more on this later).

Benefits of Batch Processing

Once you start batch processing, you will see the benefits within a very short time. Batch processing:

  • Helps focus: Working on a single task at a time helps bring focus to the task. When you are switching between tasks that require the use of different faculties/abilities, it messes up your concentration. Conversely, while batch processing, you are using only one set of faculties and your brain can supply all the juice to the required faculties.
  • Improves productivity: When you batch similar tasks, it builds rhythm and improves your productivity. On the other hand, if you are constantly switching between dissimilar tasks, your brain has to reorient itself to the current task.
  • Saves time: When your brain doesn’t need to switch modes constantly, it helps save time. Your brain knows the requirements and parameters within which you are working and it’s already optimized to deliver at those levels.

How to Batch Process Your Blogging Business

Quite simply you break down your blogging tasks to the last detail and group them for similarity. Let’s say on the 1st of every month (ideally before), you research all the topics you want to write about during that month. Spend 1 hour coming up with as many topic ideas as you can. Note that you are NOT focusing on ONE topic idea but several topic ideas at a time. That’s batch processing.

Similarly, identify other tasks that you can group but need not necessarily relate to a single blog post or project. Here are some ideas:

  • Populate the content calendar for a month
  • Edit and proofread multiple blog posts for the month
  • Record multiple YouTube videos in one sitting (ok, you can change your shirt for every video if you want!)
  • Schedule social media posts for the week
  • Write invoices
  • Respond to emails OR comments

The options are aplenty.

Once you have identified the task groups, you want to schedule them on your calendar and build a routine around it. For example, I group tasks and then schedule them by days. Here’s a screenshot of my “sample” Trello board:

Trello Screenshot Momchakra Batch Processing Productivity Blogging

  • On Sundays, I come up with several topic ideas. Yes, my work week begins on a Sunday. It takes me about 1 hour and it’s nothing more than a brain dump.
  • On Mondays, I select 2-3 topics and begin researching. I note down the key points and build a wire frame for each post. I also decide if a post warrants a content upgrade. I spend 4 hours doing this.
  • On Tuesdays, I write the first draft of the posts. I do not worry about the formatting or grammar. It’s a free-form writing day. I spend 4-5 hours on this task.
  • On Wednesdays, I go in with a hawk’s eye and edit my content. I have been trying to write the long-form content of late so it takes a lot of time and patience to edit.
  • On Thursdays, I create content upgrades, if applicable. If not, I use the time for self-education or administrative tasks.
  • On Fridays, I create the images, fill in the SEO details, and schedule publish. Another thing: social media. Right now, I am very bad at it but I am trying to become more visible on social media. So, with whatever time I save on Fridays, I plan to schedule social media posts for the week going forward.
  • On Saturdays, I spend about 1 hour to draft the week’s newsletter (no subscribers to read them though :-P)

I am only three-months into the whole blogging system, and I am still learning. In addition, I am a stay-at-home mother with only about 4 hours to spare in a day. Additionally, I like to keep my weekends as open as possible. I know that is the opposite of a hard hustle, but if I cannot spend time with the ones for whom I am doing this, what is the point of doing it at all? I wrote about my new blogger frustrations in an earlier post. Depending on your unique life situation, you may do more or less and take more or less time doing each task.

So, there you have it: how I use batch processing in my blogging routine.

What your blogging routine? What processes and techniques do you use to work on your amazing blog?

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How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day! + Free Goal-setting Worksheet

A friend of mine recently came up with the idea to start a home stationery business. As we got talking about the business and her vision for growth, we agreed that she needed to put her vision on paper for more accountability and clarity. Naturally, one of the first things that came to mind was to create goals so she can measure the success and growth of her business. Among others, here is what she wrote as her goal:

  • Be the one-stop shop for all things in home stationery.

Let me add here that this is the first business she plans to launch. I applaud her for that. It takes guts! She quit her full-time job as a graphic designer 7 years ago to stay at home with her then-newborn daughter. Today, when her daughter has grown up and spends most of the day at school and after school activities, my friend found herself with a lot of time on hand and she did not know what to do with it. Instead of wasting it on binge-watching a show on Netflix for the rest of her life (someone, please tell me it gets boring after a while!), she decided to use her design skills to start her own business. Yay to that!

Coming back to the goals…here’s a little background on my professional experience. I am an instructional designer, which means I analyze, design, and develop online and offline courses for corporate employees. An integral part of being in the education business is to know how to identify the goals and objectives of any program (or business, or any project really). This is what I do for a living and I couldn’t hold back. We spent the next two hours thrashing out goals. A tried-and-tested strategy to draft goals is to use the SMART methodology.

What is the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

A SMART goal stands for a goal that is:

  • Specific: Your goal should be as specific as possible. It should have an expected outcome attached to it. Explore the what, why, where, how, who of your goal. Making your goal specific to the last detail helps you identify the component(s) that you want to track. It helps make your goals clearer and more manageable, and consequently easier to accomplish. For example,
    • Vague goal: I want to grow my email list.
    • The problem: The aforementioned goal is vague because it does not address several questions, including (but not limited to):
      • Why is it important to grow your email list?
      • How many subscribers do you want to gain every month?
      • How will you grow your email list?
      • Do you have the necessary tools in place to grow your email list?
    • Specific goal: Grow my email list to 100 subscribers by October 31 so that I can pitch my eBook for sale.
  • Measurable: How will you assess and measure the success of your goal? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Identify the metric and benchmark against which you will measure your specifics. Vague words such as “successful blog,” “life-changing post,” “awesome email list” are neither specific nor measurable. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, every new subscriber will be a metric to measure. That each of those subscribers is “awesome” is an added bonus J
  • Attainable (or Actionable): It is important to remember that the goal must be realistic and achievable. While it is good to be ambitious and positive, it is somewhat unrealistic to set a goal of growing your email list from 0 to 50,000 in the first month. Another example is to aim for a goal for which you do not have the necessary resources available. “Aim for the stars” is a great motto but unless you are part of NASA or Elon Musk’s team, it’s pretty unattainable, don’t you think? Draft goals that set you up for success, not failure!
  • Relevant: Often, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of the big picture. Does the goal align with your vision/big picture/ultimate goal? For example, gaining email subscribers may not matter for bloggers who analyze current affairs. Generally, such bloggers do not aim to sell anything on their blogs. A more relevant goal for such bloggers may be to have a high traffic rate.
  • Time bound: Finally, the goal you draft should have an end-time so that you know when to measure efforts. In other words, define the range of time within which your efforts will come to fruition. This is the time when you will consider marking your goal either a success or failure. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, determine an end date to this goal—such as, by October 31, 2017. This way when the time comes, you will know to measure your growth. Additionally, be realistic about the period. Keep your personality and circumstances in mind when deciding the end date.

Why should I use the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

Why should you? Here’s why. A well-defined goal will act as an effective road map for you to gauge your growth. It is a productivity tool that helps:

  • Convert vague goals into actionable objectives/tasks
  • Visualize success
  • Prioritize
  • Monitor progress

Convinced? Here’s a little bonus resource for you.

But, if you need more convincing, keep reading 🙂

SMART goals Pinterest Momchakra.com

How to Achieve Goals Consistently

The great footballer (soccer, for Americans J), Pele, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Sure we all want to be successful at what we do. Sure we want to accomplish everything the universe has to offer. But success takes a lot of work and it is in our favor to define and approach success in a way that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Here is the step-by-step process that that can help work accomplish your goals consistently.

  1. Identify your big SMART goal: Before you do anything else, do a brain dump on a piece of paper or use a digital worksheet…whatever works for you. Come up with ONE big goal that based on the SMART methodology. One ring to rule them all 😉
  2. Break down the big goal into smaller goals: Think of it as a funneling process. Identify the smaller goals (further filtered to task level) that will collectively help you funnel up and accomplish the big goal.
  3. Set deadlines: Assign due dates not just for the big goal but also for each individual task you identified in the previous step. This will keep you accountable and help prioritize. Also, small wins. Yay!
  4. Build-in review checkpoints: Have you ever set yourself a lenient deadline and still found yourself scrambling for the finish line on the last day? That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty? Here’s what you can do: set up 2-3 checkpoints between the start and end date of the big goal. Hold yourself accountable for meeting these smaller “deadlines” on your way to the checkered flag.
  5. Reflect, evaluate, and modify: At the end of a goal’s life cycle, it’s time to reflect and evaluate. Think back on the process you followed. Determine what work and what didn’t. Identify the roadblocks and think about how you can work around or eliminate those roadblocks from the next cycle. This kind of evaluation will help you modify your process rock solid going forward.

Set Yourself Up for Success

While the process will help you achieve goals, there are a few additional tips you can keep in mind when brainstorming your goals.

  • Set goals at regular intervals: January 1 is not the only date when you should think about reflecting and setting goals. No, I am not saying you should not set goals on that date…do it; it’s been a long-standing tradition and it’s good to follow some traditions. But please understand the logic behind this tradition…it plays on the word “new year” that is supposedly a clean slate to work on. But ultimately, it’s asking you to reflect on your wins and losses and determine how you can leverage that knowledge to succeed at your next mission. One year is a LONG time to not evaluate yourself or your goals. But, if you choose to follow this “tradition” every quarter or every month and line up fewer and smaller goals, leading up to a big goal, isn’t that more realistic, empowering, and achievable?
  • Set fewer goals: We are ambitious and success is great for our confidence. But are we setting ourselves up for failure by adding too many things on our plates? You bet we are! Take my example, I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, I have a freelance writing business, I have a home to run, I have a family to care for, and now I have a blog too. That’s a mighty lot. But there’s a lot I don’t do—I have a help who dusts, mops the floor, cleans dishes, cleans the bathrooms, folds laundry, etc. Another lady comes in daily to cook our meals (Indian meal cooking takes a lot of time + I hate cooking). I had trouble giving away some of my household chores because it makes me anxious. But labor is cheap in India and I just had to measure the return on investment. For a few bucks each month, I have freed up the time to do other things that are more important to me. Those are my fewer, big goals I want to accomplish. Cooking a daily meal for my family is important but it’s not my big goal. As long as we are eating home-cooked meals, I don’t really care who is cooking for us.
  • Focus on the smaller goals: Keep your eye on the big goal, but focus on the smaller goals. Remember the funnel? These short-term goals are going to buoy you up and carry you to your big goal. Focusing on the smaller goals allows you to reset or refine your tactics continuously. Imagine going all the way to the big goal deadline and finding that everything you did was a waste of time.
  • Allow yourself to fail at times: Even superheroes fail at times. Give yourself the grace to fail occasionally. If you can learn something even from a failed opportunity, it’s not really a failed opportunity after all, right? Some goals can be tougher than the rest. Or, perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to accomplish the goal. Or, maybe your measurement metric was wrong all along. Next time, you will know better than to repeat the same mistakes.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

What methodology do you use to draft goals? If you’d like to explore the SMART way of goal setting, I have created a template that will help you draft goals that are not only based on the SMART methodology but will also help you break the goal down into smaller, more achievable tasks. Simply signup below to receive this free resource.

My Struggles and Learning as a New Blogger

What’s that one thing every new blogger experiences during the first few weeks? FRUSTRATION!

*Minor Rant Alert*

I have been blogging for about three months now but let’s be honest, my efforts are nowhere close to what some other new bloggers put in. The blog is just not among the top three priorities of my life at the moment.

So, two weeks ago, it was time to visit my parent’s house 1000 miles away with my almost-four-year-old son. These were to be his last few days of summer holidays and I was determined to make his visit as memorable as possible. I needed to plan a lot for this trip. Where would the time for all this planning come from? My blogging time, of course. And so it happened one day, and then the next until it was already time to travel. On the other hand, I had nothing planned for my blog for the following two (and then some more), nor did I have any social media promotions scheduled.

As expected, my numbers dropped tremendously and it frustrated me. No, it angered me. It made me feel stupid for treating the blog like it did not matter at all. I wasn’t prepared to see the low numbers but I refused to acknowledge the reason for it. Luckily, better sense prevailed and I started reflecting on my relationship with my blog. In the process, I realized certain areas that frustrate me as a new blogger and what I have learned from it. I wanted to share these thoughts with other bloggers–both new and established–and see if they have gone through the same cycle and how they got their acts together.

New-Blogger-Problems-Mom-Chakra


New Blogger Challenge #1: Information Overload

My struggles: Naturally, every new blogger wants their content and products to succeed. But blogging is no longer about online journaling. It has grown to be a very complex medium that requires a lot of analysis and marketing. This means I have to learn about a LOT of things—which theme, which plugins, which social media promotion strategies, and so on. The flip side of this unfamiliarity with all the systems is that I am trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I have signed up for several courses, webinars, FB groups, and what have you. It all adds up and swirls around in my little brain all day long, and sometimes even at night. I think about how to apply certain strategies that I have learned from a certain course, or whether I have scheduled all the social posts for the coming week. As a stay-at-home mother to a pre-K kid, I only have limited time on my hands—ideal situation would be to cram in as much as I can during the four hours of school. As a result, some days, I end up spending more time “learning” than actually “creating” content.

My learnings: There are many bloggers who blog about blogging (isn’t that a mouthful?). As a new blogger, it’s easy to get enticed by shiny pin-worthy images that promise to drive my traffic up 3x, 6x, 10x. As of today, I have probably watched at least 25 webinars on how to drive traffic to my blog or how to build my email list. But here’s the thing: I did not scout for the best business minds that I could afford. Upon reflection, I realized there is really no point reading about the same strategies that 10 other bloggers have already talked about. Instead, I should invest the time that I save by not reading the repetitive posts or webinars or email courses into creating my own posts and products. In addition, I need to set aside dedicated time every week to educate myself (perhaps 4 hours a week). And the learning must come from the crème-de-la-crème. I am also going to stop participating in social media promo groups that require me to engage in “all or nothing” type of promos. Because here’s the thing—liking 150 FB pages, or 100 Pinterest pins, or commenting on 50+ blog posts is no joke. It WILL eat into my time and sanity.

New Blogger Challenge #2: Motivation and Direction

My struggles: Okay, so I learn from the people I consider my mentors (all one-sided relationships, I tell you =D) and I implement their strategies. I follow the SEO tips and promote my work in high engagement social groups. But where is the traffic? My numbers soar on the days I engage in promo groups but there is no organic traffic. I have created free opt-ins in the past but no one signs up. It is frustrating because no matter who you talk to will tell you the importance of building an email list. On the other hand, because there is no permanent readership, I will mostly receive positive words from the occasional readers. Because, well, that’s the polite thing to do. I do not go around giving my honest feedback unless asked for. It’s easy to gloat in those positive words of encouragement but I also realize that I have no honest feedback system in place that will help me improve. So I wait. And I wait.

My learnings: I have already mentioned how certain social media promo threads eat into my time, energy, and sanity. But the other important thing why I am reducing my participation in these threads is that these groups comprise of hundreds and thousands of members but perhaps only a small percentage relates to my content. In a promo thread with 150+ links, who is to say my niche audience will find my blog. Most people will drop their link and run. Others who are forced to visit or comment on or share my work (because that’s the rule of the thread) will often not leave meaningful feedback. Sure, I will see spikes in my numbers on promotion days and feel happy for 30 minutes but then what? Same goes for FB Likes. I have 250+ likes thanks to some of the promo threads I have participated in before, but has anyone engaged with me after that day? The same is true for me. I have liked several FB pages but engaged with only a handful whose content happened to be of my interest. It has been said before but it bears saying again: DO NOT go after traffic. Most of that traffic is not my niche and they will never return and they will not give me compelling feedback to help me grow.

New Blogger Challenge #3: Content Creation

My struggle: At a very personal level, this one is the most difficult one of my struggles. For those of you who don’t know, I am an instructional designer by profession with about 15 years of experience. My role requires me to develop and deliver a course from the scratch…conducting audience analysis to delivery…and content creation is a BIG part of this process. That said, most of the content I have created in the last 15 years is geared towards corporate employees….no room for the creative juices to flow freely, you see. So, now when it’s time to be really creative with my content and make it flow, I find myself staring blankly at the screen for hours.

My learning: Blog writing is a creative process—it needs to be free-flowing and unabashed–very different from the kind of writing I am used to. It is also an art that needs to be developed and requires a LOT of practice. So, this is what I plan to do: I will no longer hold back when writing my first draft; I will not get perturbed by the semantics at this time. Do not be afraid to experiment. It’s easy to get tied down by the tried-and-tested formulas of successful niches and content presentation. But maybe I have an idea that will revolutionize the blogging business. But oops, it doesn’t fit the “acceptable” framework. Therefore, I should drop the idea. Whose loss is it? Mine and only mine. I must become fearless and create content that may not be widely accepted but it will set people thinking.

New Blogger Challenge #4: Time Commitment

My struggle: I am a stay-at-home mom who also owns a freelance business. My business has not been a deterrent because I have not taken up any new project in the last three months. But being a SAHM is a full-time job too. Blogging requires a huge time commitment and very few will tell you that in the beginning. Between my house, my family, my paid job, and my blog, you can easily guess which has the least priority. And therein lies the problem: I haven’t yet prioritized my blog or treated it as a business.

My learning: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can earn a full-time income (or even half) by blogging only two hours a day. It doesn’t happen that way. In the first year or so, I must be prepared to put in a lot of time creating meaningful content and connections. As the blog grows, I may have to spend a little less on creating new content but I will still need to spend the majority of my day overseeing the business aspect of my blog. It will never get easy! Ironically, it is easy to take this profession lightly when you read established bloggers claiming they put in only 2 hours a day into their blog and are earning a full-time income from it. Remember this: these bloggers are either fabricating their stories or they are an exception to the rule. If I want to blog professionally, I should be ready to set aside at least 20 hours a week during which I will do only and only blog-related tasks. No pulling away for 30 minutes to cook dinner or to make a phone call to my family…no, not during the time I have set aside to work on the blog. Because you see, blogging is not just about writing; it involves editing, finding the right images, creating graphics, thinking about SEO, administrative and technical work on the blog, promotion, and so on. And not to forget, the time to educate myself about the blogging profession.


I realize each of my learnings have already been addressed by established bloggers in their teachings. But, I probably did not pay the attention I needed to. But learning that comes from reflection when one is down in the gutter works wonders toward putting them one in their rightful place.

I am working on all of these challenges and frustrations but like I said, in the absence of feedback, it’s easy to lose motivation. I have some thoughts on how I want to prioritize the blog while still juggling the other, more important roles of my life but I just don’t know if I am setting myself up for success or failure by going against the tide. I guess time will tell.

Are you a new blogger? What are some of your frustrations and how are you dealing with those? Are you an established blogger? What tips do you have for us new bloggers? Leave a comment below. If you enjoyed reading or could relate to this blog, please spread the word by sharing with your friends and family.

 

New-Blogger-Problems-Mom-Chakra

5 Tips to Have an Amazing Morning Routine…Every Day!

Enough has been said about the importance of having a good morning routine. Routines are something I seek and test out very frequently. Mommy routine, morning routine, evening routine, cleaning routine, fitness routine…the list goes on and on. The reason I am so interested in routines is I want to learn how to simplify and/or better my life. Some of these “hacks” work for me, some don’t. But try I will.

So today, my friends, I bring to you my current morning routine and why you should consider adopting it too.

Now, first things first: this post is purely focussed on incorporating “health” in your morning routine. And for that reason, it will not tell you to make your bed, throw a load of laundry, make your To-Do list, or plan your dinner. That will be a post for another day. So are you ready to learn about my morning routine? Here goes!

1. Rehydrate Your Muscles and Cells

The first thing you should do after waking up is to rehydrate your body. If you find it difficult to remember to consume water, keep a glass or bottle of water on your nightstand. This way when you wake up in the morning, all you need to do is reach out for the glass or bottle and gulp down the water. I wrote about the importance of hydration and tips to consume more water in an earlier post. Have you read that yet? It’s also beneficial to eat a small fruit (preferably one that is “in-season” and fresh), or a few almonds soaked overnight within 15 minutes of waking up. This helps kick-start your metabolism and will also act as a before-workout snack (Yes! You need to work out!).

2. Include 30-45 Minutes of Physical Exercise

If you are feeling rushed by this time, perhaps you should consider waking up a little earlier. Here are some tips to become a morning person. Equally important is to sleep early and deep. How will you wake up early if you don’t sleep well, right? I got you covered.  But coming to the point, enough studies have been published highlighting the benefits of including 30-45 minutes of physical exercise every day. Incorporate a good workout routine into your mornings. Consider it like eating the Frog. Let’s face it–of all the things listed in this morning routine post–this point about physical activity is going to be the most difficult to accomplish. But if push yourself to get this done in the morning, you won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. If you are still on the fence about putting aside 30-45 minutes of your morning, you surely can put aside 7 minutes, yes? And while you are at it, gain the immense health benefits. Just remember to start and end with stretches 🙂

3. Practice 15 Minutes of Deep Breathing and Meditation

Alright, it’s time to cool down and nourish your mind. And during this time, do one and only one thing–meditate or bring your mind to focus. Practice deep breathing exercises for about 10 and taper off with 5 minutes of guided or unguided meditation. But how is it beneficial? Breathing is the very basis of life…and no, I am not talking spiritually. Plain, simple biology. Several researchers have put forth the benefits of deep breathing. Here are just a few of those: reduces anxiety and depression, increases energy levels, relaxes muscles, and reduces stress response and overwhelm. The ROI of deep breathing is simple, in my opinion. Coupled with meditation, you will not only bring awareness of your breathing technique but also to every part of your mind and body.

4. Eat a Nourishing Breakfast

It’s time to eat! You may say, “but I just ate,” and I would say “sure…four almonds and a glass of water!” That, my friend, was not your breakfast. I am sure you have heard a thousand times how breakfast in the more important meal of the day. What if they are right? Trust me, I used to be you. I would skip breakfast almost every day–no wait, my breakfast was two cups of coffee–because you see, I was busy and I’d rather get “work” done in the time I’d instead spend eating breakfast. But here’s the thing: the reason they say breakfast is the most important meal of your day is that your blood glucose is at its lowest in the morning after the 8-12 hour gap since your last meal. Low blood glucose means you are low on energy (grogginess, anyone?) given that glucose is what your body uses to provide you energy. A word of tip: try to include both carbohydrates and proteins in your breakfast. One without the other will not serve any purpose. If you, like me, struggle in the kitchen, try searching for easy breakfast ideas (that are also healthy) on Pinterest.

Now, remember, the sequence of routine I have outlined above is what I recommend. If you feel like you need to meditate before your physical exercise, go for it. The idea is to get done with all the tasks BEFORE you go about the rest of your day.

And now *drumroll* it’s time for the fifth and most important tip. TADATADA

5. DO NOT GET SUCKED INTO THE DIGITAL WORLD YET

You heard me. Don’t check your email, don’t check your social media, don’t play games on your phone, don’t read news on your tablet…just don’t. Everything you have done so far to have a healthy start to your day will hold no water. Come on, you have the entire day to spend time with your digital companion, just not the first thing in the morning. You don’t need me to tell you how the digital world is like a quicksand, a whirlpool. In today’s day and age, there is no escaping the digital world, but it need not take up your time from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Remember my earlier post on how to get a good night’s sleep and how you need to practice digital shut down at least one hour before your bedtime? The same is true for when you wake up.

Listen, depending on your personal family situation, you may need to do only this much or a lot more every morning. But let the first one hour be only about you. You deserve this time to yourself. Your daily tasks will get done no matter what, but if you lose your sense of balance, picking up the pieces of the day will be a more difficult than it should be.

So, if you are not already following this routine, will you at least give this a try? For your sake?

If you liked this post, please consider sharing with your friends and family on social media.

How you start your day can either make it or break it. Here are five tips to start every day with a killer morning routine.