I’ve had several blogs over the years which I would add to when I thought of something to write about, sometimes this would be several times a day and other times 3 or 4 months would pass by before I published anything. In that time I would have ideas but they would come and go, especially if I wasn’t near a computer at the time. Often I would think about my blog and have the fullest of intentions of adding to it but then sit at the desk, the little cursor on-screen blinking away and not have an iota of what to write. And in time ALL of my previous blogs failed – I failed to write posts in a timely manner, I rushed what I was writing and didn’t really think about my words or topic carefully, I missed opportunities to link to interesting articles or previous posts, photos were rushed or non-existent and the general quality of the post was poor overall.
Now though, I have approached this blog differently. Before I even signed up and created MyColourfulLifeUK, I started to write down ideas for this blog, I talked about it with friends and family and generated a few ideas of what they found interesting in the subject fields I enjoyed. And so started the beginnings of a content plan.
A content plan is so important as a blogger as it gives you a framework with which to create blog posts and help you with what you are going to write about on a day-to-day basis. Having a content plan is like driving somewhere you have never been before but with well written directions.
Here are 7 things that having a content plan has helped me with
Knowing what I am going to write about
Having a plan has helped me no end. I always have an idea of what I am going to be writing about and now I don’t waste half of my time sitting and staring at a blank screen. What I didn’t bank on was that having a plan actually encourages me to write and I am always excited to sit down and draft up a blog post now.
Helps me to prepare content (Including links and images)
Having the knowledge of what I want to write about allows me to thoroughly prepare, from researching topics, making notes, finding useful links, taking photos, writing the post and editing it. If you know then you can prepare.
Helps me to generate new post ideas
Whenever I sit and look through my content plan I seem to be able to come up with new ideas to write about, and in researching topics I will often find something else that piques my interest and opens up a whole new set of thoughts about posts I can create further down the line. Now I have a content plan I never seem to be short of ideas!
Provides well thought out posts for your readers
My English A Level lecturer always said he could spot an essay that had been hastily written and I didn’t really believe him back then, but now, after reading lots of different blogs on all sorts of different topics I know exactly what he means. When you have a content plan there are not many posts you will write in a rush which in turn means that your posts will be well thought out, the points raised will be clear and there will be a good flow to the words and pace. Rushed posts often meander off track, words are clumsily thrown together and even the reading pace feels rushed.
Helps me to stick within the theme of my blog
I’m a lifestyle blogger which means that I can over a lot of different subjects and still be within the theme of my blog overall but if you have a niche blog, I had one covering art when in university, it could be really easy to stray from that overall theme. I know that it’s your blog and you can pretty much write what you want, but if you have a niche theme then it’s worth sticking to it, trust me, your readers will thank you!
Helps me to build a schedule for my posts
Once I have a list of content that I want to write about I then open Excel and use a calendar that I created to schedule my content, colour code each topic and start placing the topics against dates to publish. This helps me to see what to write and when as well as not having too many posts on the same topic being crowded together.
Keeps readers interested and gains return visitors and followers
All of the above points lead to this – keeping readers engaged with your writing, gaining repeat visitors and, hopefully, gaining followers who will keep coming back to read the content that bought them to your blog in the first place.
I hope you find this useful. What are your thoughts on having a content plan?
I don’t know about you but, sometimes, it feels like a whole day has rushed by and I don’t seem to have achieved or done anything much at all. Today I’m sharing with you my steps on how to have a productive day. There will be tips, tricks and hacks that seem to work for me, mean I get more done, and more out of my day. These simple steps seem to help me both in my working day and in my personal life so can be applied to any part of your life.
Knowing what you would like to achieve in a day goes a long way towards actually achieving those things. I like to sit down at the end of the day with a notepad and pens and create a list of things I need to do, want to do and things I should do the following day. Every activity gets written down however big or small, significant or insignificant it may be. Once I have a list then I can move on to the next step.
Next, I like to go through the list and categorise everything into 3 lists – Need, Want and Should. I like to use highlighters here so I can see what categories things fall into. Things that go into the Need list are things that absolutely have to be done that day, they can be things like making appointments, sending emails, household things, anything that has to be done that day and is time specific. Next is the Want list which I use for things that I want to do or achieve that don’t really have any fixed priority except for personal gain. Want things can include reading a book, having a bath, working on art, anything that is about you and what you want to do. Lastly is the Should list which I use for things like cleaning the fridge, clothes washing, tidying up, organising my books, things that should be done but are not really needed to be done at a specific time.
Now I have the categories sorted I go through them and number them in order of importance – 1 is high importance and 4 is the lowest/no importance. I can see then what order I should complete the tasks in.
Next I allocate timings to the tasks, so, for example 20 mins for responding to an email, 10 for a phone call, 40 mins for reading…. I can see what will take the longest and what will be really quick to tick off my list. I like to work with a mix of high priority and quick tasks as it makes me feel good about getting things marked off and encourages me to continue with my work.
Make a Timetable
The final step I take is to timetable everything into my day. I write out my day in hourly blocks then schedule in the things I want to achieve in that timeframe. I schedule in all the Need and Should items then add the Wants in around them where there are gaps.
Creating a list and timetable like this the night before helps me to wake up motivated and ready to start the list. I get up knowing what needs to be done and have an itinerary for the day that I know will work for me, I get things done that I need to, things I should do and also have time for anything I want to do as well. I find mixing the tasks up keeps energy and enthusiasm high while keeping productivity going. And scheduling in Wants through the day means I have a reward of sorts to look forward to along the way.
How do you plan your day? What are your tips for being productive?
Thrifting used to be all about visiting an actual store, charity shop, car-boot sale or garage sale and having a rummage around all the goods available until you find something you like and then purchasing it after, maybe, a bit of haggling over the price thrown in. Now with charities such as Oxfam offering on-line shopping, the likes of Gumtree, Ebay and Facebook Marketplace offering places for people to sell their goods, thrifting has become something we can do from our own homes, in our pyjamas if we so wish, and at any time of day or night – whenever the mood takes us.
Unfortunately, with all of these lovely, pre-loved items being available to us at the click of a button it is really easy to purchase and receive the product and have instant buyers regret. There is an art in thrift shopping and coming home (or taking delivery) of items that you love and today on the blog I’m going to share with you the questions I ask myself when thrifting, which help me to make decisions about what I’m thinking of buying. Hopefully, these questions will help you too!
Do I really need it? If it is something that you have been needing for a while (whether it is a coat, bag, household or miscellaneous item) then it is worth considering purchasing.
Do I really love it? If it is an item that you love, then chances are, further down the line you will still love it and it will be a treasure for you to keep.
Does it need altering? Usually, if an item needs altering then I put it back. I have a ton of things that already need altering and I really don’t want to add to the pile. If it needs altering, chances are that it will just sit and gather dust until you just decide to part with it. But, if it’s something that you need and love and are prepared to take home and alter straight away then, maybe it’s worth purchasing.
Does it need mending? See above, the same reasons apply to this as the question above.
Does it suit my style? If an item suits your style then it is worth considering purchasing as you will more than likely use it and look after it. If something doesn’t fit your style but you love it and really want it, think of ways you could customise it to fit your style.
Can I upcycle it? Whether it is a piece of furniture, clothing or accessories, if it’s not quite to your taste and style then consider upcycling it – can you paint it, re-upholster it, deep clean and varnish it, make it into something else then a purchase is worth considering.
Where will I put it/where will it live? It is worth visualising where an item will be placed in your home. If you can visualise where it will live then you are already imagining owning it and taking care of it. There is no point in purchasing something and shoving it away, out of sight, to be forgotten about. If you can’t visualise a place for it, don’t buy it.
Where will I wear it? This is similar to the answer above. If you can visualise yourself wearing it somewhere, or already have in mind somewhere to wear it and you know you will wear it more than once then this is a good thing. So many times I have bought clothing because it was unique or interestingly cut or made but then it has sat in my wardrobe and never seen the light of day because I have had nowhere to wear it so take this question into consideration before buying.
Do I own something similar already? If you own something similar already then it is worth considering how much you use the one you own, how long it has lasted you and if you will use the new one the same amount. If you don’t use the item you already have that much, or can find no reason to own 2 similar items then give this one a miss.
Will I still use it in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? If you can see yourself still using the item in years to come or that it is still useful down the line then, after considering the answers to the other questions, it is worth thinking of purchasing.
What is the life-span of the item? If the item only has a short life-span in terms of function, fashion, style or how it is manufactured then leave it. However, if the item is well made, to your taste and style and doesn’t have a limited use then it is worth considering.
Can I get a better deal elsewhere? It is always worth having a look online (particularly on e-bay, though a google search is just as good) to see if you can get the same or similar item cheaper elsewhere. It is worth noting how much items are worth and how much people sell them for as, what you think is a bargain at the time may not necessarily be the case at all.
Do you have any criteria you stick to when thrifting?
As it is coming up to Valentine’s Day I thought I would share a fun post on date ideas. I think, as a couple, whether you have been together only a short time or for months, or years it is essential to still do fun things together as a couple. Dates are not only fun but they bring you together as a couple, give you a fun time together, let you get to reconnect and know each other a bit more and give you something to talk about, not to mention memories that will last forever.
I decided it would be fun to give you 26 date ideas that are inspired by each letter of the alphabet! You could work through these in order or just pick one at random whenever you choose!
A is for…
Art Show. Why not see what kind of art shows are available near you? Sometimes local colleges and universities hold art shows of student’s work, or museums will hold a show based on a theme or artist. These can be fun to attend as you can look at new artworks, discover new artists, support your local students, learn new things, get inspiration while talking about which works you enjoy and which you don’t.
B is for…
Beach visits. Whatever season it is, beach visits can be lots of fun. In the winter wrap up and take a flask of tea or hot chocolate, or in the summer take a book and a towel, there is nothing better that a walk on the beach. Follow the tide line and see what you can find that has washed up. Not only is exercise good for you but being in the out doors and close to the sea is good for your mental health and can lift your mood.
C is for…
Craft Fair. Craft fairs happen all over the place, in markets and fields, halls and churches. Many of them are run by and stalled by local artists and makers. It’s a nice way of whiling away an afternoon. Not only that but you can pick up some lovely hand-made, unique gifts while supporting local traders and craftspeople.
D is for…
Dinner. Why not take it in turns to host a dinner date, whether you are living together or as a new couple, separately. Find out what the other person’s favorite meal is and cook it for them, lay the table, get out the best crockery, light candles, buy a nice bottle of wine for you both to enjoy, and dress up for the occasion. What is nicer than spending time with a loved one and a thoughtful home cooked meal?
E is for…
Eating Out. Take your loved one to the first place you had a meal out together or to a favorite food place, or try somewhere new that you both have wanted to visit. Sit down, enjoy the food and ambience while being together.
F is for…
Farm visit. Lots of places have farms that are visitors attractions now. You could spend a day visiting one and learning about the animals and how a farm operates then after your visit stop off at the on site cafe for a slice of home-made cake anda cup of tea. Remember to advise your date to bring wellies or other suitable walking shoes!
G is for…
Games night. Why not hold a night of board games? Dig out the old classics like scrabble or snakes and ladders, see who is most competitive out of you both. I’m sure there will be many laughs had and the vintage-classic element is sure to get you talking of past memories!
H is for…
Hot Air Balloon show! Bristol holds a Hot Air Balloon Fiesta each year in August. There, you will be able to see balloons of all shapes and sizes take to the sky. The best part of the show (and most romantic in my opinion) is the Nightglow, where balloons tether up and light the night sky.
I is for…
Informative talk. Why not attend an informative talk on a subject that both of you enjoy or on something that you would both like to know more about? Lots of informative talks take place in libraries and museums and subjects covered can include photography, local history, wildlife, and many other subjects. Learning about a subject or adding to the information you already know, can give you both something to talk about and a shared knowledge bank.
J is for…
Jim Jams Day. Why not spend a day with your loved one doing nothing but staying in your pajamas all day. It’s a lovely excuse to get the duvet down, snuggle on the sofa with hot chocolates and snack food, enjoy each others company and binge watch your favorite shows. Go one step further and limit interruptions by turning your phones off and banning social media for the day!
K is for…
Kite flying. Buy a kite and take it out onto some open land (away from overhead cables) on a windy day and capture some of the childhood joy from your past. Whether you have ever flown a kite before or not, doesn’t matter, there is something magical about launching a kite together and watching it glide through the sky! Wrap up warm and pack a bag with some tea to have to warm back up again afterwards!
L is for…
Local Attraction. Whether your town has a castle, a museum, a steam train or another local attraction, why not make time to visit it? Whether you have been before or it’s always been overlooked for something further afield, it is nice to experience a local attraction with a loved one. You can both learn something, talk about what your experiences have been and create fun memories that you will be able to revisit from time to time.
M is for…
Museum. Museum visits are always fun, whether you go to a local museum or a national one, there is so much to see and often there are special exhibitions to explore too. On a rainy day there really is nothing better than taking a walk around a museum and chatting about the displays.
N is for…
Night walk. There are many different kinds of night walks that you can go on, guided candle lit local history walks, ghost walks, evening photography walks, night-time nature walks, the fun thing about night walks is that you get to share the experience of seeing new things and exploring somewhere at a time of day that you wouldn’t normally be out.
O is for…
Open Air Cinema. Open air cinemas are popping up all over the place and the films shown range from arty pieces, classic films and even new releases. Take a bottle of wine, your favorite snacks and a blanket, cuddle up and enjoy the experience of seeing a film in the outdoors.
P is for..
Picnic. Who doesn’t love a picnic. Go to a park, the beach, a local landmark, for a walk, but pack a delicious picnic of sandwiches, fruit and drinks, salad, a few snacks and something for dessert. Find a quiet spot with a lovely view and sit, eat and enjoy the area that you have chosen.
Q is for…
Quiz. Why not head out to a local pub and take part in a quiz night? Quizes can be fun for lots of reasons, guessing the answer and seeing if you have the correct one, the chance to put your knowledge to the test, working as a team, the competitiveness, the list goes on. Sometimes just being out and enjoying something together can be the most fun thing to do.
R is for…
Romantic place. Take a trip back to a place that olds fond memories for you and your loved one, whether it’s the place you had your first kiss, where you first met, where you proposed/got proposed to, this date idea will be different for each person or couple. It would be a fun idea to get the other person to guess the relevance of the place you go to, or why the place is important. Maybe take your loved one there on the anniversary of that action?
S is for…
Star gazing. There is something really lovely about star-gazing and something that you can do in your own back yard, or any other place of your choosing. All you need is a soft blanket to lie on and maybe some cushions to lay down on. You can pint out certain star formations and constellations to each other and just enjoy the night sky with each other.
T is for…
Theatre. How about a trip to the theatre? You could go and watch a play or pantomime, support your local am-dram group, watch a funny show, a well-known story or something you have never heard of before. There is something really nice about going to the theatre as, regardless of how well you know the story there is always something unexpected and fun thrown in to the script!
U is for…
Under the stars. Under the Stars is a generalised them for a date, whether it is a walk under the stars, a meal, a beach trip, drinks, a picnic, reading poetry, sitting out in the garden, the possibilities are pretty much limited only by your imagination. There is something really romantic about experiencing something under the stars that will make for a magical evening that you will remember for a long time.
V is for…
Vacation. Whether it is a day break or an evening away, take a trip somewhere that you both want to visit and explore it together, whether it be a town or city, somewhere full of history, or full of shops, wherever you go, it is fun to be able to explore together.
W is for…
Walk. Go for a long walk, or a short walk, a ramble or a hike, go out in any weather and enjoy the outdoors together. Buy an OS Map and see what sort of walks are around where you live, choose one and follow it, take a camera to capture things that you may not have seen before or to photograph wildlife or landscapes. Remember to take a bag and some refreshments!
X is for…
Xbox or other games console day. Set up the games console and choose 2 player games that you can both play together at the same time. There is nothing better than sitting and playing a game together when its cold and miserable outside.
Y is for…
celebrating Your anniversary. Whatever you do on your anniversary, remember to celebrate it. Whether you have been together for 1 year or 50, it shouldn’t go unmarked. Do something you both enjoy or go to the place of your first date, first meal first kiss, celebrate your relationship in a way that is meaningful to you both. Take time to reminisce and talk about all the memories that you hold dear. Anniversaries are important.
Z is for…
Zoo. Take a trip to the zoo and visit all the cute, weird and wonderful animals, if you are allowed, feed and pet them, take photos and learn about your favorites along the way. Find out which animal is your loved ones favorite and buy a silly memento of the day with that animal on it to remember the day by.
It seems that hygge is as difficult to define as it is to pronounce, and looking on-line gives both the meaning and pronunciation several versions.
Hygge is Danish, that much I know, and from reading the book “The Little Book Of Hygge” I have come to understand that Hygge is more than some kind of interior design movement.
Hygge to me means comfort, cozy, comfortable, warm, enjoyment, contentment, calm, soft, quiet, peaceful, restful and a lot more than I can really put into words.
Hygge is not something you can bottle and sell. It’s not something you can buy either. Hygge is born, it is crafted, cultivated, nurtured.
It is about memories, warm drinks on a cold day, a hug from a loved one, snuggling up in a warm bed, candle light, quiet nights in with a glass of wine and your favorite book, that feeling you get when you hear your favorite song or catch a brief smell of your favorite scent. It’s all of that with a sprinkling of believing in magic.
I stumbled upon this quote a little while ago, I can’t remember what I was looking for but the quote stuck with me and I couldn’t seem to forget it.
For me, this quote seems to sum up my life and my art. The quote has a sort of Alice In Wonderland feel to it which I really love. My life has taken me on a journey that I never expected to take, even the most highly planned decisions I have made have turned out to have the most unexpected consequences and I embrace them fully, without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The way I create art and put together my home and my dress sense seems to work in the same way. I start out with a general idea of what I want to achieve and along the way, things happen, often other thoughts and ideas emerge and the finished thing is not how I expected it to be.
I think we all have to embrace the unexpected, try not to see things as mistakes or things we have done wrong, see them as things to learn from, things that educate us and make us the person that we are.
This is the second post in my “What Is….?” series. The first post I wrote was about Maximalism and you cna find that post here.
We hear so much about Minimalism these days, its uttered like a magic word in so many different places and has been seen as a cure for mental health ailments, consumerism, hoarding, environmental issues (such as the problem we have with plastics) and a host of other things, but what really is minimalism?
When we think of minimalism images of white rooms with sleek furniture spring to mind, rooms that are soul less and personality free, junk and clutter free, but I think that is probably the most unfair, stereotypical image to have.
Minimalism is living with fewer material things, and only living with what you really need.
It’s about simplifying your life, home, your wardrobe, your possessions.
It’s about only having what you need and doing away with excess things that can hinder your life.
It’s about choosing experiences over material goods.
It is about focusing on what really matters, the things of value in our lives and letting go of the things that hinder that sight.
Minimalism is not about doing without or having a bland home, life or style. Neither is it about being frugal or not having any fun. Rather Minimalism enhances the fun.
Minimalism is a blank canvas on which to place your values and your goals.
Christmas is a time for families and friends to get together which means a lot of guests and visiting going on. I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you create a welcoming atmosphere when you have guests arriving.
Make sure the entrance way and hall are free from clutter. Easy ways to do this are to have a designated place for shoes, boots, coats and other outdoor accessories (like umbrellas). If needs be, move items to bedrooms just for that period of time. Clear mail as it arrives, put junk mail into the recycling bin, bills and other items can be stored neatly in a file or box elsewhere in the house.
Make sure the house is warm, not too hot or cold but at a temperature where if you are wearing a thin cardi or jumper that it feels comfortable.
Keep tv volume down, or turn it off completely and play some background music quietly instead.
Light candles, choose a scented one to fill your home with a lovely scent and add a few unscented ones to create relaxing pools of light.
If possible, light your home with lamps and festive lights instead of glaring ceiling lights. This will create a lovely warm atmosphere.
If you know when your guests are arriving make sure the kettle has been filled and boiled so that you can quickly make your guests drinks and spend less time waiting for the kettle to boil away from them.
If you are serving wine or other drinks make sure they are cooled and have ice already made. Put the glasses out ready to serve the drinks in.
If you want to serve snack items, such as peanuts, mixed nuts and dried fruits or chocolates, place in small bowls and dot them about the room in easy to reach places like on window sills or on the coffee table.
Plump up any cushions you may have on sofas, shake out any blankets or rugs and re-fold them, brush down the seats of the sofa to make them look neat and tidy.
If you have magazines or other items out, if possible put them away or stack them neatly so they are not in the way of guests who may want to put drinks down.
When your guests arrive, greet them at the door, take their coats (and shoes) and hang up, offer them a beverage and show them through to the main room you will be using.
Remember, your guests are there to see you so relax and enjoy their company!
How do you create a welcoming atmosphere for your guests?
Due to my Aspergers certain things can send my stress levels soaring and I can get pretty overwhelmed too if there are lots of loud noises, it’s too hot or cold, if the lights are too bright, if there are too many shiny things reflecting light, too many different things flashing, and Christmas is no exception. I developed strategies to help me stay calm and enjoy my day, so if you find you get stressed maybe a few of these tips will help you.
Try the mindful 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This method is really useful when you can feel the start of your stress levels rising. Exhale as much as you can through your mouth, close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of 4, then stop and hold your breath for a count of 7 before exhaling through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat as many times as needed.
Go to a quiet place for 5 minutes. Excuse yourself for 5 minutes, set a timer and sit, doing nothing for that time. Don’t be tempted to check on social media, reply to texts or anything else. Just try to sit and do nothing. Once 5 minutes is up, take a few deep, belly breaths then return.
Make lists of what needs doing and when, for example : turkey needs to be in at 10, peas to boil at 2. Cross things off your list as you do them so you don’t need to worry about whether they have been done.
Delegate. If you need the kitchen worktops cleaned then ask someone to help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you can, sit everyone down for a talk a few days before the day and explain what you expect from each person, delegate the jobs to them so they know what to do on the day.
Try to prepare the veg the night before. I always prepare the veg the night before because for me, standing in a hot, sweaty kitchen on the day battling a peeler and the potatoes is no fun. If you can prep most of it the night before then try to. I find that peeling the root veg and leaving in saucepans of cold water overnight stops them from drying out. You can do the same with broccoli and sprouts.
Don’t try to please everyone. See #4. If you are unable to get Great Aunt Mildred a drink even though she asked for you to prepare it, don’t be afraid to say that you can’t at the moment, then delegate out to someone else.
Don’t wear tight or uncomfortable clothing. Tight or uncomfortable clothing coupled with being too warm and eating too much food can cause stress levels to rise and for me to become irritable. Instead of wearing something restrictive put on something comfortable, loose-fitting or dress in layers that can be easily slipped off if it gets too hot.
Don’t eat too many sweets, chocolate or pudding. The sugars in the foods may boost your mood for a short period of time but when you hit the sugar crash your mood can come crashing down with it. Also, feeling too full can cause feelings of irritability that can increase stress levels.
Try not to drink too much. Too much alcohol + stress can lead to people saying things they shouldn’t, being argumentative or being short with people which can lead to friction and tension in the atmosphere. If possible limit alcohol to the meal and sip soft drinks, water or juice the rest of the time.
Make time for a nap. If you can, try to take a nap or at least have a lie down for half an hour. It will give your stress levels a chance to come back down and will help you to clear your head. It will also refresh you and you will be able to continue your day feeling better.
Open windows. The air in the room can become stale and with most homes having central heating on, cooking and guests, houses can heat up really quickly. Allowing a circulation of fresh air is certain to help everyone’s mood and stop people from feeling groggy.
Try Essential Oils. Tisserand make some lovely blends of essential oils. I’m a huge fan of their Aromatherapy Roller Balls especially their Everyday Wellbeing Set, the Total De-Stress one works really well, just apply to your pulse points and inhale the scent as needed. You could also try a lavender-scented candle or an oil burner with some lavender oil in it.
Go for a walk. After dinner why not encourage everyone to join you for a walk, it doesn’t need to be a long walk but a breath of fresh air outdoors can do wonders for everyone’s stress levels and can help to boost energy along with helping your digestive system start working too.
Think about the things that make you overwhelmed and try something different this year. Like the sound of tv coupled with people talking and noises from toys being played with. Why not encourage a couple of hours with the tv off and play board games instead?
What kind of stress busting tips do you have to help over Christmas?