what i’ve learned being a serial blogger

Bloggers-Meme

Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a serial blogger. I start blogs. I stop blogging. I switch to a new blog. It's such a bad habit.

I started blogging in high school on Xanga. Back then, my blogs were the outlet of a hormornal teenager. I wish I hadn't deleted that account, but it would be completely cringeworthy to read now. I maintained a pretty regular posting schedule throughout high school, eventually stopping during my senior year to focus on AP classes and college applications (at least that's what I would like to think). I also taught myself enough HTML and CSS to start a (very) small business coding layouts for friends. Xanga was a great learning experience for me.

I switched to Livejournal during my second year in college. I kept this one alive, and it's still cringeworthy. I also kept a regular schedule on this one until my last year in college. Then I started a blog on Tumblr, which is now closed. That didn't last too long after graduation because I just wasn't doing anything I felt was noteworthy enough to post about (although my Ok Cupid escapades would have been great material).

I stayed away from personal blogging for a while. I blogged for a class and for an internship, but didn't do anything personal until trying a /365 photo challenge in 2013. I stuck with it for less than 100 days. Later in 2013, I started a stay-fit blog, but eventually stopped in early 2014.

Finally, I'm at this blog. I've definitely learned more than a few lessons that will help me (and you) stick with blogging.

  1. Find what motivates you to keep going. Right now, I pay for Typepad, a custom url, and a business email. My motivation to keep posting is that I'm paying $12 a month (+ my sunk costs for the name and one year of email) to keep this site going. Find something that will motivate you to regularly post and go for it. 
  2. Create goals. I have big plans for this blog after I graduate, and posting now is getting me to those goals. Creating my goals helps give me a sense of direction instead of random rambling each time I post. I know where I want to take this; my goals give me a roadmap. 
  3. Create a schedule. I cut up sticky notes and use them in my planner to help me see my blogging "quota" that month. Right now, it is realistic for me to have two scheduled posting each week with random live updates as I can through the week. Honestly, I can do more "big posts" that are scheduled, but I don't want to do that until school is no longer an obligation that gets in the way of blogging.
  4. Write up scheduled posts in advance. I was live posting exclusively on all of my previous blogs. I would sit down and just start rambling and hit post. With my schedule now, that just doesn't fly. I plan out my Tuesday/Thursday posts about a month in advance, and I try to have the post written a week before the posting deadline. This gives me wiggle room if something isn't working or I need to change my ideas. It also gives me a fallback when life gets busy and I can't blog as regularly, which is why I fell out of blogging so many times before. This way you can write out posts when you have time and still have a regular stream of posts.
  5. Be realistic with youself. You're probably not going to go from 5 readers a day to 300,000 overnight. Don't give up when you're not hitting your goal numbers. The famous bloggers we all love have spent years growing their reader base and perfecting their styles. We're just starting out. Keep with it, keep writing, keep practicing.
  6. Keep learning! Learn new writing techniques, learn how to boost your blog with photography, learn some simple website coding, learn anything that can help you with your blog goals. Using the new things you learn will keep you interested in your blog and help improve your blogging.

Being a serial blogger isn't bad, at all. It helps you learn and evolve. Trust me, I wouldn't want to be using my old Livejournal still. But it's hard to establish a name for yourself on the internet when you're constantly switching names and themes. It would have been nice to watch my evolution as a blogger on one single site rather than piecing everything together. But I've learned from my serial blogger-ness and now I'm implementing it all on here.

Hopefully these little tips and lessons help you with your blogging. Don't give up just because one thing isn't working out. You're blog is you; expect it to evolve and change…and embrace that change instead of changing blogs and names and starting over again.

PS: If you're interested in blogging as a business, I highly recommend checking out the Blog Life e-course by the gals over at A Beautiful Mess. There is so much great information that they put in one place.

work smarter: the law of diminishing returns

Work Smarter, Not Harder

My mantra throughout grad school has been "Work smarter, not harder." There is no reason to spend more energy than necessary to complete a task, especially if you're balancing grad school with work. Over the next couple of months, I want to go more in depth on some of the tactics I use to work smart. 

First up: The Law of Diminishing Returns.

Economics majors know this one all too well. The law of diminishing returns states that "in all productive processes, adding one more factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns." In other words, there is a point where adding more to a system will result in lowered productivity. If this holds for businesses, could it possibly hold for people outside of work and in their daily lives?

Certainly!

I've been following this line of thinking for years. There is a point where I cannot add any more to my plate or push myself to do any more without decreasing my overall productivity.

Law-of-diminishing-returns

For me, time is a big factor in when I start having diminishing returns, either time of day or the amount of time that I have. I'm an early bird by nature. I do my best thinking between 8am and 10am, usually with cold brewed coffee in hand. It's very difficult for me to stay awake past 11pm. I've learned that after a certain time my efforts to ________ (insert focused task here) will be futile. Whether it be writing a paper, taking book notes, or even reading for pleasure, after a certain time of day I will waste more effort trying to focus than I will actually getting the task done. When it comes to having enough time, I find that I work best on one large task than by stuffing as many small tasks as possible into the same amount of time. Knowing this helps me immensly with my time management.

So, how do you figure out your personal law of diminishing returns? I've developed mine through years and years of analyzing my best and worst work. Because I'm a crazy list-maker and note-taker who takes years to get rid of these logs, I am able to find trends in my day plans and compare those trends against grades. But not everyone has to take such a crazy route. Just pay attention to your mental capacity and your focus levels. If you find yourself having to re-read the same sentance over and over, you've probably lost focus. What led up to this loss of focus? Pay attention to yourself, your surroundings, and your output levels.

Once you figure out where your law of diminishing returns is, you can use that to help you work smarter. For example, I…

  • Schedule focus-intensive tasks earlier in the day (when I can). At work, I do research and data analysis first thing in the morning. With school, I try to write or read earlier during the weekend.
  • Know when to stop. 10pm is my limit for school. I very, very rarely will look at anything for school after this time because I know I'll be pretty useless.
  • Don't apologize. Seriously, don't apologize to someone when you know you shouldn't start a new task at 5pm and you've been at work since 7am. You know you best, and if the task can wait until the morning, let it wait.

Knowing where you hit diminishing returns is an important step in learning to work smarter. Don't expend more energy than needed on a task. Learn where you work best and make it work for you.

25 secrets

Sarah loves mornings

As much of a football fan as I am, I only own two USF shirts (that I didn't get for free from a club) and zero Bucs shirts.

I really want to live in a snowy place for a few years, but I don't know if I can make it without flip flops.

I am that person who brings a kale salad to a tailgate potluck at work. And that salad was the first thing that people went for…

I kind of regret going for this second MS degree. One extra year didn't sound like too much, but it really has felt like a lifetime.

Going for a BS in math sounds ridiculous, but it might be on the backburner while I decide between economics or marketing.

If being an academic isn't in the cards, I want to flex my creative side and freelance for my career. Office life doesn't suit me, at least right now.

I'm taking a day off of work to attend my last pep rally as a student next month.

My biggest pet peeve is when people say they're "too busy" to do something. If you're going to say something like that, think about who you're saying it to.

The color I wear the most is blue, but only because it looks good on me and matches almost everything.

My favorite color, purple, looks hideous on me.

I wear a cardigan every. single. day. I have to at work because of some large arm tattoos, but now I feel weird anytime I'm not wearing a cardigan.

I cover my tattoos a lot because I'm sick of the looks some people give me when I'm out. I've been called a criminal and a stoner, but people have no idea…

I think I'm too selfish to ever have children. But I want to have a child before I'm 35.

I'm too independent for my own good sometimes. But I also hate going too long without Johnny around. 

I just started using evernote to try to stay more organized for school, but I still prefer my old-school post-it note system of planning.

I'm not a fan of sunshine. I really love a good rainy day.

I'm always cold, thanks to my lack of a thyroid.

Because I'm always cold, I get to enjoy wearing oversized sweaters even in the summer (at home)

I get so self-conscious exercising in front of people, especially Johnny. Trying to do yoga or run with someone watching totally takes me out of my mindset.

I drive like a total asshole.

I apparently cannot grow tomatoes from seeds. Three tries and no tomatoes, so I just bought a plant (or two).

Florida is growing on me more and more each day, but I still want to live somewhere else for at least 5 years of my adult life just to experience something different.

I didn't like beer until I was out of college.

I have about 10 books lined up to read after graduation because the thought of not having anything to do scares me.

Speaking of graduation, I have a countdown in my planner. We're under 80 days now.

sundays in the fall

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My to-do list is a mile long and I'm coming off of a fun college football weekend (USF won in a massive monsoon!). However, nothing will stop me from having my quiet morning and some coffee. 

Sundays in the fall are the best.

PS: this print is from Colorarts on Etsy. Check out the listing and the shop here.

a typical day of eating

I've been asked before what a typical day of eating looks like for me, so I'm sharing with you today.

A note: I'm a huge creature of habit and tend to cling to the same three meals with little variation

breakfast

Breakfast

This is usually one of three options: 2 eggs scrambled (with various additions), 2 waffles (whole wheat) with nut butter and berries, or a protein bar (preferably Quest). I also have 1 cup of cold brewed iced coffee with 1 cup of unsweetend almond milk and a squeeze of agave almost every morning. 

morning snack

I try to pack fruit to eat here, usually an apple or some cherries. Sometimes I'll grab a latte instead, especially if my iced coffee didn't wake me up. 

lunch

Lunch peaches and prosciutto

This is usually whatever we had for dinner the night before. I like simple lunches that take zero time to make in the morning. If I don't have leftovers I'll make an egg burrito and freeze it or a quick kale salad with quinoa. However, if I'm going out for lunch all bets are off. The picture above is leftover prosciutto-wrapped peaches from Nom Nom Paleo.

dinner

Dinner kale and pork

This is probably where you'll see the most variation in my food choices. Lately I've been favoring kale or spinach salads with quinoa and grilled meat. I can always have this on the table in under 30 minutes. About once a week we do burgers, and homemade pizza is becoming a near weekly occurance as well. If I'm in a pinch and have nothing defrosted, I'll make lentil tacos (because I always have tortillas and cheese) or a three-bean chili. The main goal here is something easy and quick, because I'm nearing hangry mode at this time of day. Above I have a kale salad with parmesan cheese and a bacon-wrapped pork chop.

evening snack

I don't always eat after dinner, but I do love a small bowl of vanilla ice cream or a gin and tonic.

Like I said, I'm a creature of habit. Once I find something that I like and is easy to make I tend to make it a lot. I switch things up by using different mix-ins or dressings or seasonings, but usually each week looks similar in food.

Do you have any go-to meals you eat on a weekly basis?