Life Behind The Purple Door

inspiring and encouraging mums of big kids (because little kids grow up) to create family adventure every day

Thursday, 19 October 2017

How I use Trello to organise the Genius Bloggers Tool Kit

I am not the most organised person in the world, unless I really want to be.

I still feel guilty 10 months later that Riley missed a LaserZone play date with his best friend because I forgot to look on my calendar, so I've been working really hard over the last few months to become more like my university-attending-single-mum-self was.

That means that when I decided that I was indeed going to spend a lot of money on the Genius Bloggers Tool Kit last week that I needed a way to keep it organised, and I needed to set it up straight away.

This post contains affiliate links. If you sign up to Trello using my link, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. 

 Enter my favourite digital organising platform ever - Trello.

First up, I created a new board, and starred it, so it sits at the top every time I open Trello. I use purple (of course) to denote blog-related boards, and I collect Trello boards from other people, too. (There are so many amazing ways to use the platform to organise everything, it's pretty cool to see how others apply it. Besides, who doesn't love sticky-beaking?!)

Then it's time for lists. This was easy for the Genius Bloggers Tool Kit, as it was set up inside the bundle. I just typed the groupings straight in, then copied the item title onto each card. (I might go back at a later date and copy who each item was by, so I have that information much easier than trying to find the item to find the author.)

I arranged the lists (by dragging and dropping) in order of where I wanted to start first, dragging groups I wasn't interested in straight away to the very end. I also placed ticks in the title, to let myself know that I had all the files for that group downloaded to my computer.

I also created header cards (the top priority and low priority cards) and marked them with labels. I find this makes it much easier to break down a big pile of information on the list.

My original intention for the ebooks was to attach each file to the card, but the basic free plan has a limit of 10MB per file, so I decided to set up a Google Drive Power Up (Trello's name for linking to another platform; you can use one Power Up per board on the free plan), and I'll upload all the files to Drive, then link them to the correct card.

When writing this post I had trouble trying to figure out how to sync Google Drive and my computer, so I took the easy way, and sent the files straight to DropBox, and linked to Trello from there. Both systems link to Trello the same way, through a PowerUp, and then you select the link to upload a file from DropBox/Google Drive.

For ecourses, I created a label to mark the card with, and copied the course link to the card. I also noted the email I used to sign up and the password.

Because I can access Trello via the app on my phone or iPad, it's easy to sit in front of the TV and skim a book or class or dive deep sitting at the computer, and I should always know where I'm up to learning the next thing or applying due dates if I really want to learn something quickly.

How do you keep track of all the things you read for your job?
Have you tried Trello yet?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

5 easy tips to stop researching and start writing

On any strengths test I have ever completed, being a lifelong learner is top of my list. The desire to learn everything I can about whatever fascinates me right now has lead to Google and Pinterest being my best friends, and some pretty random conversations with my kids as I lead them towards the same path of learning everything.

But following every random squirrel thought (after Doug from the Disney movie UP!) can create chaos, in thought and action. When you've read too much information about a topic it can cloud your own work with someone else's words, or your brain becomes so overwhelmed that you can't move past the research stage into action, it's time to try something else.

1 - do the good stuff first 

if you're like most people, you spend your day getting everything out of the way, so you can focus on your personal projects or hobbies at the end of the day. But what if we tried flipping this around, and did the good stuff first, the stuff that fulfilled us, and allowed us the space to be ourselves (and get in some super-important self care while we're at it.)

Anecdotal reports are starting to appear around the internet that people who take self care first have been more productive during the day, better focused, and mentally stronger.

2 - set a timer 

the pomodoro technique of chunking time doing one activity for a set period of time is a great way to get things moving when you're stuck. If you don't have the will power to just ignore the open tabs on your computer, why not try a program like Cold Turkey, or Cold Turkey Writer? Cold Turkey can block your access to certain websites at times set by you, while Cold Turkey Writer blocks your whole computer, and offers you a screen that only allows you to type.

30 minutes is enough time to get words flowing, and once the timer rings, you can either keep going, to keep up with your thoughts, or take a five minute break (set a timer again, if you need to, to avoid getting distracted again.)

3 - brain dump 

one of the best ways to clarify your thoughts on a particular idea that you're researching is to dump everything out into a draft first. This can help you see where the gaps in your knowledge are, and slows you down from researching everything without a clear end in sight.

But be careful, because this can also lead you back down the path of over-research when you think you don't know as much about a topic as you thought you did. This is where the following point can help you.

4 - decide your hypothesis first 

as I have researched various thoughts recently, I have discovered that there was a lot of unexpected value in the science reports that we wrote at school. When we want to teach with our writing (which is usually why we research), having a clear idea to follow helps avoid the random tangents that research can often lead to.

You can either write this out on a piece of paper, so it's sitting in front of you as you type, or just make it the first line of your writing, and then move on from there.

5 - just do it 

look, I don't have all the answers in the world, or even have much success at actually applying this to myself, but sometimes I have found that the simplest ways to get anything done is to actually stand up and do it. Don't promise yourself any reward, don't yell at yourself, just start doing whatever the task is. I'll often find that I'm finished way quicker than I thought I would be (this happened every quarter when we still had our truck and I had put off the accounts all month)

The action of getting up (because we're often sitting down when the thought crosses our mind that we must do something) and placing one foot in front of the other with a clear action in mind will get us moving from one task to the next in a logical pattern. I find this most helpful when I've been procrastinating the big sorting jobs of bedrooms, or starting to write again after a period of no words.

bonus tip - invest in a class 

sometimes all the research in the world is related to something that we're struggling to put into place for ourselves, whether it's related to our work (eg, creating a sales funnel for your blog) or personal (eg, learning to stop the mindless Facebook scroll.) Sometimes it's impossible to learn to do those things by ourselves, and we need the words of someone who doesn't know us to guide us in the right direction.

Related - How to choose the right expert for you

The explosion of online courses means that there really is someone out there who can teach anybody anything, so pay close attention, because the right person often pops up when you least expect them (or can afford to pay them, so take a chance!)

How do you get yourself writing again after a break?
linking up with Capturing Life

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hello Monday

[photo of Steve taken in Normanton, Qld. He sends photos of his bed every night at Sophie's request, and as he travels further north he's started sending tourist photos home, too.]

hello school holidays Or rather, hello second week of school holidays. We have not had a success break this time. Everyone is tired, niggly, and finding the adjustment of not having dad around difficult, so tempers (from everyone) have been frayed, and behaviour has been appalling (from everyone) We're all brainstorming ways to make this week better.

hello cough 4 weeks after the flu, the cough is still hanging around. I can see that I'm going to end up with a chest infection and antibiotics before too much longer.

hello cooking from scratch Part of the flu story was discovering that I had hypertension. When I was at the doctors last week I asked how I could help reduce my blood pressure at home. He told me the only thing that would help was a low salt diet, to which I responded "we don't eat much salt, so I guess I can't do anything." *insert laughing emoji here* Boy was I wrong! It seems that our recent reliance on "lazy food" (freezer food) that the kids can cook, and I know they'll eat, is laden with salt! So I'm taking back control of our meals by ditching the freezer food and cooking from scratch. So far this past weekend all the kids have devoured the foods I've cooked, and I've felt a lot less sluggish.

hello content planning I have about 60 drafts in my back end, and another hundred or so ideas lined up in Trello, but I sat here an hour ago telling myself I had nothing to write about. So it's time to bang it all together into a content plan that makes sense to my brain, because I'll never get consistent without a plan (so the experts tell me.)

hello Christmas Did you know today marks 14 weeks to Christmas? In fact, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, if your family is anything like mine, it's almost over and everyone is off for an afternoon nap. But that means it's about to get a bit more Christmasy around here, so stay tuned to see what I've got.

hello Monday, a new start every week.

linking up with One Mother Hen and Denyse Whelan

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

what my 10 year old taught me about kicking fear to the curb

It was a bright and sunny Sunday morning. With a quick pat of the dogs, the kids piled out the front door and into the car, excited about the prospect of an adventurous morning at the local show.

We eventually found a car park, popped hats onto heads, and walked through the front gates.

We follow the same path each year, wandering through the craft, baking and art exhibitions first, stopping to marvel at the woodcutters, then meander towards the steam engine displays while licking ice creams.

As the morning wears on, we wander through sideshow alley, around the corner to the dodgem cars, and the Ferris Wheel.

I love the Ferris Wheel.

Tucked into a quiet corner with a shady shed standing guard over the line, the Ferris Wheel beckons for all who look at her high flying baskets, tempting them with promises of distant mountains to spy on.

Every year, as I stand in line for my ticket, I ask who is coming with me.

Steve waits with the kids.

Chloe has been up with me.

Douglas has been up with me.

This year, Natalie decided it was her turn.

"How high does it go?" she asks with a nervous giggle

"Do they ever fall down?" her nerves are starting to show.

"How do I get off?" she finally asks.

As we wait in line to hop on the ride, her anxiety is more noticeable.

Like a good big brother, Douglas tells her that the basket stops at the top.

"What if it falls?" she asks again.

"Not that it isn't possible," I said, "but have you ever heard of this one falling down?"

The ride stops, and the guy beckons for us to climb aboard.

The carriage rocks a little, leaving us all unsteady as we sit down.

I pull out my camera once we're seated, like any good scrapbooker would.

I can see the fear on her face, she's squeezing my hand so tightly... but it wasn't until we started moving that I realised we were facing the wrong way.

Snap, snap, snap, goes the camera, and slowly her grip loosens on mine.

"Look, there's dad," I tell her. She slowly leans forward as we pass over his head, and waves madly.

We settle in for the ride, round and round and round we go.

As the ride finishes she runs off to find dad.

"That was so cool," says Douglas

"Can we go again?" asks Natalie.

"Time to find the show bags" says dad, and off we wander.

It wasn't until we were heading to the car that I heard Natalie's excitement.

"I was so scared," she said to Riley, "but it was so cool being up there!"

"Will you go on it again?" he asks her

"I wanna go back and do it right now!" she replies to him.

The buzzing and giggling carried on all the way home, where it occurred to me that my 10 year old daughter had done something I struggled to do myself - she'd overcome her fear of something, and done it, with great results.

How did she manage it?

1 - she didn't overthink the task. Sure, she worried a little bit about what might happen, but when the guy called us forward to climb in the cage, she climbed straight on in.

2 - she accepted that it felt weird at first. Climbing into that slightly wobbly cage can be off putting. But she grabbed my hand to steady herself, and looked all around to get her bearings.

3 - she understood what the task involved. She knew that the task involved getting in the cage, and going around in circles until it stopped. There was no opportunity to change the path of the Ferris Wheel.

4 - she gave herself space to feel. I didn't really come to understand this one until much later, but by allowing herself the space to talk, she was able to deal with the anxiety that had sprung up for her as we waited.

5 - she celebrated her win. By talking about the fun she had, and making plans to do it again next year, Natalie celebrated her successful adventure on the Ferris Wheel.

Even a month later, I still carry these lessons with me as a reminder that if she can do it, I can, too.

linking with Kylie Purtell for IBOT

Monday, 11 September 2017

Hello Monday

goodbye flu While the cough is still lingering, the flu has finally left the building. It's been an unsubtle reminder to all of us to get our flu shots on time next year!

hello dishwasher After a year without (and dishes washed to teenage standard) we finally bought a new dishwasher yesterday. We've already used it 3 times just on yesterday's lunch and dinner dishes. It's ridiculously exciting how clean the dishes in the cupboard now are!

hello video I have really been surprised how much I enjoy making videos. Starting today, there's a new video challenge starting up, hosted by Niamh Arthur from Light It Up Video Marketing (the video membership I joined earlier this year.) 22 videos in 30 days, with topics provided and lots of hints and tips, I'm excited to get stuck back into making videos regularly. {Affiliate link} If that sounds like something you're interested in, you can join here, and I'll be your cheerleader, too!

hello 8 Riley is 8 today. I've been busily baking cupcakes to take to school this afternoon, and his requested cheesecake for after dinner at the pub tonight.

hello routines Being sick for so many weeks has thrown out any routines that I had started to set myself up for. I woke up one day to Douglas doing housework, and the kids have lived on frozen meals for the last couple of weekends. While the cough still lingers (and Steve is home for the next couple of days) it's time to start planning and doing and setting those routines up again.

hello blog maintenance Quite randomly last week, I decided to start writing out a list of all the tags I have ever used on posts here, and the number of posts linked to each tag. It was an eye opening list of over 450 words that mostly had less than 2 posts each against them, but it has spurred me on to get stuck into the maintenance list that I've been writing for most of this year. Updating photos, deleting crappy posts, and finally updating my about page!

hello Monday, a new start every week.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

How to make memories with Banana Bread

Hands down,  chocolate wins in our house every time. And, despite beings slightly over bananas, even this recipe has everyone from the biggest to the smallest coming back for another piece.

The best recipe blog posts are those that weave a story into the recipe, the why and wherefore of a recipe's life cycle in a household. The magic of seeing what and how other people eat and make is part of the allure of recipe blogs. To know that food ultimately comes down to bringing people together over a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

This recipe has no such origins of elegance. A free magazine from the supermarket, a glut of bananas in the fridge, and a desire to bake anything that wasn't a recipe I knew by heart. Perhaps that's how the best recipe memories are born.

1 cup brown sugar
1 ¾ cup self raising flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup milk
2tsp white vinegar
150g butter, melted
2 eggs
2 bananas, mashed

* add vinegar to milk, allow to sit 10 minutes before use
* place flour, cocoa and sugar into bowl, whisk
* add choc chips to bowl, stir gently
* combine milk, eggs, banana, butter, and add to flour mix
* stir gently 
* pour into lined loaf pan
* bake 180°C 50-60min
* allow to completely cool before frosting

* mix 125g softened butter with electric beater until pale
* add 1 ½ cups icing sugar until combined
* add 1Tbs milk and 100g cooled melted white chocolate, combine
* spread frosting over cake

Perfect for supper, or a treat for lunch boxes.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

How to stick with blogging for 10 years

The computer monitor precariously balanced on phone books was covered in dust again, but with an unexpectedly long nap from the not-quite 6 month old non-sleeping baby girl, the internet had become an escape from the juggle of life. Facebook was still a month away from introducing itself to me, so hours lost in chat forums was the norm. On this particular day, the discussion was about blogs.

"Is it easy to set up?" said one participant.

"Sure," I said "I've done it before"

"So what do you use it for?" asked another member.

"I'm going to share my scrapbook layouts" responds a third person.

"Wow," said I, "that's a great way to use it!"

And the rest, they say, is out there for the world to see for forever.

From sharing scrapbook pages, to collecting memories, and imparting knowledge, this space has become part of the framework of my life. I can't imagine a time when it wasn't  important to my days (even when I'm lost in the spiral of self-doubt, trying to find a path back to writing is important) Content may change, but reading and writing is always important (who would have thought I'd love creating videos so much? Certainly not me!)

1 - Blogging is a long-term game

Sure, there's people on Pinterest who will tell you they made four figures their first month, but if you look closely at their break down, it's never quite true. (As Melanie Miller points out, there's a big difference between $1000 and $9999)

2 - It doesn't matter what other people think

I was listening to a podcast when I suddenly heard a comment that I knew was directed at me. The host said "brand identity doesn't just mean your text is purple." (There's a whole story about how I knew it was me they were talking about, but that's for maybe one day.) But my point is that if you like something, whether it's purple text, or writing about frogs, stick with it, because if you're not passionate about it, it isn't going to stick for you.

3 - Write what you know (or want to know)

There's some truth in the idea that you should write about what you know. But it's even more fun to write about what you learn as you grow. (This post from Megan Blandford explains more.)

4 - Perfection is overrated

There's an overwhelming number of people in Facebook groups caught up in names, and design, and planning the content, and the Pinterest templates, and on and on.

For God Sake, just start!

Yep, it's harder to do all that stuff once you start writing, but if you don't write, you have no need for all the other stuff.

5 - Stock photos are boring

The internet is built on images, so it stands to reason that images are a vital part of writing a blog post. They should support and enhance the story that you're telling with your words. But finding the right stock photo can be hard work. Using your own images is always unique, even if you have to stage your own flatlays or take photos of flowers.

6 - Have a purpose that isn't "make money"

Every man and his dog will tell you that remembering your why will help you put one foot in front of the other, but despite my many years of reading and writing, I didn't truly get this until just recently. "Making money" helps pay the bills, but it doesn't inspire passion, or loyalty in tough times. But writing to remember your story, telling your story so someone else doesn't have the same experience, making mistakes so your kids don't have to, that's a great purpose.

 7 - You will find friends in unexpected places

Blogging is a popularity game. Making money comes down to traffic, and who you know. But when you comment often enough on someone's posts, eventually friendships develop.

8 - Sometimes you will hate everything you write

We are our own worst critics. Whether you are trying to grow your audience, or write a sponsored post, or just capture memories for the future, sometimes you will hate the words you've written. That's ok, but don't let it take over your thoughts. Just remember, it's a bad day, not a bad life. Close the editor for today, and try again tomorrow.

9 - Read your archives occasionally

We all start somewhere, and we were all terrible at it. Going through your archives shows how far you've come, how much you've changed, and how much you've yet to learn. Those posts are gold, so go read them again.

10 - Ignore everything I've said

If you remember your purpose, write because you love it, and you're in it for the long haul, blogging can be absolutely anything you want it to be. Write because you don't have anything to say, include affiliate links in every post, listen to all the experts; do what you want, how you want to, just get on and do it!

You can read past blog birthday posts here - nine, eight, seven, six, five, three *

*  I've been celebrating on the wrong day for the last four years!

How long have you been blogging for? What don't you know?

Linking up with Kylie Purtell for IBOT

Monday, 21 August 2017

Hello Monday

hello growth My word for the year has been kicking my butt lately... as I move through understanding what it means for me, and how I can be successful, I've had so.much.doubt. It's why I haven't written much over the last few months, because once upon a time I had a voice in my head that said I shouldn't. That voice seems to be gone now (although I expect I might hear from it again if I let it in), so it's onwards from here.

hello blog birthday Tomorrow, this space turns ten. That's rather hugely awesome in the blogging world, because so many people stop writing as life gets in the way. And I'm rather surprised that I've made it this far, because in the past I have rarely stuck with things, but I have always loved the act of writing, and learning and sharing.

hello goal setting I've been doing a lot of research into goal setting recently, because I really want to figure out why I struggled so much with actually reaching my goals. The answer is quite simple, but really surprising and unexpected. [But that's a post for another day] As the end of the month approaches, I've got a plan to put into place for the next quarter.

hello newsletter I've actually been consistently sending my newsletter every week for the last couple of months, and enjoying the process. I've also been consciously opening and reading other people's newsletters, to see what they do that makes me want to read them. My favourites so far? Sarah from Yes and Yes; Melissa from Suger Coat It; Shell from The Funnelry; Ruth from Living Well Spending Less and EBA. [You can get on my list over here]

hello affirmations Affirmations are new to my world. I started with "It's my time, and I'm ready for the next step" (from Denise DT, still my favourite) and have gathered a list of abundance and money mindset affirmations that have really supported my growth. Choosing one each week to focus on has helped me reframe the voice in my head, which has to be a good thing, right?!

hello Monday, a new start every week

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