With half term just around the corner now’s a good time for parent bloggers to think of ways to keep your blog active while you enjoy some family time. These suggestions will help you avoid the dreaded Blogger’s Guilt that we all feel from time to time whether it be due to family commitments, writer’s block or too few hours in the day.
PLAN AHEAD: The most obvious and effective way to keep things ticking along is to plan well in advance. Scheduling new posts, tweets, Facebook updates etc for the week ahead takes the pressure off trying to ‘fit it all in’. Your blog will continue to get views while you’re busy building sandcastles and finally making use of your National Trust membership.
BLOG-MIN: If (like me) you are nowhere near organised enough to plan posts in advance use this time to do all the other bloggy bits and bobs on your to-do list e.g:
Find and fix broken links
Contact a blogger you would like to guest-post for
Update your media-kit
Respond to/follow up on emails
Refresh and share an old post
Pin your posts to Pinterest
Update your editorial calendar
All are great ways of being productive when it’s not possible to work on new ideas. Personally I need total silence to be able to concentrate on writing a post but I could happily manage a bit of blog-min while the kids are busy watching a DVD.
One of the great things about blogging is that wherever you are, as long as you have access to your PC, tablet or mobile you can always busy yourself in someway or another. Drafting up a post from the comfort of your own bed or catching up on your favourite Instagram feed on the bus. This can be really handy but I never feel like I’m in the best frame of mind to write unless I’m sitting at a proper workspace. For months my proper workspace was the end of the kitchen table but I got sick of the laptop constantly being there along with the homework, marker pens, unidentified crafty creations etc etc. Oh, and sometimes we even needed to eat our meals on there.
Sooooo Blogfest. One of the biggest, most anticipated blogging events of the year hosted by Mumsnet and offering a day of sessions, seminars and keynote speeches.
I imagine there are already a lot of reviews floating around out there and almost a week after the event you’re probably sick to death of hearing about it so I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’ve purposely tried to avoid reading anything Blogfest-related since Saturday as I was really struggling to figure out a way to put my thoughts into words. In fact to be entirely honest I’ve been struggling to know what to make of the event at all.
So I won’t bore you with every detail but here are a few things that have been bouncing around my brain since Saturday:
So tomorrow morning a whole gaggle of excited blogger types will be alighting at King’s Cross Station for one of the biggest blogging events of the year: BLOGFEST. This year I’m more than a little bit excited to be one of them! Excited, but nervous. Luckily the monumental effort that goes into organising the rest of the family in order to allow this to happen is keeping my mind busy enough that I don’t have time to stress about it too much.
I did it. I put my big girl pants on, figured out how to work the laptop camera and filmed my first ever vlog! It was terrifying but not a total catastrophe so I guess we’ll go with it. Thanks to Jane at Maflingo for nominating me to answer the Vogue 73 questions (you can read her answers here) and also to Helen at Just Saying Mum who’s post Come On Girls, Embrace Your Inner Vlogger! which may have just given me the little nudge I needed to go for it!
A few weeks ago I was tagged by Jane at Maflingo to take part in ‘Sisterhood of the World Bloggers’, a series of questions set by Jane which I have finally gotten round to answering.(I’ll then tag 5 bloggers to take part with some questions of my very own). Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Who would you most like to meet and why? Given the opportunity to meet anyone I would choose my Granddad on my Dad’s side, who died long before I was born and never had a chance to meet. On a lighter note, maybe Greg Davis? I don’t know why but I find him weirdly fascinating!
What’s your earliest childhood memory? I can’t remember much before about the age of 5. They’re all pretty random things that have stuck in my mind, more snapshots in time than actual experiences. An apron that used to hang on the back door, or a very specific bathroom tile that had a pattern a bit like a bird if you squinted. When we lived in Dublin my Aunt lived on the same street and I remember visiting her and discovering a big bar of chocolate in the kitchen drawer. Obviously I broke off a chunk and started scoffing only to discover that someone had created the most revolting tasting chocolate as some sort of sick joke! Diabetic chocolate has come a long way since 1984.
What’s your favourite film and why? I rarely have the inclination to watch a film these days unless it’s something really special but as a teenager I used to watch ‘Clueless’ over and over again, usually on a Sunday while doing the ironing in my parent’s living room -it still makes me smile.
Name three of your ‘guilty pleasures. Just three?? OK Hagan Dazs straight from the tub with my favourite ice-cream spoon. Preferably on the sofa, in my jammies after the kids have gone to bed. Blogging (OK, reading other people’s blogs) when I have an endless list of jobs to do. Post-school run cake for breakfast – I’m not sharing!
Which superhero would you most like to be and why? I’m not up on my superheroes (sorry Jane!) but I had really vivid, recurring dreams of flying as a kid so any one that can fly would be UH-MAZ-ING.
What’s your proudest moment. Oh God as a parent I get ‘Proud Mum’ moments about the most ridiculously small things all the time. I rarely feel proud of myself, in fact it makes me uncomfortable just trying to think about it (hello Catholic Guilt!) Maybe the first time someone said they enjoyed my blog -writing is a totally new thing for me so it was like validation that I was doing alright.
What’s your most embarrassing moment (I’ve shared mine, you share yours!)? When I was younger my Mum would insist on calling me ‘Fanny’ – more ‘years of utter mortification’ than embarrassing moment.
What or who makes you laugh and why? My family aside (hey, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry) silly humour really makes me laugh. The Inbetweeners, Alan Partridge, The Office, Man Down, Gavin and Stacey, Peter Kay – you get the picture.
Who’s your favourite character from a book and why? Easy. The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Stuffs face, sleeps for a fortnight, emerges a fabulous creature.
When was the last time you cried? Yesterday. Becoming a mother has turned me into a massive cry-baby!
My nominations for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers tag are:
Just a super quick half pint of a post today as I refamiliarise myself with a laptop and poke my nose around the screen to say “Hi!”
So it’s been 3 weeks, did you miss me? Pah, bet you didn’t even notice I’d gone. Charming! Well I missed you lot, keeping me entertained and distracting me from all the very important things.
We’re at the end of our first week back to school here and so far, so good. With the exception of just one little meltdown (me, in the middle of M&S) we’re settling back into the old routine nicely and so far nobody has lost any uniform and Mummy hasn’t forgotten anything important. OK, I forgot the cheque for school dinners but apart from that, all good. On reflection my kids appear to be doing school a lot better than I am, hmmm… Oh, oh and we’ve walked to school four days in a row now and only had to run twice to beat the bell – I can tell you’re impressed. To be honest though, that’s mainly because we got stuck in a traffic jam on Day 1 and Spud was almost having kittens at the thought of being late for school, as a result we are now too scared to ever drive again JUST IN CASE.
Anywho, now that the chalk dust has settled and I’ve had a chance return the house to some sort of order I’m sooooooooooooo looking forward to getting back to blogging, lots of ideas I’ve been itching to crack on with over the holidays.
More of that soon, school run beckons – lovely to be back, looking forward to catching up with you all next week.
After last week’s epiphany following my weekend break from blogging I’ve been enjoying a newfound sense of balance and sanity (well, where blogging is concerned anyway). I usually take an ‘all or nothing’ approach so trying not to get bogged down with ALL THE THINGS is taking a bit of restraint but overall I feel much better for it. There’s no limit to the amount we can do in a bid to grow and promote; interacting via linkies and twitter chats or just enjoying reading a few posts with a cuppa for the hell of it.
Generally, you get out what you put in and rightly so. I know there are pro bloggers out there who work day and night growing their brand and running their blog as an actual business. There are also parents who work full-time and yet find the time to post regularly, run linkies and competitions, hang out on Twitter and still remember to bring the PE kits on the right day and fashion a solar system costume out of some loo roll tubes and a grapefruit the night before ‘Space Day’ (HOW?!). I am neither of these people and unfortunately have no plans to be anytime soon so I need to accept that and be realistic about what I can achieve in the time I’m willing to dedicate to my little blog baby.
So that’s that all sorted, jolly good. This zen-like approach lasted all of a week before it suddenly dawned on me: OH MY GOD IT’S ONLY THREE WEEKS UNTIL THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!!!!!!
If I’m struggling to keep up now how on earth will I manage a whole 6 weeks (8 in Ireland) with the kids at home?! Over half term there was an understandable lull in activity amongst a lot of my fellow parent bloggers; however that was only a week or two, hardly a huge deal but the whole of the school holiday? How the hell does that go? Seriously seasoned #pbloggers , what are we looking at here? 6 weeks of tumbleweed or an enormous increase in ‘pre-loved’ posts? (Actually I don’t really mind these unless they are about how to make a Minion Jack-o-lantern in the middle of April). I had considered entitling this post ‘EVERYBODY PANIC!’ but then realised it may just be an overreaction on my part, the pros have probably been preparing for this since new year.
The obvious solution would be scheduling posts and while I totally get why a pro would go down this route, it just doesn’t sit well with me personally. My little blog is mainly ramblings on what’s happening in real-time, a natural progression from one post to the next depending very much on what I’ve experienced/read/discovered prior to writing the post. Rightly or wrongly, I want my posts to be authentic, reactive or even just a good old chinwag depending on how I am feeling, not something premeditated or written under duress because I feel I should be ‘keeping the blog ticking over’. I am not saying scheduling is a bad thing for other bloggers, just that it doesn’t fit naturally with my approach right now. Like I say, I’m not a professional blogger so this may not do me any favours or could be perceived as detrimental to my success, whatever that may be, but I can only make decisions based on my gut – hey, my blog, my rules!
Ok so I think we’ve gathered that scheduling probably isn’t going to be a way round this little dilemma (unless we’re scheduling extended toilet breaks?), so what are my options? How can I cobble together something remotely cohesive without it taking even longer despite 649,352 interruptions, mainly due to snack demands, tending to imaginary injuries and bum-wiping requests?
Now I know you may think I’m overreacting slightly here, I mean it’s not like I post every day but every blogger knows it’s not just about firing out a post, it’s as much about joining in and sharing the love too. So here’s my master plan, or how I intend to juggle a decent amount of blogging while actually enjoying the holidays with my little cherubs:
1. Time Management: It takes me bloody ages to write a post. I am simply unable to bang out a post without agonising over whether or not it’s perfect. At least 80% of that time is spent faffing, so there’s definitely a case for just trying to minimise the faffery and getting on with it. In truth faffery is to blame for most of my time-wasting sins including getting distracted by notifications of posts I follow (I’ll just have a quick peek…an hour later I’ve commented, clicked on 3 in-post links, signed up for a free subscription box and started a 7 day trial on PicMonkey!)
I’m experimenting with setting a timer while writing this post and so far I’ve had a phone call from my brother and a man turn up 4 hours early to quote me for replacing the garden fence panels. Both of which are great but also perfect examples of how my futile attempt at time management has gone to pot without the kids even being here!
Cunning Plan: It’s pretty obvious that most of these distractions can be avoided by just switching my phone off for an hour. NEXT!
2. Choose Your Moment: Now onto minimising interruptions of the non-technological variety AKA kids, who unfortunately don’t come with a ‘silent mode’. Of course I don’t expect them to let me get on with anything uninterrupted for longer than 3 minutes despite my desperate pleas for a bit of peace ; (in a similar way to how they suddenly have no end of urgent questions and require an abnormal amount of trips to the loo when you’ve asked them to get into bed!)
All parents waved goodbye to the certainty of uninterrupted time lonnnnnnng ago and it would be selfish of me to expect them to behave like anything other than normal, inquisitive, rambunctious little scamps anyway.
Cunning Plan: Time to get clever, think about what really holds their attention. An afternoon film and popcorn is usually a winner in our house when the kids are hot and tired and should guarantee some peace once a week.
3. The Notebook: A trip to the playgroynd, moochingat the library or a scoot around the park. There’s a good 30 minutes where I am basically surplus to requirements (in their eyes) with the exception of the odd swing-pushing request.
Cunning Plan: With my trusty pad and pen by my side that’s just enough time to plan out the bones of a post, catch up on a linky, enjoy reading that post I bookmarked or reply to blog comments.
4. Brucie Bonus: Sunny day? Fill that paddling pool, slap on the factor 50 and the kids are good to go for the day. Arrange a playdate rota with friends so you have a day child free couple of hours every so often. Suss out what’s on locally for kids; lots of councils, sports clubs and churches run free or reasonably priced sessions over the holiday- take advantage of them.
Cunning Plan: When opportunity knocks……………BLOG!
5. Bribery: So the post is ready to publish and you literally need FIVE MINUTES to do a final read through. Suddenly a little person appears at your side requesting the entire contents of Hobbycraft for something really cool they just saw on Mr Maker.
Cunning Plan: The promise of ‘getting the paints out’ in exchange for a few precious minutes if perfectly acceptable in such an emergency.
6. Lower your expectations: When I had my first child one of the pearls of wisdom many parents offered me in relation to housework was ‘lower your expectations’. You will never again have the ‘luxury’ of being bored enough to wash down the skirting boards or vacuum the curtains. Similarly, with little people around to keep you busy, lowering your expectations of what you can realistically achieve with your blog will save you a lot of stress.
Cunning Plan: Relax. Remind yourself you are not the only one short on time at the moment. I’m a Mummy before everything, that’s my priority and I refuse to feel guilty about enjoying that time with my kids free from the pressure to post.
I’d love to hear what your blogging plans are in preparation for the holidays – are you a fan of scheduling or just planning to take a bit of a step back and enjoy the Summer?
After the months of excitement and build up, one of the biggest blogging events in the calendar finally arrived last weekend: BML16. A day of talks, workshops and networking opportunities for bloggers and a great excuse to share an actual bottle of bubbles (rather than the usual virtual emoji variety) with all those fellow online chatterboxes we’ve been looking forward to meeting.
If you saw my last post you already know I couldn’t actually make it which I’m still a bit gutted about to be honest. However, my alternative plans involved flying to Amsterdam with a group of girlfriends for the weekend, which softened the blow a little (pun intended).
So while a lot of those who made the trip to Fancylondontown for BML16 will be writing up their experience of the event, I can crack on with a post about my weekend’s shenanigans in another awesome capital. Except I won’t.
While it seemed like a perfect opportunity to write about something exciting, I just didn’t want my weekend with the girls to be blog fodder. This was a getaway- from normality, from being a mum/wife/daughter/sister/blogger, from shopping lists and meal plans, after-school and weekend clubs. A brief, but much appreciated break from the routine of day-to-day life. Sorry guys, what happens in Amsterdam….
So I had made the decision in advance that I wasn’t going to blog about my little Dutch adventure. I neatly folded my Blogger pants, put them to one side and mentally switched the blog OFF. Then chucked my Party pants in the case and headed straight to the departure lounge bar.
However, my Twitter feed was obviously awash with #BML16 excitement and the temptation to have a quick peek was there as long as I had my mobile attached to my hand.
In an attempt to keep my nose firmly out of Blogland for a couple of days (harder than you’d think, even without the BML buzz!) I had to be strict with myself on a few occasions and in hindsight it was definitely the right decision. I really did manage to completely switch off and enjoy just being Charlie Brown for a few days and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is struggling to find the blog/life balance (actually leaving the country is optional).
So if you feel like you’re becoming a slave to your blog, or it’s seriously impacting on other areas of your life (she says, currently avoiding eye-contact with the vacuum cleaner), here are my 10 tips on how to survive going cold-turkey. Think of it as a quick stint at The Priory for some blogger rehab, you’ll come out the other side with an empowering, newfound sense of balance.
Decide which dates you’ll be checking into rehab and make them official, put them in the diary and tell someone, preferably someone who will be happy to have your full attention again, well for a while anyway.
Try to avoid dates that coincide with a MASSIVE blogging event but if this is the case, drop a tweet to explain your absence and wish your pals a fab time. There’s always next year.
Plan alternative coping mechanisms. Preferably something you’ll look forward to, this is no time to be ‘getting on with stuff’, the whole point is to remember what life was like before writing posts about everything. Remember the good old days when you did stuff purely so you could brag about it on Facebook?
Do some pre-rehab admin. If you’ve joined in a linky every week from day dot without fail, warn the host of your plans in advance to avoid a serious case of dreaded blogger’s guilt.
DO NOT schedule a post. Although this may seem like a good way to ‘keep the blog going’ in your absence, this is about realising you can just STOP for a while and the sky will not fall in. Scheduling posts is cheating, plus the temptation to read or reply to comments may be too much!
Ditto scheduled tweets. In fact delete the Twitter app for the duration or just switch to your personal account if you have one. You don’t want your phone having a fit everytime you enter a wi-fi hotspot as the result of a bunch of Twitter notifications- avoid the red circle of temptation.
Take a tonne of photos if you fancy but do not actively seek out or set up Instagram friendly shots. I’ll admit to posting one teeny shot over the weekend, but that was because it made me smile and was too lovely not to share – I mean, a ceiling of clogs – how cute?
Once you’ve successfully completed your rehab session take a moment to reflect. Hopefully, after the initial shock wore off, you will have experienced a strange sense of freedom, the blog fog will have lifted and it is almost as if you are seeing the world through the eyes of a normal person. Congratulations – you’ve regained your grip on reality!
Where you go from here is up to you. Try to avoid diving headfirst into 3 days worth of tweets (sooooo tempting with all the exciting ‘stuff’ happening this weekend) or binge reading the backlog of posts from every blog you’ve subscribed to. Nobody will be offended, trust me. More importantly, you will realise that nobody has forgotten who you are, a few tweets in it’ll be like you were never away.
Chill yer boots. Don’t feel pressurised into panic posting! Grab a cuppa, choose a few posts to read and enjoy. Actually enjoy. I went with
So there you have it, my slightly tongue in cheek, but (mostly) failsafe 10 step plan to recalibrating your blog/life settings to suit you and realising the importance of maintaining a healthy balance going forward.
I hope you enjoyed it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject and if/how you try to achieve the right balance for you?
When I hit ‘publish’ on my first post back in January I had very little idea what blogging actually entailed, I just knew I wanted to try something new. I’d read a few ‘Blogging For Dummies’ type articles, decided on a name and purchased a domain. After waaaaaaay too long faffing about on WordPress, Mess & Merlot was finally born.
I felt sick with nerves. What was I doing?! At this point nobody knew about the blog (including Himself until a fair while later!) I was mortified at the thought of even saying the words out loud; “Oh, I started a blog by the way” – CRINGE!!!
Luckily I discovered the world of linkies pretty early on and was blown away by the kindness of fellow bloggers, not only reading but actually commenting on my nonsense. As the weeks passed by I eventually started to remember which linkies to join on which day and who hosted them*. I soon got chatting, as you do, and as well as discovering a shed load of new blogs to explore I struck up some virtual friendships with wonderfully supportive, like minded bloggers. That support meant the world to me, honestly it’s probably the only reason I had enough faith in myself to keep up this blogging malarkey.
(* Lies. I have a shocking memory and go through the same rigmarole of checking I’ve actually tweeted the right hosts for the corresponding linky most days!! I am getting slightly better though.)
After a few months in Blogland I noticed whisperings of nominations, pleas for support and whoops of excitement from successful applicants – yes awards season was evidently upon us!
A mere spectator in the excitement of it all, even that demanded more concentration than my brain can handle most days. Oooh who’s nominated themselves? Have they made the shortlist? YES! I was hoping they’d get through. OK, voting for them, them, them…oh, there are finalists now. Am I voting again then? Hang on, I’ve definitely voted already, was that the MADS or the BiBs though, not sure.
And so I try my best to make sense of the whole voting system in the same way I endeavoured to understand the ‘First Past The Post’ system in the last election, but minus the help of David Dimbleby with his screen full of fancy graphics.
Of course this all culminates in the main event: Brit Mums Live 2016!
Having watched from the sidelines, from the “Eek, I’m going to #BML16” tweets to the ‘Meet my Sponsor’ posts, I have to say I am so, so sad that I will not be able to be part of the whole experience
I will not be:
Fretting about what to wear in the days leading up to the event,regularly checking every weather app on my phone to gauge roughly what the heck the weather has in store and if I have anything that would pass as acceptable attire.
Packing excitedly and jumping on a train to Fancylondontown.
Buzzing with excitement at the prospect of meeting all you virtual chatterboxes in the flesh.
Getting into the BML16 spirit with you at the Friday Fringe party.
Spending the next day enjoying a range of talks from an awesome line up of speakers.
Partaking in any post-conference shenanigans with my new blogging buddies.
Engaging in Twitter conversations about any of the above
I am however looking forward enormously to all the follow up posts and hearing ALL the goss next week!! To all of you who are going I hope you have an amazing time, best of luck to all those up for awards and enjoy the weekend!!
P.S Don’t feel too sad for me, I’m actually in Amsterdam with the girls this weekend, so while I am gutted that it clashes with BML16 I’ll still be having fun! Every cloud eh?