Posts By: KimLawler

5 Productivity Tasks to Try This Week

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I mainly work On-The-Internet, which means there are an untold number of distractions that can turn my productivity scale down to 0.

Shiny new thing! Doge! Weasel on a woodpecker! (I mean, come on!)

I also work from my home office surrounded by fun things such as laundry, 3 crazy animals that want playing with, and Netflix. This week I’m going to be concentrating on increasing my productivity without totally altering the way I work, want to join in?

There’s nothing extreme or bullshitty here, no massive life-altering changes, just small things that’ll help you be more productive for maybe 1-2hrs in your work day. That might seem small, but it adds up to over a day’s worth of work over the course of a week!

1// Only answer emails/check your inbox at certain points during the day

This one always works for me, as I’m quick to jump on emails as soon as they hit my inbox. I always find myself glancing back at the gmail tab and checking if anything’s come in. Instead, I’m going to be checking my email first thing in the morning, and replying to anything that needs a response, and then having another check in at lunch time and the end of the day.

Previous daily time spent on email: 1.5-2hrs, new daily time spent on email: 1hr.

2// Checking in with RescueTime to see where I’m getting most distracted.

Have you used RescueTime? It’s a great app that really lets you see (in time and percentages) how productive you’re being. My big distractors are Facebook and Twitter, so I’m going to aim to decrease the amount of time spent on those each day.

Previous daily time spent on twitter/facebook: 1.5hrs, new daily time spent on twitter/facebook: 1hr.

3// Have some Pomodoro sessions

The Pomodoro technique is great, but I find it pretty intense. I work flat out during the 20-minute stretches, which yeah.. is brilliant for productivity, but then I feel exhausted after a couple of hours. I’m going to aim to do 3hrs of Pomodoro each day this week.

It’s hard to give a time for this kind of thing, but I would say (based on RescueTime graphs) it makes me about 25-30% more productive during those sessions, leading to an increase in productivity of around an hour.

4// Schedule time for workouts/laundry/non-work things

You might typically class these as distractions, but scheduling in time for non-work things during a working day often makes me more productive in all aspects. If I don’t schedule things in, I end up trying to do 10 things at once and not doing any of them well. Whereas, if I schedule 15 minutes to laundry-sort, or 20 minutes for a workout, then I set myself to task and don’t waste time.

Again, hard to pin-point the actual productivity increase here, and really.. workouts & laundry, though not productive in the making-money-work sense, are productive by way of having-your-shit-together. Here, it’s more about scheduling things in and making sure things get done, leading to less stress, rushing and “ARGH LAUNDRY” anxiety. 

5// Add more to your to do list that you think you can achieve

Having a big daily to do list might seem daunting, but it also revs you up for crossing off as much as you possibly can. The days when my to do list is a little bare? I end up taking it easy and just doing what’s on there. Beef up your list, and make sure you’re listing out small, achievable steps for each of the day’s goals.

Other tiny ways to be more productive:

  • Reward yourself with a coffee/tea/biscuit whenever you’ve finished something big.
  • If you have an idea mid-work, write that shit down and leave it for later. It’ll still be there.
  • Listen to a playlist that gets you in the zone, this might be one of Spotify’s “focus” playlists, or an album you can have on in the background.
  • Recognise your productivity traits and use them to your advantage. Whenever I’m in a “get shit done” frame of mind, I always yank my hair up into a high-pony. Sometimes you have to put the cart before the horse, so by yanking my hair up my brain goes “oh, right! let’s do this!”. This analogy got really horsey.
  •  Stay hydrated! Your brain will thank you by being more alert.

Do you have any small changes that make you more productive? I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments :)

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What I’m reading: February 2015

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March rolled around fast, eh? It’s World Book Day today, so I thought it’d be a good time to show you what I read/audiobooked in February! As with all these round-ups, I’m not going to give you a synopsis of the book (that’s what goodreads and amazon are for), but just tell you whether I rate or slate them.

Slam – Nick Hornby

This has been on my bookshelf for ages. I think we got it as a 2 for a fiver at Sainsbury’s or something. I didn’t realise this was a YA book before I started reading, not that that would’ve put me off. It was… meh. Something and nothing. If it wasn’t a short-read I’d have probably given up. Not really on my recommends list!

On Amazon here.

Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry

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On Audio: I’ve listened to all of Stephen Fry’s autobiographies on audiobook, and they never disappoint. I couldn’t imagine reading an autobiography not read by the author, or someone close to the author!

My god, private single-sex schools! I mean, we all know these things go on, but it’s a whole different story when you hear Stephen Fry narrating his losing-of-virginity in one of the bathrooms, isn’t it? I would thoroughly recommend any of Fry’s autobiographies, I’ve enjoyed every one of them, even though I haven’t listening to them in chronological order.

On Amazon here.

Wild: A journey from lost to found – Cheryl Strayed

I read this at the start of the month while I was up in Northumberland in a little cottage by the sea. I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, but that’s what made me get this book.

There’s a lot of criticism about this book on Goodreads & amazon, but I really enjoyed it. There’s navel gazing, for sure, but that’s what personal accounts and autobiographies are for, right? For me, this book was about how Cheryl dealt with grief after the loss of her mother, it wasn’t solely about how incredibly unprepared (and stupid) she was on her long hike, or about the mistakes she made in her life. That was just part of the ‘self exploration’ journey. As a hiker myself I appreciated her descriptions of her journey & all the things she found difficult and had to overcome.

On Amazon here.

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

This has long been on my To Read list, and it came up on Amazon’s kindle deal of the day to commemorate the Dresden bombings. I really enjoyed this book, and I’ve added it to my re-read list. It’s the kind of book that made me wish I’d read a paper copy so I could’ve added notes to the margins. A twisted plot with so much under the surface, it might be a quick read but it stays with you.

On Amazon here.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

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On Audio: I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Goldfinch last year, the narration on that one was excellent. This one, though, was read by the author herself which, when the main character is an early-twenties male, is a bit weird. I ended up switching the speed up on audible to play at 1.25x, such was the monotony of Tartt’s narration. Kinda wish I’d read the book instead, as I don’t think it did much good to the story.

Loads of people say that this is their favourite ever book, a masterpiece, perfection. I mean, I found it interesting, and a good listen, but I don’t think I’d put it in my top 10. I preferred The Goldfinch! I found the characters to be overwrought and overworked, kind of like Tartt had tried to inject them all with too much personality. I couldn’t find myself rooting for any of them, or feeling any kind of affinity.

On Amazon here.

The Story of Us – Dani Atkins

Now this is what you want in a trashy novel (after my last trashy novel, The State We’re In, left a bitter taste in my mouth). The characters are a bit vapid, the storyline tries to be more than it actually is, but it’s exactly what you expect from a book like this. Perfect long flight or Friday-night-on-the-sofa fodder, an easy read with a few twists and turns that keep you turning the pages.

On Amazon here.

In February I also started, and gave up on, Concretopia. I might revisit it at some point, but I found it really text-booky and not as interesting as I’d hoped. I guess not all non-fiction can be as good as Bryson, eh?

Topics of the books on my shelf for next month: adventures on motorcycles, long walks, short stories, and comedy genius.

You can find me on Goodreads! PS. All amazon links above are affiliate links, if you click + buy, I get a few pence.

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WordPress 101: Back that shit up

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When was the last time you backed up your WordPress database? Or files?

Mm-hmm.

We’re all guilty of it.

As much as I love WordPress, it can be dodgy. Plugins can be corrupt, causing all manner of problems to arise within your database. There are security holes that can allow hackers to cause irreversible damage to your files and database. And then, of course, there’s good old fashioned human error.

One way or another you need to backup. Here are my top tips for making sure you’ve got the safety net of a backup for your WordPress website or blog.

What is a backup?

A backup is a carbon copy of your WordPress website. Your WordPress website consists of files (that you can see via your FTP, these are your themes, images, and WordPress itself) and your database (this is where all the information is stored). A backup can consist of just files, just the database, or both.

Here’s what WordPress has to say about backups.

NB: I don’t usually backup plugins unless they’re premium/have been adjusted in any way. They’re generally easy enough to re-download, and it saves some time/space by leaving them out of your backup.

Regularity

The regularity of your backups depending on how often you update your website. I tend to go for a weekly backup of the database, and a monthly backup of files. It might sound tempting to do a daily backup, but this can cause a lot of server load and is generally unnecessary (but if your hosts offer it, then awesome!).

Most backup plugins offer you control over when and what you backup, and offer their advice on regularity.

I’d also suggest manually backing up at least once a month, and checking that your automated backup solution is still working correctly!

Before and After

Along with a regular schedule of backups, you should take time to backup before and after any updates. That includes WordPress core updates, plugin updates and theme updates. Better safe than sorry!

Check if your hosts offer a free backup

There are some really great dedicated/managed WordPress hosts out there, and many of them offer backups as standard. WP Engine, for instance, offer a free daily backup of both your database and files.

It’s not just the dedicated WordPress hosts, either. My host of choice here in the UK, Krystal, offer daily backups with all of their plans.

Where to store your Backup

Depending on your backup method, you can store your WordPress backup in a variety of places. The most usual place is on your server, where your actual WordPress install lives. This isn’t ideal, and I really wouldn’t recommend relying on just this version of your backup.

To be safe, you should have your backup stored in a variety of places, here are a few options.

  • Your server
  • Your computer
  • Dropbox
  • An external drive
  • Google Drive
  • A different server

The more backups, the safer your ass.

The Best Plugins

Don’t worry if your host doesn’t offer backups, there’re a variety of other ways that you can backup your site using some free and premium WordPress plugins. And even if your host does offer backups, I’d always suggest going ahead and generating a backup of your own elsewhere… just in case.

Here are a few of my favourites to get you started, but there are plenty of other options available (give “best wordpress backup plugins” a google, and check out recent round-ups).

Updraft Plus is an awesome – possibly the best – free plugin that makes backing up your WordPress site super easy. There are LOADS of options with this plugin, including backing up to Amazon S3, Dropbox, and your email.

Another of my favourite free backup plugins is WordPress Backup to Dropbox. This is a free plugin, and connects your WordPress site with your Dropbox account, creating automated backups on a regular schedule.

A premium plugin that’s definitely worth a look at is BackupBuddy, offering some great features alongside automated backups, BackupBuddy makes automated backups easy as pie, and does all the fun stuff of storing your backups on external storage areas! In fact, this is the plugin that I use.

VaultPress is another premium (paid for) service, but it’s one of the best Wordpress automated backup plugins.

For instructions on manually backing up your WordPress website, check out the information over on WordPress itself.

What to do with your backup if your site dies

Your backup will let you restore your WordPress website without much stress. The plugins above offer instructions on restoring your site (and most of the time the restoration process depends on the plugin you’ve used), and your hosts will also provide instructions (or do it for you).

It can get quite technical, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a developer if you’re struggling.

 TL;DR

  • Backup with regularity
  • Don’t rely on automated backup plugins, take the occasional manual backup through that plugin too
  • Store your backups in a variety of places
  • Always backup before any updates to your WordPress site
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5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Business

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I quit my day job back in 2011 (woah, almost 4 years!), and even though I’d run a small business alongside a day job for a few years before then, there’s still a load of stuff I wish I’d known before going properly into ‘business’ with no day job buffer.

It Gets Easier

The first year is really tough. It’s an insane learning curve, with so many new things to tackle. Cash flow generally isn’t great during the first 18 months, and being the only one who calls the shots is stressful. Everything feels really awkward, and imposter syndrome is at an all time high. About 4 months in you start to question whether going into business was a good idea. Don’t worry, it gets easier. Everything starts to even out. Those tough new things become second nature. If you’re running your business right, cash flow is no longer a problem. Imposter syndrome? yeah, you’ll still feel that.

If you want to succeed, you will succeed

This isn’t about luck. And it’s not about some bullshit magical-unicorn-poop ritual of thanking the Universe. If you want to succeed, you will succeed. But you’ll need to put in the hours. You’ll need work your ass off, knuckle down, and really mean business. You’ll get back what you put in, you cannot coast through this and expect great things to happen.

You don’t have to do it all

Delegation is the key to business growth. I’m still working on this one, and for me it’s more about figuring out exactly what I can delegate. However, as I’ve said numerous times before, one of the greatest things I ever did was get an accountant to handle my tax return. I wish I’d invested sooner!

You will fuck up, but that’s okay

Things go wrong. It’s inevitable. It’s all in how you handle it. Between sending out wrong items of jewellery, and not managing to meet an important deadline, I’ve fucked up. Just stay calm, figure out how to fix it, and admit what went wrong.

Don’t burn out

There have been times during my business where I’ve worked all weekend, and late into the night, tiring myself out and killing any kind of creativity and productivity I have. I don’t condone this behaviour. It’s shitty. Get better at time management, take time off, don’t burn out.

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What I’ve been Reading: January 2015

I read quite a few books last year, not as many as I’d like, but more than I thought I would. I also got really in to audiobooks. So I thought I’d do a blog post each month with mini-reviews of the books I’ve read/listened to. Let’s start!

January was a big reading month for me, I probably won’t top this month in terms of volume until December. Those few days off work at the start of the month saw me hunkering down and working through a fair few books.

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We are all completely beside ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Oh, I really enjoyed this! Although I’d worked out the twist before it was out and out stated. I found it a really interesting subject matter, and it’s made me want to read more non-fictional accounts of the same subject.

This does seem to be one of those books that you either love or hate, though, judging by a lot of the Goodreads reviews. I think it’s one that you just have to give a chance.

Buy the book here.

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We were liars – E. Lockhart

This was a strange one. Quite a short read, I read it in one sitting. I always enjoy YA fiction, and its come along so much in the past few years, so I never disregard books as being for kids.

The writing style was a little odd in places, I thought it was my kindle being weird or something but no, there were random broken sentences. I don’t think they leant anything to the story, really, but maybe that’s what the author was aiming for.

I was gripped by the story, and stumbled in to the twist in a sort of “ah, I kinda saw that coming, but not exactly like that” kinda way.

It was okay. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, I read better books this month (The Miniaturist, for one).

Buy it here.

 

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Water for Elephants – Sara Greun

I’ve had this on my kindle for some time, it’s something I’d been meaning to read but always had something more alluring. I decided to give this a go and really, really enjoyed it! It’s quite an immersive book, the story really pulls you in.

I’ve got a soft spot for circuses, sideshows, freak shows, so I was absorbed with the descriptions and characters.

I really recommend this book!

Buy the book here.

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The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

I don’t read many non-fiction books (unless they’re Bill Bryson), but I read this on Adam’s insistence. He read it last year and enjoyed it, so I borrowed his kindle and gave it a go.

Jon Ronson – author of The Men Who Stare at Goats, amongst other things – is a pretty funny, British writer, I’ve seen him on various comedy panel shows in the past. The book follows his journey into learning about psychopathy, from interviews with professionals in the field, to pioneers, and even people diagnosed with psychopathy. Be warned, though, you will start checking people you know on the Bob Hare checklist…

This was a fun and interesting read, I’d recommend it!

Buy the book here.

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The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Like everyone else at the moment, I really enjoyed this book! The story was engaging, enchanting, tragic, cruel, and beautifully written. However, I did think that some of the characters were unexplored, and I would’ve liked each of them to be filled out a little more.

The historical details were superb, and those alone make the book well worth a read.

Buy the book here.

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Shades of Milk and Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal

Well, this was a bit silly. I bought it after a recommendation in one of my history podcasts. It’s… Jane Austen + Magic. And yeah… it’s as silly as it sounds. The language is weird, the story weak, and the magic wasn’t very thought out.

An easy read, quite entertaining, but I don’t think I’ll be carrying on with the series.

Buy the book here.

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The State We’re In – Adele Parks

I got this as a freebie via the kindle store, and ended up reading it over the past few days. I didn’t expect to enjoy it much, but as an easy read, and the sort of trashy novel I can devour, I was pretty engrossed.

It reminded me of a David Nicholls story – set in London, a somewhat fluffy love story with “real life” thrown in there – so it was comfortable ground. The characters were predictable, the plot was a little flimsy (a lot flimsy..), but the narrative was interesting. Sometimes that’s all you want in a book, right?

Without spoiler-ing, the ending felt rushed, and then was unnecessarily cruel. In fact, the ending ruined the (otherwise enjoyable) book for me.

Buy the book here.

You can find me on Goodreads to keep up-to-the-minute with the books I’m reading. All of the amazon links above are affiliate links, so if you click + buy, I get a few pence. 

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