HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

happy holidays

Wishing you a happy holiday season.

We will be taking next off for the holidays, but will see you right back here before the new year.

 

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Wreath from Creekside Farms

REFLECT // Assessing Your Blog Goals

reflecting on your goal

Just after the new year in 2014, Meg and I each wrote posts about important things to do for your blog and how to write a blog plan for the year. I look back, and it’s hard to believe that the year is now basically over!

While marveling at the fact that 2015 is just around the corner, I think this time of year is also a great opportunity to reflect and spend some time assessing your blog goals. If you did write a blog or business plan for yourself last January, re-visit it: what goals did you set for yourself? Which ones did you meet? Are there any that didn’t work out? How have your vision and your goals changed?

I think sometimes people fall into a trap of feeling like if they’re not meeting a goal, it means they’re failing somehow. When it comes to a blog, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, it’s your blog/biz, so if something isn’t working for you, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it — you can just tweak the goal, or look at the bigger picture of whether or not you accomplished the general aim of the goal. For example, last year I listed a goal of signing up for some Skillshare classes. Yeah, that never happened…life just got a little nuts and that was something I didn’t make time for. However, I look at this in two ways: one, my inability to sign up for these classes was in large part due to my growing client base and focus there (a good thing!), and two, while I didn’t learn from Skillshare, I learned from a number of other fantastic resources and still feel like I’m walking into 2015 a lot more skilled and knowledgeable than I was a year ago (also a good thing).

Sometimes, you might not meet your goals because your overall desired result has changed. Maybe you had a goal of wanting to work with sponsors, but once you started doing that, you realized you enjoy blogging just for fun versus as a business. That’s ok! Reaching goals isn’t always the end point — as they say, a lot of what you learn is in the journey.

But of course, if you did meet all your goals, then pour yourself a glass of Champs and celebrate — cheers to an awesome year!

Regardless, here’s what I recommend: During a few quiet moments before the end of the year, take a couple minutes to reflect on and assess your goals from both this last year and the upcoming one (whether those are for your blog, your personal life, anything). Here are a few question prompts to help get you brainstorming:

assessing your blog goals - goal exercises for 2015

Feel free to share your answers to any of the questions below in the comments — we’d love to hear from you!

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

victoria sig

 

REFLECT // A Digest Post of Your Year

yearly digest post

Last year I did a digest post where I linked to posts and features and anything I found interesting for each month of the year that was ending. You can view it here. Recently I started working on the same type of post that I will post on December 31st of this year looking back at 2014.

Doing a roundup post like this from your year is a great way to look back and to see what you’ve accomplished and share some of your favorite posts from the year. It also almost forces you to reflect on your year and see all the good things that happened — that’s what it does for me anyway. Victoria touched on the perfection that is presented in the blogging/Instagram world yesterday, and I think a lot of bloggers get really down on themselves and don’t celebrate their accomplishments because they always feel like there is more. More brands, more collaborations, more more more. For me, this post helps me look back at all of those things and feel proud of what I have accomplished.

I also think it’s a great way for any new readers to see some of your favorite posts from the year that they might have missed.

Do you do any sort of yearly roundup or reflection post? If so, please share a link to it in the comments.

What do you think of posts like this? Do you like them? 

 

meg sig

 

Image via Death to the Stock Photo

REFLECT // Real Life vs. Blog Life in the Age of Social Media

real life vs blog life in the age of social media

It’s no secret that despite anyone’s best efforts, the blog and social media industries create an environment that’s ripe for comparison. If you blog or have an Instagram account, it’s nearly inevitable that at some point, you’ve compared yourself to another publisher. Sometimes, it can be positive (“This person inspires me to take better photos” or “That gal always pushes me to integrate new tools/resources that will help my business evolve”), but the reality is, a lot of it can be very negative (“Why don’t I have as many followers as this person?” or “Ugh, my life looks so ugly compared to this blogger’s.”)

I’m always reasonably aware of when the negative feelings are cropping up for me, but recently, I had a series of life events happen that have resulted in me reflecting even more deeply about the comparison trap and how I do (or don’t) let it impact me. If you read my personal blog, you might have heard about the slipped disc my dog suffered back in November. Her injury came on the heels of what’s been a hellish year, with a lot of difficult things happening in my personal life. In the days following her surgery, and then her return home, life was crazy chaotic. No sleep, spending most of the time trying to help her, just feeling overwhelmed and anxious, generally. In that time, as you can imagine, posting on something like Instagram was the least of my worries. Eventually, once life found a new routine and we settled in a bit, I returned to the platform to see what had been going on — and it was like a new lens filter had been put on the camera (ironic, no?).

When I was away from the platform, I was dealing with an animal in pain, poop accidents multiple times a day, work being put on the back burner, and a generally stressful environment. You can imagine that the beauty and perfection that Instagram presented to me upon my re-entry felt almost jarring — and certainly, in a lot of ways, very inauthentic. I won’t lie — at first, it was nearly repellant. It was hard to relate to perfectly staged outfit posts and food styling shots when my life had been on the opposite end of the spectrum.

But the reality is, no one’s life is ever as perfect as they publish. We know this intellectually, but so much of the perfection we see online isn’t real — or, it’s just a tiny, tiny sliver of someone’s life, and leaves out the much bigger picture. The perfectly made bed doesn’t show the piles of laundry, the sick parent, and the big life decisions on the other side.

So why participate at all? Well, here’s another dose of reality: these types of platforms aren’t going away any time soon; in fact, they’re becoming more and more influential. Social media’s reach continues to grow and expand, and people find new (and often genius and innovative) ways to share themselves online. They just choose what parts to share.

As I’ve been turning all this over in my head the last few weeks, I did a lot of reflecting and decided I wanted to use my own experience as a way to change how I let places like Instagram influence and inspire me. Perhaps this is a harsh admission, but as a very concrete example, I was following a lot of style bloggers, many of whom I don’t know and have never even read their blogs. My truth? Outfit content doesn’t necessarily do that much for me. For one thing, I work from home and am lucky to make it into jeans and a t shirt each day; for another, following a lot of recent changes in my life, something about the forced styling of the images and knowing “how the sausage is made,” so to speak, meant these images began to feel like ads or spam to me. So recently, I started unfollowing a lot of these types of accounts. In their place, I’ve been looking for more design and photography accounts, which can truly inspire me — or at least, help me compare in a “positive” way.

Obviously this is all very personal to my own experience and what works for me or what I find inspiring. But as we close out the year, I think it’s always worth reflecting how we consume in these places that we spend much of our leisure (and sometimes work) hours, especially if they no longer do anything for us. I know many bloggers often feel they “have” to do something because everyone else is doing it, and a platform like Instagram is certainly no exception. I’ve been reflecting on ways that I can still play the game, but with my own rules. It’s an ongoing strategy, but one I think is worth spending time on.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you filter out the noise online when it’s just not working for you anymore, doesn’t inspire you, or you find yourself falling into a comparison trap? 

Image via Death to the Stock Photo, with graphics added by Victoria McGinley

victoria sig

REFLECT // The Evolution of Your Blog Content

the evolution of your blog content

I didn’t realize when I started my blog seven years ago that my most popular column would be called GSD Get Shit Done. I actually think my readers enjoy (and my stats agree) my GSD, entrepreneurial, and organizational content more than my style content. Since I never set out to be only a fashion blogger, but more style & culture blogger in general (home, fashion, art, culture, travel) it doesn’t bother me that my content has evolved in this way. I actually love it. I still do style posts, but I get to explore entrepreneurism and everything that comes with it, in detail and share it with everyone.

While I don’t suggest getting obsessed with your stats and letting them dictate your every post, I do think looking over them on a regular basis that you feel comfortable with can be very good for your strategy and planning. Personally I try to take a look at them about once a month (but that doesn’t always happen) and that gives me a good idea of what is performing well.

A great way to do this in an organized manner is to schedule an hour or two on your calendar once a month to take a look at your stats. Try something like scheduling it around the first of the month — the first Monday of every month or something to that effect. Make a spreadsheet with your numbers and common themes you see in your traffic corresponding content that is performing well. You can organize it however you like, but by going through your Google Analytics on your site, and stats on all of your social media platforms you can get a good idea of what content is performing well and what isn’t. You can also see where your traffic is coming to you from, and other stats that can be helpful when putting your media kit together for advertisers and collaborations.

All of this data can help your strategy and planning, but take an hour or two to just reflect on where the strengths are and what your audience is telling you. What do your stats say that your readers like best? What content do you enjoy creating the most? Think about the overall direction and themes of your content, where you want to take it, what your readers like (that doesn’t mean you only have to do what they like best), and look for the bigger themes. Think about what you want to put out to the world and your readers. How can you create original content that will be inspirational, impactful, helpful? Don’t force yourself to do any planning during your reflection time, just think. Jot down anything that comes to mind, but it doesn’t need to be in a specific list. Let your mind wander. Instead of just digging right into post ideas, reflect on the overall direction your blog has taken, and where you want to go with it. Let this reflection inspire your content direction and planning, but set aside separate time for that.

 

meg sig

 

Image via Death to the Stock Photo, with graphics added by The B Bar