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Watch these numbers to grow your blog & business without going crazy

When I first started growing my blog to support my web design work in 2009 I felt lost and awkward. I had no idea what would help me get clients, what would make someone feel comfortable enough to work with me, let alone what would make them come back or refer their friends to me.

I was enthusiastic and had a lot of knowledge, but you can’t show that to anyone until they find you.

It’s easy to feel like your tiny website is going to stay lost in internet limbo unless someone who’s already successful discovers you.

Watch These Numbers to Grow Your Blog and Business by Kyla Roma

While that can’t hurt, there is no one handing out wands and creating blogging fairy godmothers. And even if there were, there’s no fairy godmother section on your business plan or editorial calendar.

When it comes to growing your blog or business in a meaningful way, you don’t want to hope for a fluke high traffic day that’s gone as fast as it arrived. You want to track slow and steady growth without beating yourself up about the numbers.

So what should we pay attention to?

The past years of hands on experience – plus wearing out my library card and amazon delivery service  – have taught me a lot about online business and strategy. I’ve taken courses, attended conferences, and have been lucky enough to have conversations with really smart people.

What’s been truly transformative for me is being behind the scenes in hundreds of businesses as a designer and consultant. Before I can help anyone improve their online world I have to understand it, so I’ve had the opportunity to see a huge variety of healthy online businesses.

While some of them have thousands of people waiting to hear from them every week, most have small blogs that provide a great positive impact through a product or service that they provide. And those blogs and businesses – including my own – support families, pay for rent or mortgages, without the comment count or posting frequency that we imagine a “successful blog” has when you use lifestyle blogging standards.


Friday Finds know you’ll move mountains (no. 60)

Friday Finds

image by itsaliving via Pinterest

image by itsaliving via Pinterest

Links about creativity, living fully & getting things done:

11 Extensions To Power Up Your Gmail Productivity

✖ Live like You’re Dying (and Find Time for the Things That Matter)


The truth, wisdom and lessons of your jealousy.

One of the most uncomfortable emotions has got to be jealousy. Any time I feel it, I react like I’ve touched a hot stove, and suddenly all I can hear is, “Oh great, here we go!” and “AREN’T YOU BEYOND THIS? COME ON!”

In the online world, jealousy is always around the corner. There’s always someone who owns things that we can’t afford, someone getting a book deal, or someone who’s a little further in their career or skills than we are. If your emotional immune system isn’t at the top of its game, you can start out on Pinterest and end up with a witches brew of self loathing in less than an hour.

What a relief, to let jealousy lead you to whaty ou creave instead of resisting while it burns you to the ground (via Kyla Roma)

Several months ago there was an episode of the Design*Sponge podcast that talked about using jealousy as a positive tool to motivate you to action, instead of treating it like a nuclear weapon, and it sparked some great insights for me. In case you haven’t listened, you can read more about it and listen to Grace Bonney’s explanation here.

When jealousy is sparked in us, we make the feeling about who or what triggered it. Jealousy becomes about people who can afford a trip we can’t take or who go to the conference we can’t attend.

What if instead of letting your jealousy curdle, you let it lead you to what you deeply crave?

Instead of letting its heat turn you to ashes, what if you let your jealousy burn a path to the parts of your life that have been neglected so you can make your own life better?


Friday Finds don’t care about the competition (no. 60)

Friday Finds

 

it doesn't matter what others are doing it matters what you are doing

Don’t focus on the competition, focus on your game. (lettering by satsuki shibuya)

 

✖ Your life just isn’t complete without this 1989 Aerobics Workout version of Shake it Off.

✖ Get lost in beautiful maps of space throughout the ages 

✖ Scheduling across multiple social media networks? Who isn’t, right? Tiempy is a free social media scheduling tool that’s beautifully designed and ultra useful. Currently supports Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with Google+ and Pinterest being added soon.

✖ Brush up on the five parts of brand storytelling nearly everyone misses.

✖ Work with lots of files on a daily basis? I didn’t even realize how inconvenient dragging / dropping / copying was until I downloaded DragonDrop. Just shake your mouse, pop files (or anything) into a tiny dock, and keep adding until you’re done. Practical, helpful and playful is a great combination.

✖ One of the more positive and practical pieces about dealing with critics that I’ve read is Jame’s Clear’s piece, “How to Deal with People Judging You and Your Work”. A must read if you’re a blogger or creator online.

✖ Want to have a more meaningful day, week & life? Ask yourself these two questions every morning

✖ Pinterest SEO: 7 Tips From A Pinterest Engineer that have helped my followers grow from 3000 to +40k this past year (not an exaggeration!)


Transition your blog from lifestyle to business

I’ve been blogging since I was thirteen years old (Diaryland & Livejournal, holla!), and one of my favourite parts of being part of this community for so long is that I’ve seen what having a strong online presences has done for my friends, acquaintances, and mentors as their websites grow and evolve with their interests.

While some brands hit the internet fully formed, many of us who work online, freelance, own etsy shops, or sell blog ads have had a much more organic evolution that can be frustrating to navigate on your own.

How to manage your blog as it becomes part of your business

When I started this blog, it was a completely personal space where I shared my wedding planning process and the DIY process of everything I was pulling together for the day. That was in 2008, and what started out as some casual personal documenting has turned into a key part of how I make my living.

How to handle that awkward transition of your blog from a personal space part of a business

For me the process has been gradual over many years, and continues to evolve but these are a few of the things that helped make it less awkward and more fun for those of you how are navigating these waters yourself.

Don’t Burn Your House Down

While this feels like a big change at first, this is more of an adjustment for you than your readers. Unless you’re starting a radically different business, you don’t need to move to another URL and you don’t need to change the name of your blog or website. Really! And it’s actually to your benefit to stay exactly where you are.

Writing in your existing space means you have the benefit of your blog archives, and even content that you feel is no longer relevant gives you SEO klout, a built in audience, and time to fine tune while you feel you way through writing about your new venture. There’s likely to be crossover interest in your audience, and you never know what in your archives can become incredibly powerful for you.

In my case, the day planner and organizer posts I wrote before Pinterest was popular have been shared between hundreds of friends, and links on those posts feed directly into the sales page for my online design course, Planner Camp. It’s internet income magic! And if I’d deleted all my craft and handmade posts, it would have never happened.

What you write from here forward matters most, and you can always selectively delete posts, or make them private.

 

Do Be Clear

When you first start offering a product or service for sale online, it’s natural to want to try everything. And you should! Trying new things is hands down, the best way to figure out what you don’t want to do, and I highly recommend it. That said, before you fill your sidebar with ads, create an Amazon affiliate account and start sending your best ideas to the Huffington Post, make sure you step back and understand what you want out of your new blogging experience.


How I Live (Mostly Happily!) with Depression & Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I’ve written about how my story of being diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) a number of times on this blog, but it’s been a long time since I gave an update. If you’re newer to my blog this post might be a surprise, but I come by my love of psychology, resilience, motivation, and unbridled positivity whenever possible honestly. In 2010, I was diagnosed and since then my life has changed dramatically for the better.

If you’d like to, you can read about my initial diagnosis and a follow up from later that year, but before I share the things that have helped make my life with Depression and GAD so much better, I wanted to share what’s changed since that original post and my diagnosis as I’ve learned more about myself and what this means for me.

What I Got Wrong & What’s Changed

A lot of my assumptions about what I was experiencing in the beginning turned out to be wrong. Strange right? This is the short list.

I thought I had GAD with an episode of depression

When I was initially diagnosed, my GAD symptoms were an urgent, all-encompassing and exhausting part of my daily life. It’s like living life with your startle response and stress dials set to 7,  and any more stress that would normally bother a normal person, like going to the grocery store, writing an important email, or going out with friends, would be interpreted by my body as dangerous.

As my symptoms receded and my medication start being effective, I felt so much better. But in the years since my diagnosis, my depression symptoms have been just as persistent, difficult, and present as my GAD. Looking back at my teenage years and twenties, I can see that depression was always a huge part of my life, but until now I didn’t understand that wasn’t my natural personality.

 

I thought my depression was mild until it was life threatening

None of us knows how it feels to be another person, so it’s hard to know when what your feeling isn’t normal. But the slippery thing about mental illness is that it profoundly changes your perspective on how it feels to be you. I had no idea my depression was severe because as I became more and more depressed, I stopped being able to remember that I had ever felt differently.

When I was in the worst of my experience I knew that I used to have more energy and feel happier, but the depression and GAD were such dampers on my perspective that I couldn’t imagine or remember what feeling better felt like. In the end of my worst episode I was too tired to be awake for more than a few hours at a time, and I would feel heart-broken, like I was grieving an unimaginable loss, the whole time I was awake.

Even then, I only went to the doctor because in one of those moments I thought, “I can’t imagine feeling like this for another week. Actually, I can’t imagine feeling like this for a few more days.”. I thankfully had the insight to know that was a suicidal thought, and it terrified me. I shouted for my husband, and we made a doctors appointment.

 

I thought getting help would be scary

I hear this a lot from people experiencing what they suspect might be mental illness, and who are terrified about getting help. Speaking with a doctor makes everything feel so much more real, and when I was in the thick of my worst feelings, I just wanted these feelings to go away on their own.

The thing I didn’t realize was that I was in the absolute worst part already. Knowing what’s wrong doesn’t hurt you any more. It opens you up to help, resources, services, knowledge, and community. Knowing what’s going on opens a window that lets all kinds of good flood in.

Your doctor won’t force you to take medication. Your doctor will be a neutral outside party who can take your experience and objectively help you understand what’s going on. When you’re sick your perspective isn’t reliable, so having someone on your team who has done this before and sees things clearly is the best time and money you can spend.

 

I had no idea how much of what I experienced daily wasn’t normal (and was optional!)

I used to have a meltdown at least once a week. My husband and I would fight or get stuck in a misunderstanding about nothing and it would end it tears.

I would play conversations over in my mind on endless loops, especially ones where I did or said something I regretted. I had repetitive thoughts or day dreams that I couldn’t switch off. I spoke quickly (though I didn’t think so at the time) and frequently caught myself holding my breath. I hated calling people on the phone or speaking to people I didn’t know, I tired out easily and needed to nap on the weekends and be caffeinated at all other times. If someone startled me, I had a huge reaction and couldn’t watch any movies or shows with jump scares.

Thinking back through my life, I was younger, I would have crying episodes at least once a month where I would cry so hard I couldn’t breathe. I would get extremely frustrated and angry at times, over what seemed like nothing. Going to new places or meeting new people was extremely stressful, so I invented workarounds like visiting a new place the day before so I could plan where I would park and how I would walk to where I was going.

I was still myself. I was smart, quirky, and had it together, but no one – myself included – had any idea something was wrong until it escalated out of control.

In Minneapolis with friends in 2010

In Minneapolis with my friends & heart people, Mandy and Nora in 2010, when my GAD & depression were escalating. I was exhausted all the time and while I was positive and tried to fit fun in my life, it took a huge amount of effort. I didn’t do it to try to fit in, I did it because I thought everyone else felt the same way.

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We can only know what we experience, and I didn’t know that these are all symptoms of high anxiety, stress, or depression. And I’m  happy to say most of my life is now completely symptom free.

 

How I live (mostly happily) with depression and GAD

I know that I’m lucky. I’m sorry if you’re reading this and your situation is harder right now. I’m extremely lucky that my illness isn’t treatment resistant, that my symptoms aren’t not any more severe than they are, and that I haven’t had to switch between meditations.

I’m also extremely lucky to have met the man I was going to marry when I was 19, as my illness started to escalate. Jesse was just as loving, observant, non-judgemental, patient and hilarious then as he is now, and because we moved in together in the first year of our relationship, I had someone close to me who could help me watch my symptoms change when my perspective on what was happening wasn’t clear. (There isn’t enough gratitude or thanks in the world for him!)

These are the things that have helped me:

 

1. I spoke to my family doctor and was open to medication as emergency help

When I had my first suicidal thought (Unwanted! Though I’m sure they all are) it frightened me enough to shock me into action, and for that I’m forever grateful. My doctor completed symptom check lists with me, and I fit the profiles for both depression and GAD to the letter. Because I was in crisis, my doctor and I decided that a prescription was the fastest way to get me out of short term danger. I tried Effexor, and after we got to a dosage that I started responding to and some time passed my life started feeling radically different.

Immediately, I was amazed by how much better I felt knowing that I was working on a solution with someone else in charge, because I felt strongly that this was beyond my control. Within three months I felt better than I’d ever felt before, and was constantly asking my friends and family “Is this what you feel like normally? WHY DIDN’T I KNOW THAT???” and in six months I felt twice as good as that. Within nine months I felt even better, which was worlds beyond what I had ever dreamed for my life, and when I started to truly appreciate how severe my situation had been.

I still have bad days every couple of months, and the stark Canadian winter makes my depression worse. I’ve been on a high dose (over 200 mg) of Effexor ever since and taking medication every day doesn’t bother me for even a moment, even though I thought it would. It’s what allows me to wake up happy, energized and excited for my life, being able to be there for my friends and family, doing work that I love and working for myself.

 

2. I started cognitive behavioural therapy & told my friends and family what was happening

After starting medication, I found a cognitive behavioural therapist and started going to regular sessions. I found the therapy approach profoundly interesting, but my therapist abrasive. There were some helpful pieces of what she worked with me on, like slowing my speech down and making sure I was breathing properly, but we weren’t a great match after the initial few sessions. As I learned that cognitive behavioural therapy is all about symptom reduction, and dove into everything I could read on it so I could start putting them into action without hefty therapy bills.

At the same time, I told everyone I love and cared about that I was diagnosed with GAD and depression. At the time, I felt relieved that there was a solution, but also mystified that I had lived alongside side people whose lives just felt completely different from mine.

I shared openly because I felt shocked and excited, but I unintentionally recruited a big group of caring friends and family, and set the tone for how we would talk about depression and anxiety together. This wasn’t frightening or emotional, it was a fascinating discovery that from that moment forward my life was going to feel better and better. I couldn’t stop talking about how we could all be so close, and still have missed that we were experiencing life differently.

My friends and family stepped in beside me, and as I stopped having to fight through the sadness and anxiety, there was a lot of celebrating to do. I was quick to laugh, more positive, curious, adventurous, and myself than ever before, and it was a joy.

 


Friday Finds no. 59

Friday Finds!

 

image by Cocorrina

image by Cocorrina

✖ Are you a blogger, creative or entrepreneur looking for support & community? You need to check out #fireworkpeople! The brainchild of Canadian writer Ashley Beaudin, #fireworkpeople is a free, encouraging, positive community that has weekly tuesday twitter chats, a facebook community, blog tours, and conference calls! If you’ve been curious about a group coaching program or mastermind? This is your perfect opportunity to see what that’s like and get involved before this explodes with members.

✖ Do you use Facebook pages for your blog or brand? Try this easy way to see what’s working for your Facebook page. Even better? It’s more accurate & more encouraging than just looking at likes.

These 8 ways a simple notebook can change your life show that the right app was there all along.

Monica Lewinsky gave her first public speech in 16 years, and don’t look now but she’s a kind of a badass. She speaks with humor, self compassion and heartache about what it was like to be one of the first people to have their reputation ruined in the dawn of the internet era, and on helping to keep the victims of bullying and gossip supported and alive as this has swelled to be a tidal wave in our society. Bullying is not criticism, and it’s rampant online. Why not change that for the better? Don’t visit negative websites that make money from your pageviews, and make what you want more of online stronger by supporting your favorite maker, teacher or resource with encouragement or a purchase.

Have you heard of dazzle camouflage? It’s ships painted into optical illusions so they’re harder to hit, and they are wild! you can’t make this stuff up.


The weekly habit that’s changed how I feel about my work & life

One of the tricky things about being interested in goal setting is that it’s easy to slip into what I call productivity shaming.  You don’t have to be a perfectionist for this to trip you up, though that doesn’t hurt, and it looks different for all of us.

For me, this often ends up being a day where I get a lot done but not the specific things on my to do list. For you, it might be a day when you slip into responding to email mode instead of doing the bulk of your job.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most underrated parts of working for someone else is having outside forces to attribute these problems to!

We all have threads of assumption woven through the our days that show up in the stories we tell ourselves. If you let your mood run away with them, you’re going to end up in a mess.

This is how I changed that for myself.

image by Sylwia Bartyzel

November 2014 marks the start of my fourth year of being completely self employed, and I’ve spent much of that time wishing that I’d spent it differently.

Even when my work goes beautifully, and even when I’m proud of what I put out, there’s always something I would have changed.  And it’s true right now,  when I wish that wasn’t the case!

What’s helped the most for me is definitely practicing self compassion (must watch video alert!) and also finding ways to punch through my mood at the end of the day or in the middle of the week when I’m more likely to let how I’m feeling at the moment colour how much I’m helping someone I work with, how I’ve made someone laugh, or how I’m learning things that I couldn’t have imagined when I started out.

As you’ve already guessed, I’m talking about drugs and alcohol.

Just kidding!

My solution is a lot more effective than numbing yourself, and it’s something I learned while working with the lovely Molly from Stratejoy.

This is a simple but effective part of our coaching calls that I fell in love with, and since then I’ve used it once a week to check in with myself, when I ask myself these three questions.


Friday Finds no. 58

Friday Finds on KylaRoma.com

I haven’t done Friday Finds post in a long time, but I’ve been finding so much great content to share between Pinterest and Twitter that keeping it from the blog just seems weird. So out with the weird (unless it’s the good kind of weird!) and in with the new.

Here’s new weekly inspiration from around the internet – links about beautiful things, creativity, social media, positivity, making a living online, community building, and of course some good old fashioned juicy photos…

Amy Roth Etsy Print

Perfect Citrus Wall Art by Amy Roth

The Science Behind How Emotions Lead to Smarter Decisions

New Evernote Web App Takes Decluttering to the Extreme (Now bring it to the desktop app!)

Not sure where to start with your social media campaign?

✖ If you have anxiety, depression, or just a case of the fates conspiring against you, check out this guide to getting back on track when life is hard.

Twin Peaks is coming back, with Lynch directing. Time to get weird… (This is definitely the good kind of weird!)

✖  I shared a lot of my favourite apps and resources with many of the the ladies at Designer Vaca, so if you’re trying to get more done in less time I thought I’d share them here too:

Services / Friendly Robot Helpers

TimeTrade: Let clients book appointments directly into your calendar, without 1000 confusing emails.

Xero: Accounting that works beautifully for multiple currencies, imports your Paypal feed, and lets you invoice clients directly. Integrates with nearly everything.

IFTTT: Stands for “If this, then that” and will let you automate a lot of your online life. Stop doing boring things! Start using robots.

Zapier: Zapier is automation between apps and services that you already use. It’s like IFTTT on steroids – and can do a lot of what you might pay someone to help you with, like recording sales or adding customers into your newsletter list. Basic plans are free, paid start at $20 per month.

ScannerPro: POOF! Your iPhone is now a scanner. This works incredibly well, and many of the illustrators and letterers mentioned that they only use this tool now.

Any.do: A simple, pretty way to track your to do list, and it’s Chrome browser extension turns your emails into tasks for free.

OmniFocus: Paid app that lets you turn your emails into To Do list items that you can organize, action, pause, defer and more. Personal favourite of mine.

Fancy Hands: Get support from a virtual assistant at a fraction of the price

Books & Ideas

Breaking the Time Barrier: Free download that will help you make twice as much as you do now.

The Art of Growth: by Tara Gentile, my business coach! I’ve been following her work for a long time, and this is a great intro to her work.


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