Monday, 20 June 2016

How to actually get things done

This is the time of year when New Years Resolutions have gone away and died and we are all ignoring our life goals and to-do lists. I’m a planner by nature and by trade, I have a degree in event management which is basically a degree in planning, organising and working on tight deadlines. However, I know what it is to procrastinate and then get bit in the butt for it. Over the years, I’ve learnt a few tricks for getting your head down and getting it done. There are a LOT of these kinds of posts floating about but these are real actionable ideas I actually use to get things done. 

Procrastinate sometimes

Obviously not right at the start of your super productive day but giving yourself a chance to relax will make you more focused. Trying to work for hours on end without breaks will burn you out. Take 15 minute breaks to check Instagram or doodle or get over whatever is going on in your mind. Plan these ahead of time so you know when to get your head down to business and when you can start slacking.

Just Do It

I hate to quote a slogan but its incredibly relevant when it comes to getting things done. Often we start procrastinating because a task is hard or daunting. This is the time you have to put on your brave girl pants and push through it. I was recently told 'Nothing will make you feel better but doing the work' and I live by this. Face the hard stuff face on and it will be over and done with a lot quicker. Nike may actually have a point. 

Reward yourself

Let’s face it, we all need a little encouragement now and then. Provide yourself with a reason to get through your tasks. Even if it’s something little, like a great lunch to enjoy on your break, or a cheeky coffee from Starbucks, or even something from your Asos wish list. You are going to be more driven if you know you are getting an immediate pay off once you have completed something. Don't give in early though, you have to stick to your own rules.

Take a power hour

People will tell you to tackle your biggest task first and I’m a big believer in that but I also have a strategy for that 2pm dip in productivity that many of us experience. I call it a power hour because it involves quickly completing tasks. I look at my to-do list and complete as many of the small easier tasks as I can in an hour. It shortens my to-do list and makes me feel so motivated that I’ve managed to get so much done. Its a powerfully productive and motivational hour, does what it says on the tin. 

List it all out

I’m a big fan of lists, BIG fan. Having everything down makes me laser focused and keeps me honest about what I really need to get done. I use an App called Todoist which connects to my computer and phone to keep a running task list for me. I use colour coded categories such as Work, Personal and Blog and then sub categories for projects. You can add due dates to each task and everyday the app will show you a list of everything you need to do today. The best part is that I cant lose it, I can sign in anywhere and it updates automatically. You can upgrade to premium but I’ve been using the free version for months and am perfectly happy with it. 

Take care of your well being

You will get nothing done if you are ill or unwell. Take care of your health and you will have more time to get things done. This includes your mental well being, a huge number of people take time off work at some point sue to stress, depression or anxiety. You have to be your own first priority and then all of your other priorities can be taken care of.

Most of all, don't beat yourself up. We all get distracted and lose focus sometimes. The important thing is to refocus and get back to productivity. You also have to figure out what works for you. You might not get on well with lists like I do, but there will be a way of keeping track of your tasks that will help you get organised. 

Do you have any productivity tips I've missed?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

What it feels like to delete your entire blog

I wrote a little blog once upon a time for a little over a year. It was nothing big or special, I was no supperblogger. I didn’t have thousands of followers hanging on my every word, but I loved it and I loved writing. I never lost interest in blogging but sadly like so many blogs online, mine didn’t make it the distance. At a particularly low point in 2013, I deleted the entire thing and and moved on with my life. Seeing as your reading this, you know I returned to the blogosphere, but I wanted to share my experience of what it was like to destroy something that I had worked so hard on.

Why did I do it?

There are a lot of reasons why I decided to quit my blog. It was a huge time constraint which I (naively) wasn’t expecting. I was in my third year of university, and hats off to any blogger that manages to do both, but managing my degree and my blog meant that they both started to suffer. I’m naturally a perfectionist and end up being my own harshest critic. I just hated that the quality of my blog posts were slipping and I never felt like I had enough time to follow through on any of my big ideas. I struggled with stats, I wanted to grow and meet people but it didn’t come as quickly as I had hoped and I didn’t have a huge amount of time to put into social media. This wasn’t a huge reason for deciding to stop, but let’s be real, every blogger feels a little bit of blogger envy at the worst of times. These are all big excuses and I know that there are people who are able to work three jobs a post daily but I was personally really struggling and I didn’t want to do it half-heartedly. The biggest push when it came to the delete button was when someone close to me said 'why bother? you'll never get anywhere with it anyway'. It hit me quite hard that they thought I was wasting my time. I suddenly felt  that my little blog wasn't good enough to be a part of the patchwork blogosphere that I love so much. So after when very sad day, an overwhelmed me logged on and hit delete. No back up, no restore button. It was just gone. 

Life without blogging

I managed to graduate last year which I’m sure I would have done if I had continued blogging however, I know I put my whole heart into my degree in the end. The last few months were long and late hours in the library, and practically no time for anything else. I never want to blog if I don’t feel like I cant give it the time it deserves, so in a way I’m very grateful I decided to end it when I did. I have never lost my interest in blogging, I love reading blogs and have done so every day since I stopped writing for myself. Even my dissertation was about bloggers! My mind has never really left this wonderful space made up of creators, I was a little lost without it to be honest.

A fresh start

My first blog was riddled with rookie mistakes. I’ve grown up a lot in the last few years and I’m ready to get back into it. I’ve always loved blogging and I’m ready to put my heart and soul into this little space of the blogosphere. This is a completely new blog with all new posts and ideas bubbling up. I’ve spent a lot of time planning ‘What Natalie knows’ and I really feel that this time is different. This is a place for well thought out posts that I’ve worked hard to produce. I’m here to create content I can look back and feel good about sharing.

Thinking of deleting?
  • It’s okay to take a little break from blogging, the delete button is a drastic approach and its often just a rash reaction
  • A refresh in content or design might be more what you’re looking for, this can be done without starting again
  • If you’re thinking of starting a blog, really plan out what you want to blog about and how you want it to look before you start
  • Chat to other bloggers when you’re feeling down, everyone loses inspiration sometimes, none of us are strangers to a little bloggers block
  • Lastly, it’s okay if life gets in the way. Give yourself a break sometimes, you’re only human

Have you ever deleted a blog? What do you struggle with as a blogger? 


Friday, 10 June 2016

Sourced Box Review

Snacking is the best. Unfortunately I like to snack on Munchies and cake and all the sugar. It’s just easy and it’s always right there. In a bid to get in shape and eat more good (and less bad) I thought I would test out Sourced box. I’ve actually had this subscription for a couple of months but in typical bad blogger style, I haven’t gotten round to writing a full review. As I get it delivered to my office, I tend to eat some of the snacks before I can even photograph them…

Sourced box is a start-up subscription box of healthy snacks. It was founded by two of the most famous, UK YouTube stars: Marcus Butler and Niomi Smart. If you are into blogging and YouTube you have probably already heard of it before. I think it’s a great idea and has been a real rival for Graze box. There are different benefits to each, but the main perk to Sourced box is that you get to try a range of healthy snacks that you can actually purchase in the future if you discover something you like.  

In terms of pricing, I don’t think this is a cheap subscription. I have created a little cost breakdown below and although it does work out cheaper than the monthly subscription cost of £18.95, it’s not a huge saving. I don’t think I will keep the subscription for much longer but it has given me the opportunity to try some new snacks and I’ve found a couple of things I will definitely be buying in the future. The other disadvantage is that there are always a few snacks I’m just not keen on and would never have purchased in the first place. As with any subscription service you are rolling the dice when it comes to likes and dislikes.

Squirrel Sisters Raspberry Ripple bar - £2.29
Whatamelon water - £2.50
Nom oat bar - £1.59
Munchy Seeds - £0.75
Primrose Kitchen Granola Orange & Cashew – Estimated £2
Pana Chocolate Sour Cherry & Vanilla - £2.44
Snact Fruit Jerky - £1
Mighty Bee Coconut Jerky – £2.80
Nothing but. Mange Tout & Red Pepper – £1.29
Activated Almonds Maple Syrup - £4.30

Total - £20.89

I think this month has been the best box I’ve had so far. I was particularly keen on the Squirrel Sisters bar and the Primrose Kitchen Granola. These were brands I was aware of but had never tried their products before. I've enjoyed getting to try lots of new products each month. Sourced box seem to work with a lot of brands that aren’t readily available to buy in singles in the supermarkets. I think they are a great support to new food companies and I’ve definitely gone away a few times and bought in bulk.

I think this is a great service if you want to start snacking healthy but don’t know where to start. I’ve been using it more as a discovery service. Hopefully in the future they will offer introduction boxes at a cheaper rate, but if you have the free cash, and want to explore healthy brands, I would recommend it. It’s particularly good for post workout snacks and afternoon office snacking. It’s not quite as fun as getting boxes of make up in the post but food is a very close second!

Have you tried Sourced Box? What other subscriptions boxes do you use?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Innocent Unplugged

The room I am currently in is home to a Playstation 4, a TV, a laptop, two iPads, two iPhones and a Mac. I’m not bragging we have just invested a lot into our tech and as a couple, work wise and at home, we are both firmly plugged in. Occasionally I look down at the iPhone glued to my hand and think how good it would be to put it down. Sometimes I just crave the quiet again. I crave no notifications, no constant inbox checking, no likes, no whirring of machines and no more fears of low battery. Sometimes I want to Unplug.

Innocent are one of my favourite brands ever and apparently unplugging is somethign we have in common. One of the founding members did a talk at the local University when I was still in school and I have always remembered his casual approach to starting a business with his mates. As a brand their witty Twitter banter won me over and their ethics are simply on point. I even put learn to Knit in my 101 in 1001 list so that I can help out with the Big Knit scheme later this year. Yes I dig them, so when I saw on Twitter they were hosting a festival where you leave your phone at home, I knew I was in.

To answer your burning question, yes there were free Smoothies. There were actually lots of them in lots of flavours and juices and coconut water too. All of the volunteers at the festival were actually Innocent employees so you never know who was handing you a smoothie. My personal favourite was the recharge smoothie with mango and pumpkin. This was kindly handed to me on Sunday morning after I emerged from my tent to start the search for a bacon sandwich. Almost as good as coffee. 

The location of the festival was incredible. You camp in a giant field next to some tall trees and then, to get to where the action is, you walk through a storybook woodland pathway. There are strings of lights criss-crossing through the trees and little signs telling you to switch off. The 'Last Instagram Post' sign was my favourite as you can see from my pose above. The last bit of the walkway is through giant flower bushes in rainbow colours. It was absolutely beautiful and such a pleasure to experience it in the sunshine. 

There were yoga classes and workshops on offer throughout the weekend. My personal favourite was Circus Skills as you may have guessed from my love of Aerial acrobatics. It involved a throwing and catching game, spinning plates and some other circus toys I didn’t get a chance to play with. There was never a dull moment over the weekend, and there was always something you could jump in and join in on. We randomly went with one guy to see his friend play at the open mic session and he turned out to be the most amazing singer!

Growing up, we had a Mr Motivator fitness video on VHS. Every 90’s kid seems to have had a Mum who was working out to Mr Motivator’s unique brand of spandex and happy exercise. He was on the people’s stage on Saturday afternoon and was genuinely one of the best parts of the festival! We did a little dance workout and then right at the end he made a speech about taking care of yourself and others. It was incredibly motivating, I’m not kidding, he does what he says on the tin.

The only thing we really missed out on was the outdoor spa which looked absolutely incredible. There was a sauna and wooden hot tubs out in the gardens and people serving prosecco. We actually did have tickets but my very sweet but very mistaken boyfriend misread the booking and we showed up right at the end of our allocated slot. It was completely sold out for the rest of the weekend so sadly we missed out on our romantic woodland spa. Instead ate some cereal bars in our very cold tent. Not quite the same but at least we were together.

Throughout the weekend there were little details that just made the event even better. As an event manager these are always what make it for me and they really made the festival stand out against other events. There was a Beer Pong table which proved predictably popular. It’s not my best game but still. Someone brought along Hula Hoops to play with in the sun and there were two guys making giant bubbles that bobbed through the crowd. The giant graffiti wall was a hit, I’ve never used spray paint before and I can’t exactly say I was an artist but it can pass for an abstract piece I’m sure. All through the trees were anti-phone signs to help tie the unplugging theme to the wonderland style event. 

Aside from wanting to disconnect, Lucy Rose is the reason I booked tickets in the first place. She is a tiny little thing with a gorgeous voice and lyrics that tell me how I’m feeling. We stayed late on the Sunday to see her play and we were so close to the front it was almost like she was singing to us. She did not disappoint at all and she sounds exactly like her records. We held hands in the crowd and listened to her lovely voice float around us. I was especially enamoured when she sang ‘Shiver’ which I would highly recommend if you have never heard of her before.We sat out in the sun on both days and listened to music acts we weren't familiar with. Jake Issac, Ethan Ash and Kimberley Anne where all great too!

After Lucy we headed home back down the M25 to plug firmly back in. We hopped back onto Instagram, we watched Game of Thrones and we started sifting through those inboxes. I like to think we learnt a little bit though. It’s nice to really look at someone and talk to their face not to a screen and see their eyes look back at you and not the top of their head. I think future date nights might be a digital free zone from now on…

Thank you to Innocent for hosting us for the best weekend of the year! 
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