Plant trees and stay focused

Forest Icon

Stay focused, be present

I have recently been trying to find some apps that will help me with my focus. I used an app called impulse blocker which would block any website that you would add to the list. You can enable and disable it whenever you liked, but I often found I would just disable it for a large duration of time and then become easily distracted.

I also found it wouldn’t allow me to track my time in attention at all which I feel is what I needed the most.

Forest is a fantastic app that helps me set a timer on a tree, when I plant that tree, it will start to track my time. Once the time has passed, I have now grown a beautiful tree, if you download the app on your phone, you can see your forest and which days you were most productive.

I have the app on my phone and on my work computer as a FireFox add-on. Using the timer in my browser allows me to also block any sites that may distract me. It will cover the website with the logo and let me know how much longer I have until I can view the site. Once my tree is planted, I then receive some coins (the longer the timer, the more coins you can accumulate) and can reward myself with some distraction time.

It would be cool to see it expanded upon, perhaps being able to set work hours, the length of productivity time and the length of break time. Say I set an hour of productivity time and 15 minutes break time, it could just cycling through that from the start of my workday to the end.

What are your thoughts on this app? Is there anything else you would recommend to help keeping your productivity levels up? Let me know in the comments below.

I did a tandem skydive at 15,000ft 😮

tandem skydive

Tandem skydives are an exhilarating experience.

Last Saturday, I took a tandem skydive thanks to my lovely wife who bought it for my birthday present. I have to say, I wasn’t nervous at all, calm as a cucumber in fact. I always try to never over think any situation and say to myself… “It’s been done a million times before, they are experts and I’m going to be fine.”

The worst part is the wait… They only ever had one plane taking us up and I had to wait about 3 hours, but I can definitely say it’s worth it. Once you step into that plane and get strapped up to your sky diver, you just let them do the work. They tell you what you’re doing and when so you never forget what you’re supposed to do.

Then, when you make it to the door, it’s both exciting and nerve wracking all at once. You simply kneel down and kick your legs bag as far as possible. “Be a banana” as our training instructor told us upon initial talks. Your skydiver will do the rest and push you out of the plane as you smile at the camera (if yours doesn’t slip away like mine did). This is the most exhilarating part, because at 15,000ft, you are in free-fall for a whole minute.

At first I couldn’t breathe due to the rush of air, I managed to gain my breath back and that was when I could look around and take it all in. It was breathtaking…

No feeling of falling…

It just felt like you’re lying on a cloud of air. Looking at everything around you and thinking just how small everything is from up here. I felt absolutely ecstatic, like I was literally on cloud 9.

Then suddenly the parachute opens and my sky diver is steering it from left to right. We did a couple of loops and it was incredible. Not as incredible as the free-fall, but still incredible.

We then come down to the landing and my skydiver accidentally overshot it and everyone had to move out of the way. It was pretty hilarious watching them jump out of the way while I embraced myself for landing. To do that you just have to lift your legs up as high as possible and skid along the ground.

The entire experience was insane. It felt like I didn’t jump it and it was all a dream, but at the same time it felt like so real and incredible. It is one experience I would love to do again and I would 100% recommend it to anyone else. Even if you’ve never thought about doing it, just do it and I can assure you, you won’t regret it one bit.

Proof that it happened…

 

I’m in the green shoot coming down. 😁

A post shared by Michael Brooks (@mike_d_brooks) on

We don’t need a social networking website. We need building websites to be more accessible.

Laravel controllers and routes

Some may know that I’ve been wanting to build an open source social networking website for a long time. The trouble with building a social networking site is there is so much to do. Especially if you want to build something that’s on par with the likes of Facebook.

No one wants to help build it with you and it’s hard to build all of it yourself. I really wanted to get something out there, especially with the news on Facebook recently. I thought to myself “this is it, I need to build this now”. I then start building and just get overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done.

There are already open source social platforms out there already, but I thought I could build it better (I was so wrong about this). There are also decentralised social networking platforms that are great, but it isn’t accessible to everyone.

This got me thinking, what we need to do is make building a website easier and cheaper. We need a platform that similar to that of myspace where you can build your profile how you like, but more limited so we don’t have a huge mess with flashy gifs.

We then also need the ability to add a custom domain and connect that as easily as possible. People would then be able to have their own personalised website that is also their profile.

They should have full control over what is shown and what isn’t and they should be able to download that code fully to allow them to move to another server if they so choose.

These sites/profiles should be able to connect (or subscribe to) one another. I suspect in a very similar way to how WordPress and JetPack connect to one another.

I guess you could reskin WordPress as a more profile based website and have a platform like wordpress.com that allows users who are a less experienced sign-up and build their profile. More advanced users will download and its places on their server and then start building their profile.

A brave new world

A brave new world

The beginning of a new chapter

My wife will be leaving her place of work this week to go on her own adventure and creating her own pet sitting business. She is very scared and nervous, but I keep reassuring her that everything will be okay and if it doesn’t work out, we can move on to something else.

Where it all started…

All her life she’s wanted to work with animals, but becoming a vet is hard because you either have to know the right people, have a lot of money or join a waiting list to earn the qualifications before you can become a vet. She never really had her sights set on anything else animal related as she didn’t want to work in a pet store as a cashier, because you don’t really get to handle the animals much.

Stuck at a fork in the road.

She then took a fork in the road and went into accounting and administration. She received a level two accounting qualification, but she couldn’t get an accounting position, because she was either not qualified enough or because she didn’t quite fit the role.

So she started an administration role with the promise that she could further her career into accounting work. That promise was never kept and she kept being given more and more work as people left whilst still being paid the same amount even after multiple discussions on having her wages increased.

Onto the next chapter we go…

Now here we are, I helped her start her own venture and I will be here to support her through the entire process. If anything should go wrong, then I will be there to offer my support and knowledge to her. The entire running of the business will be all her work and I will be here when she needs me like a good husband should.

If you’re curious as to what it is she is doing, then take a look at… http://www.brookspetsitters.com. She is now a fully insured and DBS checked pet sitter and she has already had a handful of clients who are coming back for me. This is definitely going to be the start of something great.

Motivational Posters

motivational poster

Purchase some motivational posters

I have opened up an online store with Woocommerce and Printful and will be selling motivational posters. If you would like to take a look, then head over to this page and see for yourself. If you would like to give feedback, then please feel free to contact me through comments, Twitter or Facebook. I will reply back to you and will take all suggestions on board.

I am also looking to see if you have any issues when going through the checkout process, so if you do decide to purchase, let me know how your experience went. I would love to hear from you.

What’s the story behind this?

I’m always struggling with trying to find motivation in doing things, and I love to create. What’s better than helping myself and others find motivation and being creative? I can’t find a lot of things that are better, so that is why. Whenever I find a motivational quote, I write it down and then find an image that’s just as inspiring and fits the topic. I then usually post it on my Instagram page and if I find it’s really inspiring and motivational, then I create a poster of that. I will try t-shirts and other apparel in the future and experiment to find what works and what doesn’t.

Hopefully, you guys like what I am trying to do and appreciate the work I’ve put into this. Please please please comment below if you support this and I would love to start a conversation with you guys.

Pet Sitting Business for my wife

Pet Sitting - Brooks Pet Sitters logo

This year is our year and we want to start pet sitting

Last year, I wanted to help my wife start a pet sitting business but had no idea where to start. I started looking at ideas on how to get started and found some basics that needed to be fulfilled.

Insurance was the number one item on the list and a DBS check came a close second. Even though a DBS check isn’t necessary, it’s a huge bonus that keeps potential clients at ease. DBS checks are a basic check that certifies you have 0 criminal convictions.

Looking at insurance

We took a look at insurance and which providers would be best for us. Taking a look at comparison websites, but they didn’t offer anything for pet services in particular. Then we spoke to our neighbour who owns a dog training business and she pointed us to PetPlan. It was a perfect solution and the costs were £114 each year. It’s cheaper than car insurance and works out to be £14 a month. Not bad.

The DBS check was fairly simple, we basically submitted some details alongside a filled in form and a payment of £80 (including paperwork review). And now we have a certificate that says we have 0 convictions and if our customers ask, we can happily hand it to them.

Now the basics are covered…

We now need some way for people to find us and a nice attractive logo to reel people in. I started by contacting a friend of mine who is a fantastic logo designer. She designed the logo that you see in the featured image and we couldn’t be happier. Obviously, she gave us mates rates, but she is definitely worth so much more.

For the website, I wanted to make it as easily accessible as possible for both me and my wife. So I decided to go for Weebly, it’s a fantastic drag and drop website that offers a lot of features and a fantastic price of £89 a year and a free domain.

The reason I did this, was because my wife isn’t knowledgeable on websites, so if I’m not here and she wants to make changes, I want her to do it as easily as possible. Weebly is definitely a fantastic service for just this.

I picked a theme, got the logo in and added as much content as possible. We officially launched on the 1st of January and have picked up a couple of clients since. We are still looking for more clients and we’re hopeful for the future.

Of course, we also created some business cards and used Moo for this. They have a great choice of cards and their quality is simply the best.

What’s the focus now?

My main focus is to get the site to page one for keywords like “pet sitting newton abbot” and pet sitters newton abbot” as well as other local places just outside of Newton Abbot. We’re currently sitting on page two for those terms, so hopefully, we can rank higher for them.

We are also advertising online and locally in Post Offices and small shops and will be attending business conferences very soon. The clients we have picked up have loved our services so far and given us 5-star reviews on our Facebook page. Hopefully, we can continue the momentum and even push the momentum further.

If you’re curious about our website, please take a look at Brooks Pet Sitters Newton Abbot and if you would like a website, please feel free to contact me.

Last major website refresh

Laravel controllers and routes

Yet another site move…

I have updated my website again and moved it from OctoberCMS to WordPress. The process was fairly easy and I am glad to have finally made the move. WordPress is a great blogging platform and although it gets a lot of bad rep, it is a great platform to be on. WordPress is hosted on over 80% of the internet and it’s completely open source which means you simply can not go wrong with using it.

I am still hosted by Digital Ocean as it’s simple and cheap. Digital Ocean has also upgraded their “droplets” and doubled them. You can now get double the resources for half the price if you wished. Or you could stay on the same bill and get double the resources, it’s up to you.

A vast array of plugins…

WordPress contains so many plugins. It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time. You can easily grab some of the best plugins such as YOAST, Jetpack etc… At the same time, you can find bad plugins that are no longer maintained, or have can open your website to being hacked. You need to be vigilant and always stay on guard. That’s not to so other CMS systems aren’t vulnerable, of course, they are. Except, with the popularity of WordPress, there can be many not so experienced devs creating plugins.

Of course, I have gone off on a tangent… Right now, I am loving what WordPress offers me and I wish I wasn’t so reluctant to use it. I was young and naive and always wanted the latest and greatest. The problem is, the latest and greatest never has the community and support of something that has grown and lived for a long time.

Moving to podcasting

I have wanted to this for so long but never found a good enough platform. A lot of platforms out there really restrict you unless you pay. It’s a shame because I just want something like YouTube but in podcast form. The best platform for me right now is SoundCloud which is a fantastic platform, but it just means I can’t get my podcasts over to Spotify or iTunes. If the podcast ever grows to more than just a hobby aspect, then I will most certainly move over to something like PodBean.

Enjoyed this post?

You can now subscribe through WordPress, or you can use your favourite RSS reader. We even have an email subscription form if you would like to subscribe that way. I love to hear from you guys, so please feel free to leave a comment and I will hopefully be posting out more frequently with better quality content.

Post your RSS feed items to Facebook and Twitter

If you have a Blog in a CMS which isn’t WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, then you will likely not have some automated way to post your new blog posts over to Twitter or Facebook.

I have started using [IFTTT](https://ifttt.com) to automate a lot of my workflow, but I couldn’t find any applets which would automatically post my feed items to Facebook or Twitter. I then went and created my own RSS applets, but hard coded the URL as it was just for my personal use. I then thought to myself “I bet other people may find this useful”. So, I decided to create similar applets, but you can set your own RSS feed URL and have it post to your Twitter page, or you can post it to a Facebook business page.

Check out the [link here](https://ifttt.com/makers/checkeredmichael) and let me know what you guys think.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be just your blog items, it could be anyones blog items. If you would like them posted elsewhere, then please let me know and I can create the applet for you.

ReactJS Firebase Blogging Application

I have just released a dev branch of my first ReactJS application which utilises Firebase database. If you are looking to build ReactJS application, then I encourage you to clone my repo and create any PRs which you think will be helpful towards the project. You can also preview my ReactJS blogging app here and please let me know what you think of it.

– [ReactJS Github repo](https://github.com/Michael-Brooks/react-blog)
– [Preview Blogging Application](https://blog-51acb.firebaseapp.com/)

You can contact me through comments on this blog post, or you can message me on GH with any questions/suggestions.

Plans for the new year

I never do the “New year, New me” bullshit, I have always believed that the end of the year is a time to reflect what we have done over the past few years and what we can improve upon for the new year to come.

Let’s start with looking back at what happened with myself. I have gone through two workplaces, my first workplace was struggling with money and had to let some people go, me being one of them ([Sound familiar?](https://michaelbrooks.co.uk/post/dealing-with-performance-anxiety-and-depression-as-a-web-developer)). The other company had to let me go due to me not being able to pick things up quick enough.

All in all, I am now way more positive about this than I have ever been and I’m proud of myself with the fact I can now handle these situations in a much more positive light. Both companies have been fantastic to work with and I wouldn’t change my choices for the world.

Now coming into 2017, I will be starting a new position on January the 3rd and it won’t be PHP or backend based. I will be a frontend React developer which will be completely new, but also very exciting. The company isn’t an agency and offers a great product which I believe will be incredible to work on.

I am now creating a business plan so I can create my very own online store which will be selling technology and gadgets. I tried to start this before, but I didn’t go into it 100% and I made so many mistakes. I believe that now I am older and much wiser, I will go into it with everything I have and actually make an incredible career out of it.

Check out my[Go Fund Me](https://www.gofundme.com/michaelbrooks) account and please contribute if you’re feeling generous enough. I promise that I will put so much into it and you will see incredible and exciting things happen.

I have many more plans for next year which I will be sharing as it gets closer, so please keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to my Blog’s RSS feed. Any comments are also appreciated and I really hope you guys have had an amazing Christmas and have a very happy new year.