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How to start blogging? Start with a platform you enjoy.

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To some, this may seem obvious. Others may be writing on a platform they don’t enjoy. Some will also still be looking for a platform they enjoy writing on.

Why am I saying this now?

I say this now because it’s the mistake I made, and I didn’t even realise I made it in the first place. Sometime last year, something went wrong with my WordPress blog. Restoring from a previous version didn’t seem to fix it. This made me think it was time to ditch WordPress and go elsewhere.

It was at that moment when I started looking at static site generators such as VuePress, Gatsby etc. In the end, I chose VuePress because it was using VueJS. A language I was using alongside Laravel, and I thought it would be a great experience. At first, things went well, and I managed to export and re-import all my current blog posts. They were converted from HTML into Markdown.

The site was then hosted with Netlify, which is an awesome free static website hosting company. During this time, my writing started to slow down, but I didn’t notice. After a while, I thought my site looked too much like a documentation website which is understandable because that’s what VuePress is primarily built for.

Gaining some inspiration and motivation

A graphic designer on Twitter inspired me with his amazing website designs. Someone on Slack also spoke about a new static site generator called GridSome. GridSome looked better for creating blogs, and so I went to use it for the next iteration of my blog. Inspired, I created a really nice design and moved everything to GridSome.

It was still on Netlify, and I used Forestry to create my blog posts. It felt slick, and I was happy with the results. At least, I was at first. After spending some time writing, I found I couldn’t fully manage my posts. I couldn’t create drafts, and I couldn’t schedule them for later.

It still wasn’t enough to keep me going

This really slowed my writing process down, and I found I was no longer enjoying the writing experience. I was trying other tools and apps such as Notion, Bear and Evernote. None of these was as enjoyable as using WordPress.

Finally realising something was amiss

However, I still didn’t realise this until today. Even though I purchased a WordPress hosting subscription a couple of weeks ago. I only did it because I thought it was something I needed to do, but I wasn’t sure why. Now it’s as clear as daylight. The reason I chose to go back to WordPress is that I truly enjoy the experience.

They have everything you need to make a start. You can write drafts, schedule posts and connect to a huge community. Unfortunately, I lost my community the day I left and moved to static websites. However, I really hope that now I know this is where I want my content to stay, I can rebuild my community.

Please don’t make the same mistake I did

If you’re not enjoying your writing process, maybe it’s time to find another platform that can help make it more enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be WordPress. It can be Notion, Medium, Facebook, Twitter etc. The possibilities are endless, and it’s completely up to you. Find your platform, and find your community. Spread your wings and fly, but also enjoy the process and feel the wind through your fingertips.

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My 2020 Spotify Unwrapped

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It’s funny how I’m writing this, thinking I’ve shared my music interests in the past on my blog. However, the only post I’ve created was in 2018 talking about Mike Shinoda’s release “Post Traumatic”. Seeing this has surprised me, and I want to change that because I absolutely love music and it’s a huge interest of mine.

An intro into my music taste

I’m a big rock and metal fan, but I dip into many different genres including; pop, dubstep, rap, hip hop, EDM and so much more. Music helps me concentrate, it helps me get through my anxiety and depression, and I listen to it every single day.

My Spotify Unwrapped

Since 2017, I started using Spotify for my music listening, and every year I enjoy their unwrapped feature. Spotify’s 2020 unwrapped was very surprising. The song I most listened to was not one I expected at all, and the list of genres was also surprising to me.

Discovered artists

This year, I have discovered a total of 888 new artists. How on earth have I managed to discover that many artists? I couldn’t even name 100, let alone 888 of them. There were some fantastic artists which I found through YouTube such as Halocene, Lauren Babic, Violet Orlandi and First To Eleven. They’re all incredibly amazing artists, and you should check them out.

Top 5 genres

My top 5 genres weren’t too surprising… Alternative metal, metalcore, modern rock, pop-punk and EDM were my top. EDM is definitely a big surprise to me because I thought it would be rap. However, it seems like I wasn’t listening to enough rap, and it never got into my top 5.

Top Song

Another surprise, because I knew I listen to this song a lot, but I never expected it to be my most listened to of the year. That song is “Absolute Zero” by Stone Sour. They are an all-time favourite band alongside Slipknot.

Top songs

  1. Absolute Zero – Stone Sour
  2. Catastrophist – Trivium
  3. Born for Greatness – Papa Roach
  4. Unsainted – Slipknot
  5. Help – Papa Roach

As you can see, I really like Papa Roach. Two of their songs are in my list, and they are great songs. Born for Greatness are a huge motivational song and one that I would recommend during workouts. Catastrophist by Trivium, while it’s a hard song to spell, it’s amazing. I have always loved Trivium since I saw them live around 2008. They were the first band I ever saw live, and have a special place in my heart. Unsainted by Slipknot, again, this is just a great song that I always enjoy listening to. Slipknot’s latest album has helped me through some tough moments this year, and I’m not surprised it was in my top 5.

Top Artist

Surprise surprise, it’s Linkin Park.

Linkin Park released an album this year. However, it’s not a newly recorded album; it’s a remaster of many of their previous songs including songs that were never released publicly before. It was a great album to see, and it got me listening to their older albums again. However, I didn’t realise how much the release of the new album affected my listening habits, and I would have never thought they were a top artist. Something else that is really cool for me is the fact I’m in their top 2% of listeners on Spotify, which is really cool.

Top Artists

  1. Linkin Park
  2. Trivium
  3. Mike Shinoda
  4. Five Finger Death Punch
  5. Papa Roach

Most of these artists being in my top 5 aren’t a surprise to me. However, I thought Mike Shinoda would be my number 1 or 2, and Linkin Park would be further down. I guess it shows how much I pay attention to what I’m actually listening to.

Conclusion

If you want to see my podcast list and a few extras that I didn’t post here, then you can check out the list of Tweets I posted on Twitter. This will give you a better picture of my listening habits, and you may find something you haven’t heard before.

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My Goals for 2021

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Every year from 2018 I go over my goals, and whether or not I managed to complete each one. This year will certainly be no different even though it’s been a very different year.

Last year’s goals

Clear £7k debt

This year gave me time to focus on my debts. My wife and I have only had one holiday this year. This has allowed us to pile on any left over money towards our credit cards and savings. I have now cleared my £7k debt, and we’re now working to clear my wife’s £8k (now £4k) debt.

Technically these debts are shared between us, but each debt is the total from our own credit cards. It has also allowed us to visualise what needs to go where.

Save at least £1,000 for a house

This one is amazing see because we have surpassed this saving. All together, we have £2,878.10 saved in a LISA account for a house. Part of this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t read the book “Money: A User’s Guide”. That book has been worth every penny and is absolutely priceless.

Gain 100 subs on YouTube and Create at least 12 videos for my YouTube channels

I’ve decided to group these two together since they’re both YouTube related. I also didn’t achieve either of these goals. I know I would have gotten 100 subs easily if I just published some videos. However, I have not been in the right mindset this year. I constantly tried to push myself, but in the end, I couldn’t do it. Maybe next year, but it won’t be a goal.

Have at least 1 “date night” a month

Of course this one failed. We started off really well, and had some lovely date nights. However, due to the pandemic and lockdown we couldn’t see this one through. I would definitely like to try this one again when we’re certain the virus has gone.

Finish my course on Laravel

Another failed goal. I know failure isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t feel bad. However, this would have been really nice if I did succeed. I did rewrite my current posts for the latest major Laravel release, and released another post. Overall, I didn’t come anywhere near finishing and work was my biggest focus for this year.

Next year’s goals

  • Pay of my wife’s debt of £5k
  • Save £10k towards a house
  • Get 500 daily readers on this blog
  • Get 100 email subscribers on my development blog
  • Finish the free part of my development course

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Living with an unwell cat

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This isn’t a cat with cat flu or a small infection. This is a life-debilitating illness which we have yet to find a conclusion for.

Some of you know that I have a cat named Holly, and she is really unwell. We’ve taken her to the vets many times, and they haven’t managed to diagnose the issue. This week, we had to take her to a specialist vet in Bristol as a last resort.

It’s been horrible, scary, and frustrating, to say the least. Every so often, she will take a horrible turn. Leading to little to no food being eaten, or barely drinking any fluids. We then have to take her to the vets where she stays overnight. They then manage to stabilise her to a point we can bring her back home. She then comes back rested and seemingly well, but she’s never 100%.

Varying her diet to keep her healthy

We have gone through various diets, starting with cheap meat and biscuit, to hypoallergenic biscuit, which worked for a very long time. No, we’re at a point where we have to water her dry biscuit to make it softer for her. However, this week, she doesn’t want to touch her watered-down biscuit. We’ve now found some high-quality meat that she seems to enjoy. This is good, but I start to wonder how long it will last before she gets put off her food again.

She has a few issues, first off, she throws up. It used to be quite regular and was one of the reasons we went from cheap food to hypo. That really did help in her younger years, but more recently, she’s throwing up again. We took her to the vets, and they prescribed her with pills that helps keep the acid at bay. Then, there’s her other issue… She really struggles to swallow food. We believe it’s because of the acid coming up and damaging her oesophagus, and it gradually got worse. This is why we’re now watering down her biscuit, to hopefully make it easier for her to swallow.

The vets in Bristol took so many tests and plenty of x-rays. Including blast x-rays which fire a load of x-rays while she’s eating to see the food’s journey. Sounds intriguing, and I hope I can see those x-rays at some point.

Endless amounts of medication

She has gone through a large amount of medication. She has pills which prevent her from vomiting. Also, she has pipettes to reduce inflammation in the oesophagus. However, it seems like we’re just fighting a losing battle, and it stresses both her and me out. She used to be able to take the pills in her treat sticks. Making this go down as easily as possible felt like a huge win. Until she stopped eating her treats altogether.

It’s crazy how clever she is. Recently, I placed the pill in her treat stick, and turn it upside down in the hopes she’ll eat it. However, she turns the stick over, sees the blue pill and then walks away. I’m very proud of her, but at the same time, it makes both our lives harder. I now have to restrain her and try to chuck the pill in. She tried to fight me, but it’s still for her best interest.

Hoping to fix her ailments

Hopefully, next week we will get some more conclusive results back and start a proper course of treatment. Of course, we won’t know for sure until that time, and it may still come back inconclusive. However, I’m remaining hopeful because she’s the best cat I’ve ever owned. We have cuddles almost daily, and she’s super social with me.

I will write a blog post about her next week, and hopefully, it will be much more positive. In the meantime, my wife set up a GoFundMe to help with the expensive vet costs. We’ve had some fantastic donations and shares. We’re grateful for every single one, and to everyone who wishes her well. You mean the world to us right now. Thank you.

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Can anyone believe 2020 has nearly finished?

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Honestly, I can’t. This year has been absolutely insane, and not just for me, but for everyone. We’ve all gone through a pandemic, lockdowns and plenty of protests and riots.

Remote work at it’s worst

From March I have been working from home and I’ve not stepped into the office since. It’s been nice not having to travel or stuck in traffic. However, at times, it has been frustrating. There are times when work would have benefitted from a few more eyes. There are also times where I would love to socialise with others. My wife has still been going into the office as her workplace requires her there. So here I am. Working alone. With my three cats to keep me company.

Protesting and rioting

Then there’s the protests and riots while going through a pandemic. So many countries are rightfully angry at their governments and leaders because they feel they aren’t being treated right. Black men and women have felt let down and betrayed by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

America’s current president

Donald Trump has lost the vote but refuses to leave his post. He acts like a baby when he loses. I think a lot of people will rejoice and cheer the day he moves out of the White House and Biden finally moves in.

Our mental health struggles

Mental health has also been a struggle for many including myself. I’ve had times where I thought the pandemic wasn’t affecting me, and I was moving forward in full force. However, this quickly fell flat, and although I did make some great progress, I also went through many days of doubt and anxiety.

Looking forward to 2021

Hopefully, the holidays and having days of celebration will help us all stay positive. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as it’s the first of December, and the first day I can open my coffee advent calendar.

I hope that anyone reading this finds joy in December, and has many things to look forward to next year. I for one hope we can go back to live gigs and really appreciate live arts once again.

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73 Things About Me

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1. What is your usual Starbucks order?

I normally buy Costa, but I would say seasonal drinks are my goto. Especially ginger or cinnamon lattes. They are amazing.

2. What does your workstation look like right now?

This is what my home desk looks like. I take the red mechanical keyboard to work with me because it’s so good.

3. All time favourite food?

It used to be steak and chips, but since going vegan, I’ve gone for Mousakka Bowls, it’s just so tasty. ?

4. Favourite author?

I don’t read a lot a lot of fictional books and I’ve gotten into reading a lot of self-help books. Tim Ferriss has been great, as well as Dale Carnegie and Anthony Robbins are a few of my faves.

5. What do you think of open relationships?

If that’s what someone wants, and it works, then why not? However, I wouldn’t personally go for something like this, and believe I have found my “one”. We are married (3 years), and I wouldn’t change a thing.

6. What is your favourite video game?

I play so many games. However, my all-time favourite would be the Batman Arkham series. Mainly the first two, but Knight is pretty good. BoTW is also a great game, and it blew my mind. I’m also always jumping onto Destiny 2 whenever there are new updates.

7. Guilty pleasure treat?

Doughnuts, uuuuugggghhh I love doughnuts. I can literally eat a whole pack in one sitting.

8. Favourite movie?

Batman the Dark Knight trilogy (of course). Also, I have to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and Die Hard during the Christmas period.

9. Favourite book?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss has so many great golden nuggets. The Chimp Paradox because it helped me understand my mind.

10. Twitter or Instagram?

Twitter, because I’ve made so many great connections. Instagram is still alien to me. I keep going back to it and retrying but quickly get bored.

11. Desktop or laptop?

Desktop, there’s no competition in my mind. Yes, a laptop is portable, but a desktop has MORE POWER!

12. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Believe in yourself.

13. What project are you working on right now?

Moving my blog from VueJS to WordPress (I’m back).

14. Favourite colour?

Green

15. Did you get good grades at school?

Ahahahaha I did not. Most were Ds and Es with one C in ICT. However, I believe I’ve come so far in life, and the grades haven’t had too much of an impact on my life.

16. Dream job?

To get paid and not have to work.

If I do have to work, then I would love to be able to write, film and make websites that are all my own projects, while being funded for them. Anything that can help others, and the environment.

17. Played any sports?

Yes, and I have found so much love for CrossFit. I honestly had no idea what it was until I saw people flipping some tyres, and thinking… “I want to do what they’re doing”. I’m still yet to flip a tyre though.

18. Do you have a degree?

I do not

19. Nationality?

British.

20. What is your favourite kind of blog post to do?

I do like to write very personal and relatable blog posts.

21. What do you like to collect?

Books and Games

22. Describe yourself in three words

Chilled, anxious, and I have so much love to give.

23. If you were a rapper what would your rapper name be?

Screw Loose

24. Who was the last person you DMed?

A friend named Jason, and how he managed to finally get himself a Series X.

25. What’s on the top of your wish list right now?

To save up for a deposit and get my wife and I our first home.

26. Hogwarts house?

If I remember correctly, then I think I am HufflePuff.

27. How many tattoos do you have?

Just one, and it’s a small tattoo on my shoulder. I got it done on third visit to Download Festival. It’s the Download Dog, and it didn’t hurt. Also, I’m very surprised it didn’t get infected as I got it done on the first day.

28. What are you most grateful for this year?

Still being in work when so many people are losing their jobs right now.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?

Ordering food from Tam’s kitchen. Honestly, this month has been very stressful. Especially at work, so I’m really grateful for the little things this month.

30. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?

Having some “me” time with my wife.

31. What’s the best thing ever?

Cuddles with my cat, listening to music and watching endless amounts of TV with my wife.

32. Favourite season?

Summer for swimming weather. Autumn because of the colourful trees and perfect temperatures.

33. Favourite holiday?

What are holidays?

34. Which fictional character do you relate to most?

I want to say Bruce Wayne, but that wouldn’t be 100% true. It would probably be Columbus from ZombieLand. Full of anxiety, but manages find ways to keep surviving.

35. Do you like surprises?

I absolutely love surprises!

36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had?

My wife surprised me on my birthday with a tandem skydive, and it was honestly the best thing I have ever done. She’s going to have a hard time to beat that to be honest.

37. What’s a surprise that made you cry?

When my mum bought me a goldfish. I was fairly young, and I think my other fish passed away so it was a great surprise.

38. What’s the best surprise you’ve ever given anyone?

I’m not the best at giving surprises, but I remember Valentine’s Day with my wife. This was before we were married, and I hid lots of bits in random places. We then took a trip to the beach with a picnic basket, and sat watching the sunset with some champagne, food and great company.

39. Do you like muffins?

Who doesn’t like muffins?!? They’re amazing, and there’s so many varieties, it would be hard to not like them.

40. Do you cook often?

Almost daily, and on the days I don’t we either microwave some frozen food I’ve cooked beforehand, or grab a takeaway from our favourite vegan restaurants.

41. What’s your favourite dessert?

Apple pie, apple crumble, or apple strudel. Can you tell I like apples?

42. Is there a dessert you don’t like?

I don’t think there is if I’m honest. I am a huge foody.

43. Cake or pie?

Pie, definitely pie.

44. What’s your least favourite food?

Before I went vegan, it would be fish and anything proper fishy. I didn’t mind cod or scampi, but salmon or bass was disgusting. Vegan wise, I don’t think I have a least favourite food, it’s all been amazing so far.

45. What’s your favourite condiment?

Barbecue or tomato sauce.

46. It’s 4am on a Saturday night, what would you eat?

Peanut butter and jam on toast.

47. If you could teach a college class what would it be called?

Hmm… it would be something about self-acceptance and kindness / inclusivity towards ourselves and others.

48. Best animated film?

Up and Lion King (the original) are my faves.

49. What has a guy/girl done or said to impress you?

Been honest with me and consistently being there through the hard times as well as the great times.

50. Best thing to do on a first date?

Anything, I’m very easily pleased.

51. Worst thing to do on a first date?

Being rude and hurtful, or trying to show off.

52. What’s the funniest pick up line a guy could use on a girl?

Hello, do you come here often?

53. Best comic book character?

Batman

54. What are three things that are always in your purse?

Keys, wallet and phone.

55. Favourite drink?

Coffee

56. If you could play a historical character who would it be?

Ragnar Lothbrock

57. Kittens or puppies?

Kittens. I have 3 cats which used to be 5, and I love every single one of them.

58. Favourite sushi roll?

Veggie

59. What kind of lipstick do you use?

Black

60. What kind of foundation do you use?

I do not

61. Blow dry or air dry?

Air dry as it’s more natural, and doesn’t damage your hair.

62. Who is your fashion icon?

I don’t do fashion.

63. Favourite Disney character?

If Disney now own the movie rights to Marvel, can I include a Marvel character? Then I would pick Captain America. Otherwise, I would pick Woody from Toy Story.

64. What are you doing tomorrow?

Working.

65. Movie you laughed the hardest through?

Most recently, I would say Holidate, that was a pretty funny movie.

66. Movie that made you cry?

Our Planet by David Attenborough. Seeing the animals being killed because of deforestation and our destructive behaviour really hit me. I really hope we can turn things around.

67. If you could sing a duet with someone who would it be?

My best buddy Joshua Doidge.

68. If your life was a song what would the title be?

Here’s to us by Halestorm.

69. What’s your favourite animal?

Cheetahs, I absolutely love them and would love to rescue them as my job. Also, red pandas are super cute.

70. Favourite illustrator?

I’ve never really thought about this to be honest.

71. Person you want to have coffee with?

Phil Sturgeon or Eric L Barnes would be two people I’d love to have a coffee with. I’ve known these guys on the internet for years, but never met them which is a shame.

72. What country do you wish to visit?

Sweden and Finland would be two I’d love to visit. Mostly because of the metal music scene there.

73. Best way to decompress?

Playing computer games, and binge watching TV with my wife.

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Dear readers, it’s been a while

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Hello to anyone that visits my blog post, whether it’s your first time or your 100th. You all mean the so much to me, and I appreciate you taking the time to read any of my posts.

What’s happened in the last 5 months?

A lot has happened since my last blog post since it was posted 5 months ago.

We’ve had COVID-19 which is still in progress. We’ve had the black lives matter movement which I’m really in support of. And a lot of personal things have happened too.

What are my personal changes?

It’s now been over a year since I started contracting and my contract with the University of Exeter has been extended multiple times. This has given me a lot of confidence within myself and my coding has improved because of this.

My goal for creating 12 YouTube videos has unfortunately fallen behind as I haven’t created a single video this year. One a month should have been doable, but I’ve had so much on my mind that it’s taken a backseat.

I’ve cleared my £7k of credit card debt and I’m now working on clearing my wife’s £8k. Technically it’s both our debt, it’s just on her cards rather than mine because we’ve been switching between our cards to get 0% balances and now we don’t have an interest rate, we can focus without worry. Our overall debt at the beginning of this year was around £17k so we’ve more than halved it which is a great feeling.

COVID-19 has been a blessing for me and I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Working from home has been going really well and I’m saving a lot on petrol. I hope that when this eases, I’ll be able to work from home on a permanent basis. However, I’m well aware that others are struggling right now, the government has failed us and haven’t been supporting those that need it most which is a huge shame.

What are my thoughts on the rest of the world?

All key workers are struggling mentally and they will need a huge break if and when it’s possible for them. The campaigns to raise money for them has been tremendous and really restored some faith in humanity. However, a lot more needs to be done in order to support them further and the government should be held responsible for making this happen.

Now for the black lives matter campaign, most protests started out peaceful which has been fantastic to hear. That is until the police stepped in and brutally pushed protestors back, sprayed them in the face for no reason and even shot people with rubber bullets. There are times where it seemed necessary, but 99% of the time, it was complete police brutality.

I believe this is what also led to most riots, if we didn’t have this brutality, most people wouldn’t have been pushed to riot. Donald Trump has been a tragic president who still believes he’s some sort of God. He constantly spews the same rhetoric and it’s quite frankly getting boring. I wish he would just step down, but we know this won’t happen, so America needs to vote for change.

Similar things are happening in the UK where Boris is this bumbling idiot that keeps flip-flopping on his plans and his words. He’s a racist which we desperately need to vote out and we need to campaign for change.

Let’s hope that things can change and that we can end 2020 better than when we started. We’re all desperate to see our families and get back to some sort of normality. I believe that change for the better is happening. However, it’s still too slow and we need to speed things up and add pressure where we can.

Closing thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page. I hope to speak to you again soon.

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Focus Keeper is an extraordinarily brilliant Pomodoro Timer

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What I’ve used in the past

In the past, I’ve used a timer called Forest and wrote about it before. Which had been good at the time. However, at the end of my last article, I expressed that they could make things a little better like having a Pomodoro style added to it.

Sometimes, I would use it non-stop for a whole week. Then have this habit of whacking it up to the full amount of time to have a genuinely blossoming tree. This was great for the reward side, but it wasn’t great for when I needed to take a break.

Because of this issue, I stopped using it for a very long time and kept wondering to myself if there was something better suited. I’ve looked into Pomodoro timers in the past which were browser-based solutions, and they all sucked. There was little to no explanation for what the time was for. Should I be working right now, or taking a break? If I move away from my browser and another program is on top, I can no longer see the time, and there was no sound. Browser-based Pomodoro timers were useless and lacking in so many features, so I gave up.

A new hero has entered the room

Until last week when I listened to a fascinating podcast episode talking about Pomodoro apps. This reinstated my interest, and I decided to take a look at the Apple App Store. I entered “Pomodoro timer” in search and up came “Focus Keeper” (available on the Apple Store, and Android Store). Out of intrigue, I decided to download it and give it a go.

Instantly, it gave me a run-through of “Focus”, “Short Break” and “Long Break” timers. I thought I would keep all timings as the default, which is 25 minutes for focus or work time, 5 minutes short break, and 25 minutes long break which has worked out well for me. If it doesn’t suit your needs, then you can change them to suit you.

Some annoyances (at least for me) that you should know about before starting a timer are the sound options. The timers can have a ticking sound which I find very distracting and had to turn them off. However, you can change to ticking sounds and even switch to music. On Apple devices, it can work with Apple Music, but not Spotify, which is a shame. I’m not sure how it works for Android, but maybe you can link it to Spotify on there.


Break little and often

Breaks will also play a lovely beach sound by default which confused me. I was listening to music on the same device. Then during my break, I had this beach sound with my music. At first, I thought it was part of the track, but I couldn’t remember it being on the song before. It wasn’t until it went from one song to another. I could still hear waves playing, and I figured it was the app on not my music. I quickly turned it off after I found out about this.

Of course, you might be completely different and want ticking sounds and waves during your breaks. However, it is entirely up to you, and the app is very customisable. The only thing it doesn’t do is block apps or websites which if you need an app to do that, then Forest might be for you.


It would be great if someone could make a fusion of Forest and Focus Keeper, but until then, I will continue to use Focus Keeper while keeping an eye out on other applications within this space.

If you know of any other apps that are potentially better, then please feel free to share them, and, I will take a look.

Categories
General

Changing up how I share with my community

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Having a central place to communicate with my audience

Recently, I started a newsletter (which you can sign up to here). And I didn’t know what to do with it. So I wrote and posted to my blog once a week and released it on a Friday. I would then copy all of the content and post it straight to my newsletter ready for a 12:30 pm (GMT) schedule.

My recent thoughts have been, I would like to ramp up my blog posts and post more frequently. However, I don’t want to post all of my blog posts to my subscribers as this would be annoying. Instead, I will post more frequently to my blog post, and write summaries for each update in my weekly newsletter. Kinda like “This is what I have been up to in the past week”.

It will also have snippets of other things that I find interesting. Which could be a handful of tweets, video content from other creators, drawings and many other things. Hopefully, this will help bring in more people into the spotlight and help to cultivate my audience.


Having many interests can be a blessing and a curse.

I have many hobbies, interests, and things going on in my life, and I would hate to just focus on one thing. If I can somehow find a way to showcase all of these things and box them up into my weekly newsletter, then it would make me and hopefully my audience much happier.

Take, for instance, yesterday; I found out DC are releasing a ton of new movies and a couple of games for next year which I’m super excited about for next year. Also, I think it would be cool if I could share that excitement with my readers, but also have it bundled in with other bits just in case there are some aren’t so bothered.

I love what I do in the web development space, but I’m also a huge movie and gaming nerd. I love music and am quite open to any genre of music, from pop to classic, rock to dubstep. I’m very open to listening to new music. I like to workout and do CrossFit in the mornings, and I know not everyone is into that. However, if I could make it so it can catch someone who might be interested. And those not interested can find something else, then I think I’m onto a winner.

I believe life is one big experiment, and the fact I have a handful of subscribers right now means there is more room for experimentation and making mistakes. As Gary Vaynerchuck would say, you have to eat dirt until you get it right, and that’s what I’m going to do.


Conclusion

I hope you’re ready to join me on this new journey, and you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Which will allow you to like and comment on any of my previous newsletters. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll have more people communicating with each newsletter. To help control the future of what you would like to read.

Categories
General

How I got my blog to 3,893 views last month

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Last week I checked my website’s analytics and took a lot at how many views I had compared to the previous months. I was genuinely surprised that I managed to gain over 3,000 views. The jump between the previous month was 1,600 difference.

It’s so big that I thought I’d make a post on how I managed to grow my blog over time. Please also be aware that I have been a blogger on and off for over ten years. The views over time aren’t extraordinary compared to other bloggers, but it is a noteworthy achievement.

How did I build up my views?

Last month, I focused on building my social followers. I updated my Facebook page, Tweet more on Twitter. My blog posts have been imported into my Medium profile and also posted to my Coil profile. Last month was also my first full month of weekly posting to my Substack newsletter. And even though I don’t think Substack affected my website views, it’s helped me grow a tight-knit community. If you’re not sure what any of these social networks are. Or you’re not sure how to utilise them, don’t worry, I’ll explain that now.

I haven’t focused on growing my LinkedIn connections, but I have started converting my blog posts into LinkedIn articles. No one from LinkedIn has been signed up to my newsletter subscribers or viewed my website. Because of this, I don’t think it’s worth writing about today.

How I use my Facebook page

For my Facebook page, I’m not sure how many people are people I don’t know vs friends who have liked my page. However, I decided to go to ham on the invite button and invite everyone on my friend’s list, which has helped me from 138 to 142-page likes. I think a handful of those likes have clicked to view my website at some point.

I’ve mostly been sharing my newsletter posts instead of my blog posts on Facebook. This means most views won’t actually be coming from here unless they click on about section which most users won’t do.

How I use my Twitter profile

Twitter is, by far, my most used social network. It’s incredible how you can find so many amazing people and connect with them. I follow people I find interesting and join in their conversations when I feel if the right moment.

Most of my interaction is liking and retweeting, which I think if you’re just starting. It won’t be the best strategy. I feel the best approach is searching for interesting topics, and join in the conversation.

Every so often I’ll chuck in a hashtag or two, but I don’t focus on hashtags. I’ll mostly focus on following and connecting with new and current people within my network. Be yourself and don’t seek out to be something you’re not. If you try to be fake, people will know, and they will call you out for it.

Medium is excellent as an additional source for your blog posts. If you haven’t signed up, I would recommend you do it now and join the partner platform. Once you’re on the partner platform, you will get revenue based on a reader’s read time. The longer you can keep them interested in your post, the more money you can make from them.

My strategy is importing my posts into a Medium story, which will add a canonical link back to your original blog post, and have a link in the footer which says “Originally published at https://michaelbrooks.co.uk“. I’ve joined a couple of Medium groups and participate in any posts where possible.

How I use Coil

This is where I believe most of my new traffic has come from, and I connected my blog to their payments system so I could receive support from their readers, and linked my latest posts to my profile page. A couple of my posts have been featured on their community-supported section which I’m proud of, and the community on Coil has been very welcoming, and I’ve connected to a few people from here on Twitter.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend you take a look at Coil’s website and sign up. If you’re wondering how much I made from here last month, it was around 10 pence, which isn’t a huge amount, but it’s better than nothing, and it helps keep me going.

How I use Substack

My latest blog posts are also created as a newsletter post. Honestly, I’m not sure how long I’ll carry on doing this for as I’m thinking of changing the format of this. What I might do is create links to my latest articles which will be posted to my blog, and new sections such as what I’m currently reading, what I’m listening to and who I’ve found interesting this week.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, then please leave a comment down below, and I’d love to read it. Alternatively, you can @ or dm me on Twitter, Facebook, wherever takes your fancy.

Bonus: How I use Hacker News

Hacker News or HN as others like to call it is a great community of developers, creators and business owners. They offer a lot of advice and support, and overall they’re a fantastic community. I’ve posted a few milestones and updates on there, and have received comments, views and new followers.

I decided to create a new group called “Creator interviews” which anyone can contribute to, but so only I have added content there. I have also linked to my blog where I deemed it was helpful for the topic at hand, and I think this has helped me gain extra viewers on my blog.

Conclusion

That’s pretty much how I use the plethora of social networks, and I’m constantly exploring new avenues and seeing what works, and what doesn’t. As always, you’re more than welcome to comment below and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so already.