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Stop to find the balance

There are times in our lives where we rush around trying to fit in everything that we can, getting to work, doing a good job, pleasing people, a house to look after, animals to walk, children to take care of, other commitments that you've picked up on the way and the minute it starts to slip it's a dangerous slippery slope.  It only takes on misplaced footing for it to all feel like it's spiraling out of control and you become Alice and fall down a rabbit hole.

 We know we have responsibilities and as much as you would like to throw it all up in the air and walk away it's not actually that easy to do.  Have you ever gotten to the stage where you feel that you can no longer keep doing what you are doing but you still carry on regardless?

I did, I spent so much time putting 110% into everything that without realising it I was losing a percentage of me in the process, as much as I like to think I had a handle on it all, when I look back I know that I didn't.  I was still running and the wheel was still turning and there were times I would run faster and the wheel would turn faster but actually nothing was happening, I wasn't getting anywhere.  So I stopped.

Admittedly I didn't stop everything but I did take a few moments one afternoon to look at my priorities and put aside some of the things that as much as they are good for me are not as important in the day to day part of my life.   I realised there are somethings that I need to do to bring balance back into my life and it was important for me to get these right before I could move on and get my life back on track.

Back in early 2011 my son was studying different religions and one of them was Buddism, I was exceptionally interested in one part; the wheel of life and the six realms that form it which are considered not only as six separate realms existing in six particular place/times but also as a psychological map, a representation of the world that we create out of the passions of our own heart.   I won't go too much into this but I have left you the link to go discover if you are interested.  What it made me do is start to think of my own wheel of life and the realms being the sections of my life that represent my world which I have created from the passion of my heart.

I was searching for something I could use to map this out and I came across a wonderful website mindtools and it gave me just what I was looking for:

Can you see why my life was so off kilter, admittedly there are a couple of the sections that are not great representations of my life or the things that I had pressing me but it gave me a pretty good idea at what was throwing me off balance?  The more blue in the section indicated the satisfaction level of that section, however I changed it slightly and used the indicators to show me what percentage of my life was taken up by each of these sections.  There's definitely something wrong with this picture, can you see it? 

I looked at what I wanted and what I needed to change about this wheel and I set about putting things in motion.  I changed my outlook about work, it was taking all my focus and it was what was the biggest factor in why I was so limited in every other area of my life.  I appreciate that not everyone would be able to do what I did but I changed my job, I sat down and sorted out a plan for my finances, I got back in touch with friends that I haven't had much time for, I removed several negative influences from my life and I started to plan my freetime so that I got to do the things I wanted to as well as the things that needed to be done. I also started a course that I've wanted to do for a very long time.  It took some careful planning and a lot of consideration but I definitely feel the difference several months later.  So much so that I decided I would take another look at that 'wheel of life'.

Well that's more like it.

So tell me how balanced is your life right now?  Would you be interested to do a before and after to see whether the changes you make over several months have panned out how you expected them to?

Blogging for Beginners – Top 9 Things a Newbie Blogger should know

I wrote this back in May and have posted it to a few arena's but ultimately it should reside here with the rest of my Trainer Talks posts: 

So you created yourself a blog through a hosted provider such as Blogger or WordPress and then it’s all like – “Now what do I do?”.

We’ve all been there and as much as the main focus seems to be on driving more traffic a lot of people forget or even do not realise that there are a few more basics to blogging than generating traffic. I have been asked this question a few times so I put together what I consider to be the very basics to blogging in the beginning:

1. The biggest thing you need to do is be patient – patience is something that not a lot of people have but really when you are building a steady base for your blog you need to have this. Rome was not built in a day and your blog design, writing, audience won’t be either.

2. Use proper language and grammar - it really does not matter what your site niche is, if your site is poorly punctuated, hard to read and difficult to digest then no one is going to look any further than the first few lines. Take a few seconds whenever you create a page or a post to ensure that everything is in order and reads well. You will be forgiven for the odd mistake but a post full of them means people will switch off.

3. Improve your blog - this relates to your layout, the content. It takes a while for any blogger to really settle into their blog and as you grow with it you will find that you want to get more out of it and the only way to do this is to experiment with your layout, experiment with your design. Find what works for you, look at the gadgets and widgets out there and play until you are happy. People may argue that your followers will get fed up if you keep changing it but if your theme and name is the same it won’t matter that you are improving your style, if anything it will keep people intrigued.

4. Write consistently – One thing that happens quite often is bloggers will have spurts of writing and they will generate day after day, post after post and publish them. What happens when things go quiet? writers block takes hold? time doesn’t allow? well you end up letting your readers down, they come back regularly and then discover that you’ve not posted for 3 weeks so they think you’ve abandoned your blog. Make a decision about how often you want to post and within reason stick to it. Your regular readers will discover your publishing habits and you will see them return more regularly. On a plus side for all the writing spurts there is the draft button, you can create a post, save it to draft and publish it later.

5. Don’t fall into the Follow Me Follow You trick – For anyone out there running around forums and posting “Follow Me and I’ll Follow You” I think this is a complete waste of time for traffic – it does what it says on the tin the ranking on Follow me/you only really works for increasing the number of people who clicked ‘Follow you’ it doesn’t affect the SEO’s (Search Engine Optimisation) unless there is registered activity and chances are they won’t return to your site ever again. Joining in on other people’s events and linking to each others blogs is a better way to direct traffic and will be so much more productive for you than clicking on several hundred follow buttons.

6. Build Relationships – There are a number of forums out there in the blogsphere e.g. Blog Frog, Blog Catalogue, Technoratti, and many many more, I have joined a number of forums and although I have left half of them by the wayside I have found the ones I am comfortable with and the ones where I enjoy the interaction with other communities and bloggers. These forums enable you to find out how to’s, advice, discuss comments, share posts and interact in a positive way. You will also be able to build successful networks of bloggers who in your time of blogging need prove to be just as good as your BFF.

7. Comment Love – I am a firm believer in comment love, but for anyone leaving a comment of ‘I agree’, ‘I love this’ and ‘oh here’s my link’ etc. it is lovely to see it but it doesn’t really push me to go look any further at that person’s blog. People love comments, me I love them more than stats, don’t be disheartened if you don’t have comments against posts, sometimes it takes a while for people to get into your blog and start leaving comments. I am a firm believer that if you leave comments, there’s a strong chance you will get comments back. When you leave a comment it’s better to leave a well thought out comment about the subject matter. It doesn’t have to be an essay but a well constructed response such as “I really like the view point you gave on ***** I have been in this situation myself and actually wrote a post on it (then it’s OK to leave your link) I would love to hear your thoughts on it” gives you the perfect opportunity to start a discussion with a person about their post and share something that you’ve written previously.

8. Don’t steal or borrow – You might find yourself inspired by someone’s post, if you feel that a point they makes backs up your post make sure when you write your post you include a link to their post and then leave it in their comments section. I can guarantee any blogger will love that you’ve quoted or linked to them but they will not love it if they find out you’ve nabbed their work and if they have copyright you can find yourself in big big trouble.

9. Plug Ins and Widgets - I see so many blogs that have nothing other than just the content and for some it does work but I have a few plugins and widgets that I just would not be without:
Social Sharing Tools – lets my visitors share my blog and posts via Facebook, Twitter, stumbleupon, etc.
RSS Sign up – Allows people to bookmark your site so they can obtain updates and keep on track with your blog
Link Within – Enables me to display thumbnails of other posts relevant to the post being read.
Broken Links – scans my blog and tells me of any links that are not working, this can be from links I have created or even links left by people through the comment section
Akismet – Spam scanner, protects my blog from spammers and enables me to delete all with one click of a button or if they happen to be real (not very often) I can approve them
Comment Luv – once people leave comments on your blog, comment luv will pick up their last post from their blog and automatically leave a link to their site, It is great for generating links and therefore sending off little radars to the SEO’s.
(I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible, a plugin is a script(code) that is uploaded into the back end of your blog which will give you additional functionality, a widget is usually the vehicle for accessing or enabling that functionality to improve the appearance of your blog most widgets are derived from a plugin but not all plugins need a widget e.g. Commentluv is a plugin that once you activate will work on your blog, there is no need to add a widget, this is the same with Broken Links and Linked Within, etc).
Wherever you look in the Blogosphere there will be people telling you to do this or don’t do that. At the end of the day it’s your blog, you can pick and choose what you want to do with it. Make the most of the design, layout and context and then go out there and pull people into it. The rest will come in the future, I have said this before, you will get out of it what you put into it but if you are serious about building your blog then it definitely is worth the time and energy to do the things listed above.
Trainer Talks was my first blog and it's always been on blogger but I have two other self hosted blogs:  Almost There and Samuel Michaels Photography, I change the look and feel of my blogs in line with the growth of them and probably will continue to do so in the future. 

If you have a question feel free to ask, if I can help I will. In the meantime happy blogging and don’t forget to come back and check for updates.

I want Google+ but what do I do with it?

Did you try to get in with the latest phenomenon sweeping social media and then found you couldn't get into it?

Did you manage to get in and then didn't have a clue what to do with it?

Well if you answered 'Yes' to either of these questions, you aren't alone.  Seems that everyone is jumping onto it without realising what it can actually do.  I asked a few people why are you you interested in Google+:

"Well it's free, right?" and "everyone is doing it, right?" and "it's by Google, so it has to be good?"

Well can't argue with those statements, so tell me what do you do with it then?

I'm just teasing, remember the days of MySpace and then all of sudden we had Facebook, didn't nearly everyone move over because MySpace had become just a virtual spare room, the kind you can't open the door to because so much has been dumped there and it's practically spilling its guts onto your newly hoovered landing.  Oh well I guess the Facebook spare room has been heading in the same direction for sometime so now we have a brand new room in the form of Google +.  I have to admit it does look clean and tidy, but then if I create a new Facebook account it looks the same because I'm not connected to anyone yet.

Before I signed up to Google + I took a look at what it could do for me, what was the point of signing up to yet another platform for social media sharing.  We all know that if you don't spend your life and sell your soul to the devil, sorry a sensible amount of time, putting the effort into these things then they just fall by the wayside.  Anything that involves followers unless you're the kind that only has an account to store photo's and connect with your mum and sister, well I think maybe Facebook is always going to be the better option for you.

So what exactly is Google + all about?

Firstly, lets remember that it's not fully complete yet, I have a message on my wall that tells me categorically I am part of a small group (namely 10 million or so give or take a few 100 people, I did just pull that number out of a hat - so don't quote me) helping to test it.  So if you couldn't get on to it, don't panic, just find someone that is and they can invite you.

But WAIT!!! Before you go rushing off, there’s still a % of people that won’t be able to join in just yet.  The message from Google:

“When you share something with people who are not yet able to use Google+, they will receive it via email but won't be able to comment or engage with the content like other Google+ users. They'll be able to join Google+ as we let more users in over time.”

So do you want to know what it's about?

Well Google+ is a social sharing tool combined with communications it has taken some of the key features from Facebook, thrown in a bit of Twitter, enabled some additional functionality that you would get with Flickr/photobucket and then thrown a bit of Skype on top. Yes there’s some other stuff in there but you have to bear with me right now I’m still learning too.

The one benefit that I see is, with Google’s other products such as Gmail, Picasa, Google Maps, you can start to see it coming together.  I already can get from my Google+ to my Google mail by the toolbar that runs at the top of my screen.

Being able to drop my thoughts, my blogs, share my photo’s, video chat and combined with being able to share all my latest web crazes and fads at the click of a button really does appeal to me.
So this is what the Google+ main page looks like:

I hear you “Oooohhhhh   it’s pretty!!” 

Do you like?

I see you nodding - do you still know what to do with it?

No! Ah well I’ll get to the point then.

When you start to set up your Google+ profile, it is fairly intuitive and it does walk you through what you need to do, it even suggests people who you may wish to connect with.

I’m not going to talk about how you create your profile, upload your photo, etc.. just what you can do with Google+.  So what are all these things?

This bit here is my stream, and the radio buttons to the left are my 'Circles'.

Everything you do in Google+ will be based around your stream, if you think about what happens when you receive information and updates through Facebook, Twitter, etc, its pretty much the same.  Your stream is your news feed, the part which is constantly updated with information every time someone including yourself posts something.   You have a text box to type messages and you can respond or comment on the items that appear on your stream. 

Those radio buttons underneath my profile picture are how I have defined each one of my Google + contacts.  Why?

Well a nifty little feature of Google + is Circles.  Circles enable you to put your friends, family, work colleagues, stalkee’s, hobbyists into their own specific groups so when you share information or want to view information you can choose which bits you want to share and see.  Why would you do this?  Well when you’re having conversations or sharing photos with your friends you aren’t always going to want your Mum or Gran to see or hear the same thing you just revealed to your best mates.  In the same way as you might want to share some of the latest train spotting hot spots without letting work know that you are in fact a closet train spotter.  

If you look at my stream circles, I specifically have one for blogging, I keep all my blogging friends and hot blog contacts in this circle but there a few (and you guys know who you are) that I have also put into my Avoid like the plague, (Tee he he no seriously) Friends and Family circle. I may want to see and share the blogging stuff but you guys are family so I need you in there too.  Do you get the idea?

Adding and setting up your circles is easy as pie, on the main page of google, you just go here:

Once there you get the choice to view people in your circles, Google will automatically suggest people you might like to add, that’s what all those faces in boxes are or you can find your friends, either through your contact list in Yahoo, Hotmail, by uploading an address book you exported to your hard drive or by the good old fashioned way of typing in their email and inviting them to join you.  From this page you can drag and drop each of your contacts into the right circle for you.  If you don’t want circles then don’t create them but I do think they are a great idea.

So that’s circles’s.  What are you thinking so far?  Do you like it or are you thinking you’ll stick with Facebook, etc.?

So what else is there? Well there’s Hangouts!

“ooh Hangouts, how do I get me one of them? What does it do again?”

Hangouts are the super cool group chat feature, now if you’re an avid Skype-r you will know that you can group chat.  I haven’t tried this feature on Google + yet but it does allow you to group chat with up to 10 people.  I guess it could get a little confusing if you’re all trying to talk at the same time but for large families or friends based all over the world or country it means that you are one step closer to having that virtual Christmas dinner without having to face uncle Jim’s reindeer pullover one more time.  I use the Skype version for friends in the states and family in Australia so it works pretty well for me, being able to combine my stream and my group video Hangout is making Google + really work for me.

If you don’t like the idea of video chatting, Google + also has Huddles for Group chat, it’s instant messaging for more than one person.  Again great if you are trying to arrange something with a group or even just to catch up and reminisce.  It’s all starting to come together, can you see why I quite like it?

So these are just a few of the features that I’m starting to see, one of the other cool things I like about Google + is my ability to share information with the click of a button but I already said that.  There’s another, Oh yes!!! another, Google has included in Google + Sparks.

Sparks is a way of finding information that is only of interest to you, click in the search box or click on an item and once you see the results you will see there’s an ADD INTEREST button.

Sparks will then keep you informed of any upcoming news, tips, etc..  It’s a way of filtering the types of information that only you want to see and it gives you the option to then share it with your friends.
Which is where I come to the last little tit bit of information.   I know there’s loads of stuff I could still be going on with but at this time the only other thing I’m going to share with you is the Google + 1 button.

Wherever you go over the web if you see this button, this means you can share it instantly just by clicking the button.  Yes we all use at some point the Facebook like seal of approval, we tweet, we stumble and so on but don’t forget you aren’t just flooding your wall with everything you like, you can use the circles to say who gets to see it or whether everyone gets too see it.  If you have a website or a blog and haven’t got a button, I would highly recommend getting one.
So that’s it from me, it’s been a pretty long post and I can safely say the longest one I’ve ever posted.  I hope  you got something from it.  If you have any further questions, well I’m not an expert but I may be able to help answer them or at least +1 it to you if you’re on Google+.
Until next time .