Put Me In Coach! Or Why I Want to Attend Marketing Writing BootCamp This Summer…

This morning I was reading Ann Handley’s newsletter and I saw that there’s a chance to win a scholarship to MarketingProfs Marketing Writing Bootcamp. To enter, I need to explain how attending bootcamp would change my life. Here we go folks…

Marketing Writing BootCamp would be a huge benefit to me because of who I am and where I am in my life. So…here’s my life in three summarizing bullet points:

  1. I’m a military spouse who moves a lot
  2. I’m a writer who lost her mojo and is trying to get it back
  3. I have an hourly gig as a marketing writer and I want to be a better writer so that I can build on my success there

1. I’m a military spouse who moves a lot
My husband is in the Army and we move around a lot. Like most military spouses I’m on a never-ending quest to find stable work that will move with us. About two years ago I had the realization that perhaps the only way I’ll find career stability is by being my own boss. I don’t do crafts, so I can’t Etsy. I don’t do antiques or refurbish electronics, so I can’t eBay. But I can write. And I enjoy writing. So I’ve been taking the steps to make marketing writing and content creation my career.

I feel like my marketing writing isn’t quite there yet, and I have a good feeling that Marketing Writing Bootcamp can help me polish it so it really shines.

2. I’m a writer who lost her mojo and is trying to get it back.
I can’t exactly pinpoint when it happened, but at some point I lost my marketing writing mojo. About six or eight years ago I was writing some really solid marketing pieces. And then I lost my confidence…perspective…thesaurus? Something. I’ve been trying to piece together my own process for improving my marketing writing (reading blogs and books by Ann Handley, MarketingProfs and others, signing up for free marketing writing courses, seeking out and reading quality content writing) but I’m not sure it’s giving me the boost I need.

3. I have an hourly gig as a marketing writer and I want to be a better writer so that I can build on my success there.
I currently have a part-time, hourly marketing writing gig for a university. I help them with blogging, social media, and content writing. If I could do better at this job, I feel I could build on my success and create a more solid career for myself. I’ve been given a tremendous opportunity for marketing writing that I can really build on if I work hard and write well – but I need the help of MarketingProfs to do it. It feels to me that my marketing writing isn’t connecting well with our readers. I’m not developing content with strategy in mind and I’m really not even sure how to write in a more strategic way that would connect with our readers. I’m certain Marketing Writing BootCamp could help me with this. (Dear Boss, in case you read this, I’m really trying…)

Thanks for this scholarship opportunity MarketingProfs!

 

Time management tools (and apps!) for the TPAD afflicted…

I got me a serious case of TPAD. TPAD stands for Time Passage Awareness Disorder. It’s a made-up term for a very real thing. I take no credit for the naming of TPAD. Dana K. White, the brilliant and funny lady behind the blog A Slob Comes Clean named TPAD. 

Naming TPAD is like naming gravity. Everyone knew that gravity was a thing, but no one had a name for it and then BOOM – Isaac Newton names it. Dana is the Issac Newton of TPAD. Someone get this woman a Nobel Prize. Or a Webby.

Those of you with TPAD will relate to the following scenarios:

  • You put off doing something because you’re sure it will take hours, then you actually do the thing and it takes 15 minutes.
  • You start a project, certain it will take ten minutes and three hours later you’re still hard at work and mad about it.
  • You are always quite late or quite early but almost never right on time.

If these seem like totally legit scenarios to you, then you might have TPAD. Sorry, bruh. But, welcome to the club! We’re fun! And frantic.

I don’t like feeling frantic and as I raise my son, I don’t want him to feel rushed because of my inability to manage time. I also want to be on time more because being late is just plain rude.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve narrowed down some tools (mostly iPhone apps) that help me to manage and understand time. I hope these are a help to you too!

A paper calendar and iPhone calendar.
Yes. Both. I know it’s slight overkill, but here’s why it works for me:

The paper calendar lets me see everything at the same time. I’m a very visual person and seeing everything written down for the week or the month is a huge help to me.

But I can’t carry the paper calendar everywhere. Whenever I write something in the paper calendar I input it into my iPhone calendar. And about once a week I sit down and compare the two, which is a great way to force me to review the upcoming week/month.

My Fitbit Watch timer.
I have a Fitbit Blaze which allows me to set alarms and timers. When the timer or alarm goes off, the watch vibrates. This is handy if I don’t have my iPhone available or I’m out and about.

For instance, if I’m at the park with my son and I want to make sure we leave at a certain time, I set an alarm on my watch. That way we can play and I don’t have to have my phone with me.

The iPhone timer and alarms.

What did we do before iPhone alarms? Well, we got by, but that’s not the point.

Setting multiple iPhone alarms helps me to segment and manage my time. You can see my screenshot here. The 3:01 alarm is my reminder to walk my dogs. The 4:10 alarm is when I need to start wrapping up my work. The 4:15 alarm is when I need to start heading out the door to get my son from daycare and ensure I’m a couple minutes early.

I need a lot of reminders to keep moving and complete tasks, so this is a help to me, but you might find you don’t need alarms in five-minute increments. I’m just extra like that. 😉

HoursTracker (for iPhone and Android)
I work a job with flexible hours. Problem is, I used to try to do work in whenever I had a free minute and didn’t really track my time worked. My employer got a lot of free work out of me.

Once I realized just how much I was screwing myself financially, I started to dedicate large blocks of time to work and don’t let myself work on “work stuff” in those moments of free time.

Enter HoursTracker. The app lets me “clock-in” and “clock-out” and enter hours worked if I forget to clock in. It also tracks how much I make and calculates for taxes and fees, so I have a weekly estimate of my income.

HoursTracker can even track multiple jobs. If you work at a physical office, HoursTracker can be set to automatically track your time when you get to the office (Holy GPS technology, Batman!) It’s a great app and the free version is loaded with cool features.

FocusKeeper (iPhone only)
FocusKeeper is a flexible, easy-to-use Pomodoro timer. Pomodoro timers time your work for 25 minutes, and then time a five-minute break. This technique is effective as it focuses your thoughts and works and then gives you time to take a mental break.

I like FocusKeeper because you can change the time increments for work sessions and break sessions. And you can set a goal for how many work/break cycles you want to successfully complete.

I use this when I’m writing, working on a project, or decluttering.

MultiTimer (iPhone only)
MultiTimer lets you track multiple tasks at once. It helps me when I’m cooking meals like Thanksgiving (time the green beans, the turkey, and the pie all in one app!). We host dinners at our house quite a bit so this is a scenario that plays out quite a bit in my house, albeit with different menus.

I used to have multiple timers going – my iPhone countdown timer, my Fitbit, and my stove timer. MultiTimer puts all of these timers in one place. So convenient to them all at once!

A Note About the Apps I don’t use all of these apps at the same time. But I find that at different times, different apps are more helpful than others. I recommend checking them out and seeing what works for you!

Potty Training Impatience

Are you a relaxed parent? I am. I’d like to say I’m this way because I’m so awesome, but no. I’m this way because I have a child with a stubborn streak like a grumpy attorney. Push him too hard and he digs in…he knows I’m trying to manipulate him and no freaking way, is that happening on his watch.

I’m not saying I let him go off and play in traffic and binge on candy all day. I just mean that when I try to push the timeline on milestones, it doesn’t go well for anyone involved.

Now, I hesitate to use the word stubborn, because I think potty training is something that is age and maturity dependent. Guidance helps, but if they aren’t ready, then sometimes they simply aren’t ready. “Stubborn” indicates some level of intent.

For some kids, they aren’t being stubborn, they’re just learning on their own timeline.

And for some kids, it means they’ve realized that the ability to take a leak literally anywhere, at anytime, is not something that should be easily given up. I can’t blame them.

But back to my tiny, grumpy attorney: If you have a kid like this, you know what I mean. Some might call them “spirited” or “strong-willed” or “a good reason to day drink”.

Potty training has been a real test of this forced-relaxation parenting style of mine. I’m fortunate that Little Dude is not in daycare, so we didn’t have some hard and fast deadline to meet for potty training. Pretty sure we wouldn’t have made it. Bless you parents who are able to/have to meet such deadlines. I salute you.

That said, he’s at the older end of the potty training timeline. And while I try not to compare my child to other children, I’m totally comparing my child to other children. A lot of them are in underwear. But I’ve also noticed that a lot of the kids in underwear are having potty accidents on the regular, which leads me to believe that there are a lot more older-ish toddlers who are still working on potty training.

Note to smug potty training parents: if your kid is wearing underwear but is having accidents daily, they aren’t potty trained. Sorry to piss in your cornflakes.

I’ve spoken to some older parents who also had stubborn potty trainers and they’ve assured me that one day using the toilet just “clicked” for their kids and none of their 40-year-olds are still using pull-ups or diapers. So, there’s that.

I really, really want to get to this child fully potty trained but I’m trying not to force the issue. This isn’t the topic I want to fight with my kid about. I’m saving that angst for things like a shitty girlfriend or choosing a useless college major. So, after many phases of potty training including:
– guiding to the potty every hour
– potty seats everywhere
– no pants or pull-ups in the house

We’re at: BRIBERY.

Pee in the potty consistently, small human, and the key to the kingdom will be yours. Or, pretty much every Paw Patrol toy in Wal-mart will be yours. Because the cost savings of no longer buying pull-ups and nighttime diapers will more than cover the toys.

Do I think parenting by bribery is a good thing? No, definitely not.

Am I proud of this decision? Just a little bit.

We’ll see how it goes. He starts high school in about 11 years, so we’ll definitely have this potty thing on lock by then.

My One Hundred Houses

In the months leading up to our moves, I spend a lot of time dwelling on…dwellings.  I download rental property apps and search, and re-search, and then analyze the homes that I find.  Too big! Two small! Is that wall really chartreuse? Is the neighborhood really that nice or did Google street view just catch them on a good day?  Will our couch fit along that wall? How can there only be four cupboards in that kitchen? I edit my ‘favorites’ lists depending on my ever-changing must-haves and suffer tiny heartbreaks when my dream homes disappear, the keys given to some other family.

It’s an obsession that I can’t quite stop and I know it’s futile since we won’t even contact properties until a month before we leave.  In my mind’s eye I place our belongings in these homes, organize our lives, and settle in.  We haven’t packed a single box yet but I’ve already moved into a hundred houses.

I torture myself in this way for two reasons, I’ve realized.  The first is hope.  It’s fun to think of a different life in a different place. In my mind, in whatever home I’m looking at, I’m a better version of myself.  Magically more organized with better decorating skills and a knack for DIY.  My imagination also lets me have a new wardrobe and my email has achieved Inbox Zero.  Whether it’s all possible or not doesn’t matter, I have Pinterest boards full of possibility (and an alarming number of mason jar craft ideas).

The second thing is control.  It’s a weird feeling not knowing what my address will be in three months.  I’d like to play the cool ‘I just live the life of a nomad’ card, but I’m too high strung, let’s be real.  Every time I save a home a small part of me thinks that one is The One. Good.  I found it.  That’s over! It’s a lie I tell myself that gives me a sense of peace and eases my worry.

Having done all this before, I know it will all work out.  We’ve always had a roof over our heads upon arrival, even if it means living in a hotel for a month.  We’ll find a house and make a home. The couch will fit.  I’ll grow fond of the chartreuse wall.  The neighborhood really will be nice.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my hundred houses and let my imagination unpack boxes.