Do you ever have a regular Life Review? It’s definitely worth it. Here is mine…

pathway

Excuses, excuses, excuses…

If you subscribe to my blog or are a regular reader you’d be forgiven for thinking that I have been on an extended holiday or had some dreadful accident that put me in hospital for the past few months. Apart from my ironic post on “How to become a Social Media Guru” (which incidentally has become my most popular article yet), I really haven’t been very busy on my blog. Then there’s my Seriously Social News Podcast – which has all gone silent. I have been really busy over the summer- I have had some big web projects that have taken up a lot of my time, and I have wanted to spend time with our children who are growing up rather fast- my daughter has just started school and my son has just had his 3rd birthday!

But, I do promise it will be back, but that is the reason for this article! If truth be told, this article is partly a way for me to hold myself accountable, but if you are reading it then maybe you can help me too! I want to start posting my articles, recording podcasts, learning new things, meeting new people, building up a community and building up my business.


Life Plan

penguinsEvery so often (perhaps every 6 months or a year) I think it’s important for us all to have life reviews- looking at what you’ve achieved and what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term- your hopes and dreams as well as your fears.

Possibly the first thing I need to do, is re-read an article I wrote just over a year ago called 4 Barriers to Blogging including Procrastination and Perfectionism. Both Procrastination and Perfectionism are my biggest issues to updating my blog and in fact in most areas of my life! However I hope to change that and I need your help- maybe we can learn together?

I was really inspired by a talk by international marketer Mark Schaefer at the 2013 OiConf conference where he said just to get on with blogging. He reminisced that his first articles were poor but he kept on going and he found that the articles became really popular despite (in his view) the quality being lower than his expectations.

The problem I have is that I want everything to be perfect- I want to go into all the details, I want to do extensive research. All of that of course is admirable, but we also live in the real world. I have a job to do, I have money to earn and bills to pay. Blogging becomes powerful when you just get on and do it- and do it regularly. Yes, in a world where the currency of the web is content, the content needs to be good- but it also needs to be regular. Anyway, I digress….


My Goals

goalIt has been a great summer, I have learnt so much, worked on some cool projects but it has also been a wake up call for the way I work. Something needs to be done and after being inspired by a “to-learn list for 2013” blog post by developer Henrique Barroso I am going to do something similar. Let me know what you think. Since I have been in the academic world for so long, I don’t do New Year Resolutions, I still think in the academic year. And that starts in September, so here goes…

Social Media

Social MediaTwitter: I am a big Twitter user, a power user (I hate that phrase but it is true). I’ve been using Twitter since November 2006 (not long after it started) and I manage an insane number of accounts. This year I want to concentrate on my core audience- my local community and beyond. I do not want to be obsessed with numbers! I also want to start getting involved with Twitter Chats- especially #northwesthour (business marketing in the North West of England) and #TChat.

Facebook Marketing: It’s easy to be negative about Facebook advertising and in fact Facebook in general. However to do so misses out how powerful Facebook can be if used properly. I am convinced that Facebook can work for businesses (not all but definitely some). I want to start using the Facebook Power Editor and start learning about the best way forwards here. I want to feel like I am not just dumping money down the toilet each time I take out an ad with Facebook! I am going to start reading articles by Facebook Marketer Jon Loomer as well as his very helpful videos. All of this will of course help me to help our business clients.

LinkedIn: I do use LinkedIn, and have done for years. I see its power and love the way I can keep in touch with other business contacts. I want to set up my own LinkedIn group where I can build up a community and share the knowledge I have built up over the years. I’d also like to built up my company page for my business, Select Performers. That’ll probably have to start once we’ve finished the re-branding (more of that later).

Developing

developerIf you’re not so interested in really techy developer stuff, you may want to skip over this section!

PHP: I have been developing websites using PHP for over 10 years, and in recent years developing WordPress websites. However, I admit to being a little lazy and there are so many areas that I need to brush up on. I want to improve my knowledge of Object Oriented programming, classes and basically implementing best practices. There are some great guides on best PHP best practices such phpbestpractices.org and PHP: The Right Way.

Develop Locally: We all get stuck in a rut, and I’ve been very comfortable in my way of developing websites. That means writing some code or a webpage, uploading up to a test (or live site) on my server using FTP and testing via my browser. It has worked perfectly for me, but it is slow and clunky and has many disadvantages such as not being able to track changes. I’m going to create a testing environment on my computer by using VirtualBox. My work laptop runs Windows, so I will create a virtual computer running linux with the Apache web server and PHP/MYSQL. I’ll be able to test on the virtual machine, but more usefully by using VirtualBox’s shared folders feature I will be able to view and code my web projects on my Windows machine. It looks like a great feature. I’ll be posting an article on this in the future.

Learn Git: I always thought Git was a derogatory name for an old man! But it is also a version control system that allows you to keep track of changes to your code. It’s mainly used for teams of people, but it still looks useful for lone developers such as me. It’s not that easy to get your head round, but I’ve already made headway. I am looking forwards to becoming a Git master. I’ll let you know how I get on. There is a good interactive (and free) tutorial on Git at Code School.

Move away from Dreamweaver: I’ve used Dreamweaver for over 10 years and to be truthful I have never been overly happy with it. First of all it is fiendishly expensive (as all Adobe products are) but it’s also slow, clunky and buggy. It has far too many features and I never use the design (or WYSIWYG) view. I have to admit to liking the integrated FTP which allows me to quickly FTP up changes to my server. However, since I will be developing locally, I won’t need this any more. I have used notepad++, but I really like the look of the Sublime Text editor. It’s not free, but I may well give it a go. It also has some awesome plugins available.

WordPress & Roots: I started building WordPress websites 3 years ago after years of trying to resist (just another thing to learn!). I am so glad I started using WordPress- it is such a flexible and powerful framework for websites. I also discovered the Roots starter theme and the amazing community behind it. Recently with a new website, they have been promoting best practices and releasing new tutorials and screencasts. I am eager to learn more and learn these best practices.

Grunt: No, I am not talking wild animals here. Grunt is a command line tool written in JavaScript which allows you to do cool things with your project. You could minify CSS and JavaScript, combine files, compile LESS files and so much more. It has been a while since I have used the command line a lot, but sometimes you just have to do these things.

Linux Command line, SSH, Servers: I don’t want to become an expert in Linux or servers. We have a fantastic hosting partner who offers a fully managed service. However I think it is important to understand how it all works in good detail. I’ll be building my own local server using Apache on Linux and I’ll be “dialling” in to it via SSH. I want to be much better at using the command line of course.

Admit I can’t know everything: Well I am only to aware that I can’t know everything, but I frequently get frustrated by all things I’d like to know but haven’t managed to quite yet. In any field of life there are always going to be things to learn. It’s important to admit that and concentrate on the important things one step at a time!

Twools

twoolsFor those who don’t know, Twools is my Twitter app which allows you to view your Twitter feeds with powerful filters. It is available either as a standalone PHP app or a WordPress plugin.

Improve Code: I need to clean up the code and make sure everything is commented properly as well as fix some bug fixes.

Combine WordPress and Standalone versions: This has more or less happened, but to ease development I only want to have to update one code base. For standalone Twools users all they will have to do is install the home directory where as WordPress users will install the whole directory (with plugin and uninstall scripts).

Get on GitHub: I want to get the code on GitHub so other people can collaborate on the project.

Host WordPress plugin on WordPress: Currently I host the WordPress plugin, I want to be able to host it with WordPress once it is ready. That makes it easier for people to install.

Better Features: I want to add a feature for people to be able to save their streams so they can view them later.

My Website (iag.me)

BlogDesign: It’s not quite a year since I launched the new design of my website. My friend, Sam Lucas came up with logo and branding and I’ve been really happy with it. However I think it is time for some tweaks to de-clutter things and speed up the load time.

Clear Categories: I want to have another look at my main categories to think about a better way of organising my articles which will also help in gearing the articles to my core audience.

Regular Articles: I need to post every single week. This is a big one for me because currently there is no way that that would be possible. I need to start writing shorter articles. That’s not to say I shouldn’t write my usual in-depth articles but regularity is important too!

Podcast: Like my articles, these need to be regular. I will have to have a think as to whether I can still keep to my weekly schedule. I may need to worry less about the quality of delivery and just get on with it!

Business

upwards-graphWork with cool people: For those who don’t know, I am co-founder of Select Performers Internet Solutions– a web and marketing agency in the North West of England. I’ve worked with some great people recently on a few projects and I have loved the experience. Historically I have mainly worked by myself or with my dad (who is my business partner). However it is great to work with other people outside of your business as you learn so much and make new connections and friends. I want to do more of this over the coming year.

Be more local: We’ve worked with people all over the UK and in other countries, and I want that to continue. However, I think there is real value in targeting locally. I want to work with local businesses to set up or improve their web presence as well as their internet marketing.

Re-brand: We’ve already started the process! Currently we are looking at the identity of my web business Select Performers (which is 10 years old this year!). This means a new logo, new website, new content as well as thinking deeply about who we are, our services and who we are trying to target.

Have Clear Goals: This is being helped by the re-brand, but all businesses need to have clear goals about the kind of businesses or individuals they are wishing to target, what problems they are trying to solve, how they are going to solve those problems and how to reach those businesses.

Personal

Lying OutsideWork/Life Balance: Being self employed makes this very difficult. It’s been a hard year or so as we’ve been building the business. I’m a professional musician and teacher so combining this with the business and having a young family has been quite a challenge! Still, it has been an exciting year and business has grown. We need to have “stones in the diary” for family time, individual time (not work) and time with my wife which are non-negotiable. This means date nights, family days out, walks, play time etc. These are so important!

Date Nights with the Wife: It is so important to invest in your relationship. I love my wife to bits, but that is not enough by itself. We need to have regular chats, go out for walks, be romantic, have time together without the kids and have date nights out! I also think a 3 year “MOT” like the Marriage Course is a good thing- it’s not just for people who are having marriage problems- it’s for everyone! Putting time in the diary for each other is sometimes difficult, but it is so important and so fun. If you are married or in a relationship- do it!

Minimise Electronic Time: We were with some friends at the weekend and we were talking about how easy it is for kids to move from one electronic device to another. Our friends limited the amount of time their kids had with an electronic device each day. They had a daily “electronic time”. I love the idea! I want our kids to enjoy technology and to use it for enjoyment and engagement. However I know myself how addictive it can be. I want them to play with other toys, go outside, interact with nature and have fun there. That also means no phones at the table. This is going to be so hard for me!

Listen to Music: I’ve been involved with music all my life. I played the ‘cello at school and led the ‘cello section of the Oldham Youth Orchestra. I was a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and went on an amazing world tour singing in some amazing places. I read music at University and trained to become a professional singer at the Royal Northern College of Music. Although this blog is about technology, web sites and digital marketing, music is a big part of my life and will continue to be so. I want to carry on singing professionally and teach singing. However, all of this can get in the way of actually sitting down and listening to music. I can’t work to music- it is too distracting! So it is a case of making time to listen and not just resort to watching a DVD or Netflix. That means switching on the radio or playing a CD or actually going to a live concert!

Exercise: I’m doing more sitting in front of my computer than I ever have done. I’m not getting to do much exercise or walking and this is not good. I want to feel fitter which will make me feel better. I have tried the gym but I never could be bothered to go. I also have very limited time. If any of you have any tips on how to improve in this area I am all ears!

Faith: Some of you may know that I am a Christian. That doesn’t mean I am a good person- far from it! Being a Christian is not about trying to be good, it means I try and follow Jesus and put my faith in Him- and accept His will for my life. That is both scary and exciting at the same time. God has been amazing and I can look back over my life and see what He has done for me. That might sound a bit weird if you’re not a Christian, I don’t know. However, it’s a struggle too. I want to work hard at being more real- real about my struggles and helping others too and to try and not become complacent. I find reading the bible hard (it’s sometimes amazing, but sometimes very boring) and talking to God (prayer) even more difficult. I know that putting your trust in God is the most amazing thing ever, but it is also hard and can be quite scary!


How about you?

I’ve been quite open and honest in this article, so how about you? Do you do life reviews? When was your last one? Do you find them helpful?