I live with (and work with, and mother with, and create with) chronic generalized anxiety disorder. It has taken a long time for me to share this openly. The stigma around mental health is still so strong! But that is why I need to share this. It has meant so much to me when other moms and entrepreneurs have shared their journey. If this post can help just one person feel less alone, it is worth it.
Before I dive into the weird strategies I have for keeping my anxiety under control so I can do meaningful work, there is one critical disclaimer. I do take medication, I do go to therapy, and I do practice yoga and meditation and journaling. Supportive and loving friendships and a caring husband are all essential. In no way am I trying to make anyone think that if you come up with the one right "trick" can you solve mental health issues. But, that aside, our brains are tricky and funny things. Creativity can sometimes help, and either way, it makes life a little more fun.
AND - even if you don't live with chronic anxiety, maybe you know someone who does. Or perhaps these ideas will give your non-anxious brain a new perspective too. One other note for the neurotypical among you, these strategies will not work for everyone. If someone you love has anxiety (or any other concern) and they tell you this doesn't help them - believe them. As I say to my kids all the time, the one thing you can never know is how someone else feels unless they tell you. And when they tell you, believe them.
Changing Up My Log-In Screen and Other Randomness
Colors, sounds, smells. All of these stimuli can be triggers for anxiety. Even if you have never had anxiety, you are probably familiar with the feeling of dread that occasionally accompanies the sound of your alarm in the morning or the sight of someone with whom you argued. After a few bad days trying to log in to my computer to work is the same feeling. Or seeing my email background will remind me of a stressful email I got the day before. Or opening my cell phone screen will suck me into scrolling through Facebook to escape. The great news is that I have control over what I see when I open my email or computer or phone. And it can be random!
By turning on the random screen background, themes in my email, and occasionally rearranging my phone home screen, I avoid getting stuck in mental loops. When I open my laptop, my surprise and curiosity circuits in my brain are triggered instead of the stress ones. As an added benefit, sometimes, the image that pops up on my screen is exceptionally captivating and gives me a shot of pleasure and awe—a much better mental place to start working.
Soduku Puzzles and Tetris
More and more research is showing that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety . The only problem with that is often it can be hard to slow the brain down enough to focus on being mindful in the first place. The solution? Tetris or Soduku puzzles.
Let's talk about Tetris first. Studies show that Tetris specifically can help reduce anxiety and focus your brain. While researchers are not sure why this is, one speculation is that because you have to focus on the rapidly falling tiles, it helps drown other thoughts out. I use this as an occasional exercise to focus before I dive into a task. To maximize this strategy, I will play one game of Tetris and then set a timer for focused work for 20 minutes.
Next, Soduku. Psychology Today theorizes that playing games like Soduku are calming to the brain because there IS a correct answer. Unlike the messiness of life, there is a single solution. I find the action of solving solvable problems satisfying and anxiety-reducing.
For Soduku puzzles, I prefer to do them on paper rather than an app or on the computer. The action of writing is also calming and helps ground me in the real world.
A caveat, watch out for phone apps or online sites with tons of ads! Not only do these interruptions of your thoughts defeat the focusing purpose of the game, but the ads themselves may be upsetting. One of the things that I like about the basic Tetris game on their website or paper Soduku is that it doesn't trap my brain in a reward circuit link. For example, with special bonuses, or limited time extras, or any of the many other tools game creators use to keep you playing for hours. It can be a fine line between intentionally relieving stress to be more productive and using distractions to avoid and ignore.
Baking Productivity Cookies
Okay, I don't have a thing called "Productivity Cookies," but maybe I should invent a recipe. As I mentioned before, using a timer can be a powerful tool to keep me from getting mentally stuck. The only problem is that sometimes I ignore the timer when it goes off. Know how to prevent that from happening? Put some cookies in the oven! Nothing quite like the smell of burning cookies to snap you out of your funk.
Baking is in itself helpful for my anxiety because it focuses me on my senses, what is happening right now in the physical world instead of in my fears, and gives me a sense of satisfaction from completing something. Bonuses to this strategy include that my baby falls asleep in the baby carrier while I walk around the kitchen, and everyone else in the house loves the fresh baked goods!
Pause My Inbox
Geeky tools make my day, and one of my favorites is Boomerang for Gmail. It is one of my big secrets to getting to inbox zero daily. And it is also useful for avoiding distractions when I need to get work done.
I just hit the "pause" button, and no new emails come into my inbox for a while. Time to set a goal set, a timer, and get working!
When my husband is done with work, he gets in his car and drives home. He works on industrial robots, so they can't come home with him. Out of sight, out of mind until the next day, for the most part.
Working on social media at home is a different world. There is no off switch. I have been known to work early mornings before the kids are up on holidays, on weekends, after the kids go to bed, and while sitting in the pickup line at school. Don't get me wrong. Flexibility is one of the significant advantages of having my own business and working for myself. As my kids have grown up, I have been able to put them first. I can squeeze in events and coffee dates and volunteering. But I have to be careful with it too. When I had my daughter last year, I decided to actually take maternity leave. And the world did not stop turning!
It means that I have to be more intentional about my work. I need to say no to projects or clients that don't respect my boundaries. And I have to be all in during work time. But the value of actually closing the computer, stashing my phone, and being present is unmeasurable. It has taken me time to find that balance, and it is an always evolving work in progress, but I am so much happier now accepting that breaks are worthwhile and will help my productivity in the long run.
The Upsides of Anxiety
We tend to stigmatize brains that work a little differently. There have most certainly been days that I wished I didn't have anxiety as a part of my life. And treating it is essential. However, each of our different and unique brains comes with advantages too.
For example, I am genuinely good at empathizing with others, seeing potential roadblocks or problems and solving them, and thinking outside of the box. I can consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time and make connections from disparate sources. All these things are significant advantages in life and my business.
I would love to hear from you - how does your brain work differently? What are the positives of the mind you have? What strategies have you discovered to help minimize the downsides?
Meet Edgar is a fundamentally different platform in how it approaches content scheduling. In fact, when I first saw it I got pretty excited because it goes hand in hand with the concepts of post types that I cover in my book What to Post.
Basically the idea is that you create evergreen content and set a schedule based on the type of post rather than specific content pieces. Then Edgar randomly chooses one of those types to post to that social media account.
For example, you might have blog posts go out at 9am on Monday, promotional posts at 2pm on Wednesday, and funny posts at 4pm on Friday. You decide which account each post in the library is assigned too.
Reuse Evergreen Content
What I love most about Edgar is that it allows you to get more out of your evergreen content. Many of the blog posts that I write, or that I write for my clients, are beneficial for their audience any time, not just in the few days after creation. It was always a struggle to remember to reload older blog posts and videos back into the schedule on a regular basis. It is also a fantastic tool for adding in my promotional posts and making sure they are balanced throughout the feed.
Recurring content is a feature that no other scheduler has, and it is pretty fantastic. This will be best for businesses and organizations that have been creating content for a long time, and so have a large pool to draw from to get started. You should go into it with the mindset that the first month or two there will be a big upfront investment of time to build a solid library of material. Otherwise you risk your content feeling old and outdated quickly.
Use the Power of Post Types
The other thing of course is that it is such a good fit for the model of content creation that I am already using - post types. This is an idea I haven't seen many other places, and am excited that Edgar is getting people to think about their business in a more systemic way.
Measure Your Results
Another unique feature of Edgar is its Analytics. You can sort by account, date, or even by the piece of content itself. This allows you to figure out what you need to improve to get better results, and how the same piece of content performs across platforms.
The Learning Curve
As with any new system, there is a learning curve to using Edgar. Overall it was fairly intuitive to me, but I use programs like this every day. The biggest challenge was navigating back and forth between different accounts. While you can turn on and off different views in the schedule for example, whenever you save one new time slot it reloads to the whole calendar again, and you have to start all over to add the next time. I am guessing this will improve over time as more people use Edgar and provide feedback.
Edgar is not a cheap platform to use. They do not have a free version like BufferApp and Hootsuite do, and the most basic account starts at about $50 a month. If you are just getting your business off the ground and are not clear on how to use social media to generate income, this can be a fairly significant expense. But if you are spending hours a month rescheduling your evergreen content (or paying an assistant to do it for you), the cost savings is a no brainer. Be sure this is the right tool for you before you jump in, and don't feel like it is something you have to have at the beginning.
As a newer scheduling tool, it doesn't have support for quite as many platforms as the other major scheduling tools out there. At the time of writing this review it only supports Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Over time I suspect that list will expand as well, and what they currently offer will be enough for a lot of businesses, but be aware of the limitations and have a plan for any other platforms you are using.
Is It Right for You?
If you are at the very beginning phases of using social media, then Edgar may be a more powerful tool than you need. In order to be able to create evergreen content at all you need a general idea of what types of content to try in the first place.
As I already mentioned, you want to make sure that you can take the time to build up a good library in the beginning or you are missing out on the most important feature.
Another important note - make sure you schedule time to review your library from time to time and make sure it is all still relevant and what you want to be posting. Things change.
For me personally this does not replace my business level BufferApp account - I use both. Edgar is perfect for the evergreen content, and I use BufferApp for the up to the minute news and reactions. Balancing both tools in scheduling means I am able to deliver consistently engaging and unique content for my clients every day.
Anything I didn't cover in the review that you want to know? Post a comment below!
So what is so great about MySpace now?
First, a little bit of background. The MySpace that most people think of was defunct by 2011. No one was using it and a bunch of money was being spent on staff without revenue coming in the way it was expected when Rupert Murdoch bought the site for $580 million in 2005.
In 2011 is when Justin Timberlake (and a few other investors) purchased the brand for $35 million. Now, this might seem crazy until you think about what MySpace was all about in the beginning and what Justin Timberlake primarily does for a living - music.
MySpace was officially relaunched by Timberlake in June 2013, in the process getting rid of the old site completely. And it is a beautiful thing.
As a competitor to Facebook, MySpace clearly lost. But it is not a competitor to Facebook any more. In fact, you can use your Facebook (or Twitter) credentials to log in if you want.
In the new re-imagined world of MySpace Justin Timberlake created a competitor to Pandora or Spotify, and in my opinion a real competitor. I had used the paid version of Pandora for a couple years at this point. But MySpace is just better in my opinion. Here is why:
So yeah, basically if you like listening to music suck it up, get over the eye rolls you will get, and check out MySpace. Seriously. And yes, you will have interesting conversations with your friends like this one I had on Google+ (read the comments, you will laugh):
And yes, I did just reference Google+ as well, but that is a subject for another post.
What this has to do with social media overall
Okay, so you are not a musician. Other than listening to great music, what does MySpace have to do with you, right?
Well, it has a lot to do with you if you want to use social media effectively. Let's go over a few of the finer points:
So what do you think? Are you going to give MySpace another chance? How will this make you look at your business and social media strategy differently? I would love to hear about it!