10 Steps to Build a Personal Brand {+ FREE Workbook + Discount code!}

In order to take your side hustle to the next level you might want to consider creating a personal brand. But what exactly does that mean? A personal brand {as opposed to a business brand} is connected to an individual which allows clients/readers to put a face to a business/account and therefore make a more personal connection.

Creating a personal brand is about much more than creating a logo. It’s about making sure you stand out, are recognisable and remembered and building trust with your audience – think of Oprah Winfrey, Marie Kondo, Mrs Hinch and YouTubers such as Emily Norris and Tiffani Beaston – all of which have amazing personal brands!

So how do you start to build your own personal brand? Here’s 10 steps to get you started {plus don’t forget to subscribe to get your FREE personal brand resource PLUS an exclusive 20% discount code for This Splendid Shambles’ Ultimate Blogging Bundle!}

1. Define your why

How does your business {or blog, Instagram account etc.} add value to others? What are your values and beliefs? What areas are you experienced or have expertise in? What solutions can you offer? Do you want to inspire and motivate? Do you want to share your experience or teach? Think about what you would include in an elevator pitch or purpose statement. Jot some key words and ideas down and create a tagline.

For example, my elevator pitch for a Life twintastic is: “I’m Ellie, the founder of alifetwintastic.blog. As a mum of three, wannabe-perfect housewife and small business owner I love to equip, enable and empower busy mums looking to balance business, family, health and home through blog posts, vlogs and digital products.” My tagline from this is: “To Equip, enable and empower busy mums to balance business, family, health and home.”

2. What sets you apart

What’s your unique selling point {USP}? Put simply, your USP is YOU! It’s your personality, expertise, quality, customer service, reliability. Once you know what sets you apart you can start to think about how you can provide content which delivers consistent expectations your readers or clients can count on.

For a Life twintastic, I like to think that my personality, authentic, down to earth style and useful resources and products attract readers, followers and customers.

3. Think about your ideal client/reader

What age range are they? What do they like to do? Where do they hang out online? How will they interact with you {via your blog, Instagram account, in person or in print?} What feelings do you want to evoke? Excitement? Motivation? Calm? Solidarity? Your personal brand needs to reflect who you want to attract to your business and in turn this will help define your brand strategy.

My ideal client/reader would be women/mums in their 20s, 30s and 40s who love to expand their personal development and knowledge by reading and connecting through blog posts and Instagram. They would reflect my love of organising, planning and self-improvement through resources, creating systems or simply having a good de-clutter. I would want them to feel inspired and find my content relatable and empowering. Basically an organised mess with a kick-ass attitude.

4. Create a Pinterest/mood board

Crank open Pinterest and type in some ideas like “feminine brand board” or “food inspiration” and go wild. Once you’ve got 10-20 pins step back and assess what you have. Is there a trend? Common colours or styles? Start to narrow your pins down to hone your style. Voila! Instant mood board.

Pinterest is perfect for mood board creation

5. Create a colour palette

From your mood board start to pull out the colours which jump out at you. Once you’ve picked a couple Canva is a great tool for selecting a colour palette around what you have chosen. You’ll probably want a couple of colours which “pop”, a couple of accent colours then a base colour. Again go back ti your ideal reader/client and what feelings you want to evoke. Calming blues or exciting yellow? Feminine pink or stylish monochrome?

For a Life twintastic I originally chose blue and yellow as my main colours, with black and grey as accents and a white base colour. I am now in the process of re-branding using more green, blush pink and blue as my main colours, sage green and gold as my accents and again a white base colour.

Canva Pro provides hundreds of complementary colour palettes

6. Consider your font

Similarly in Canva you can road test different fonts and how these work together. Think about how a font may look on a short logo compared to a piece of text. Will be be easily readable? What size works well for your brand? As a general rule you should use 2-3 fonts maximum.

For a Life twintastic I use a font determined by my chosen WordPress theme for my blog posts and Cooper Hewitt thin and body for my logos etc. Both my colour palette and fonts are saved in my brand kit in Canva Pro.

7. Create a logo and alternative/sub logo

Again, Canva {can you tell I’m a fan?!} is the perfect place to make a FREE logo. Canva offers hundreds of customisable templates for pretty much any business or platform – plus if you’ve set up a brand kit you can try out different logos in your chosen colours and fonts with a simple click. As well as your main logo, it’s a good idea to create an alternative or sub logo, for example an abbreviation of your main logo which can be used for smaller templates. Alternative or sub logos should still be easily recognisable to your brand.

8. Create brand collateral

As well as your logo and sub logo you might want to think about what patterns, social media icons, headers etc. you want to include in your brand kit. For example I like to use a simple “double arrow” line and my signature | dividers and { } brackets.

9. Consider the types of images and/or videos you use

Again use your mood board to decide on the style of media you use then start to collate stock photos. Create your own, consider getting some professional shots taken, use a free stock photo website such as Unsplash or why not create or purchase a preset. Quality media is a must for websites and blogs, whilst more “real” photos and videos are much more acceptable on platforms like Instagram.

10. Create a cohesive brand board

Finally bring everything together to create a cohesive brand board. Your why, tag line, USP, colour palette, fonts, logo, collateral and stock images – all brought together to create your own personal brand.

Next steps – things to consider:

  • Your language and tone
  • Creating easily customisable templates
  • Getting at least one professional head shot
  • Using a stock of buzzwords, tags and hashtags
  • How to best deliver consistent content and connect with your audience

To help get you started I’ve created a FREE personal brand workbook to help brainstorm and checkoff all the different steps mentioned in this post. As an added bonus I’ve teamed up with Anjali from This Splendid Shambles to offer my subscribers an exclusive 20% discount code off her hugely popular Ultimate Blogging Bundle which includes Blogging for Beginners, Unleashing the Power of Pinterest plus exclusive adds on including stock photos, colour palette inspiration, Canva templates, content planner and soooo much more! I purchased this package and it as levelled up both my blog AND my business!

To access your freebie and discount code simply subscribe below to gain access to a Life twintastic’s VIP subscribers only page.

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Do you have a personal brand? What attracts you to particular websites, blogs or instagram accounts?

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A Life Twintastic {ALT} FREE VIP Subscriber List | Newsletter, FREE Resources, discount codes and first looks

Introducing {ALT} VIP Subscribers

It’s been just over 2 years since I first launched a Life twintastic {find out more about me and ALT here} and I finally feel like I’ve reached a point where I’m more clear than ever on my aims and goals for the blog.

As well as working on my own personal development I’ve also been working on my personal brand {more on this on Tuesday’s blog post – including a FREE workbook and discount code for This Splendid Shamble’s Ultimate Blogging Bundle which I can personally recommend} and feel more confident in what I want and have to offer as a blogger and small business owner.

Lots of exciting developments are starting over the next couple of months and I’d love for you to join me and get involved. From 30 day challenges and new digital planners to eBook launches and my FREE VIP subscriber list.

As a VIP subscriber you will not only receive member only assess to FREE resources and specially sourced discount codes but you will get first looks and exclusive offers on all ALT products!

Want to collaborate? If you’re a blogger, business owner / brand or simply want to get involved get in touch here.

Interested? Sign up for FREE below:

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What’s coming up?

VIP Newsletter including:

  • What we’ve been up to
  • What’s new on the blog
  • What’s new for VIP subscribers – FREE resources, discount codes and first looks
  • What’s coming up
  • Spotlights on podcasts, blogs, small businesses, YouTube and books I’m loving
  • Exclusive entry to giveaways

New and improved Digital Planners:

Life Planner, Blog Planner and Business Planner oh my! Plus updated FREE “How To” eBook

30 Day Challenges:

Project Simplify Health and Declutter Challenges with a fun Bingo template!

Coming up in the Next Week:

Tuesday 4 May | New blog post : 10 Steps to Build a Personal Brand {+ FREE Workbook and Discount code!}

Thursday 6 May | New blog post : How to Dress for your Body Shape {Bum, Belly and Boobs}

Monday 10 May | First VIP Subscriber Newsletter! Remember you need to sign up to receive the VIP newsletter and access to FREE resources and discount codes

All my best

How to Create Systems that work {Plans over Goals} | + FREE Resources

Ok, so we’ve already covered a bit about the importance of consistency, how to manage all or nothing tendencies and the benefits of creating systems and habits but how exactly do you create workable systems for, well, life?

Chances are you already have. Simply put, a system is nothing more than a routine. The way you wash your hair in the shower, that’s a system. The fact you lay out your workout clothes the night before your gym session, that’s a system. Checking your emails every morning, that’s a system. Ironing your kids’ uniform on a Sunday, that’s right – it’s a system!

Now I’m the first to admit being the queen of procrastination and in all honesty, I don’t like to work too hard. But then I also hate being overwhelmed and unorganised. It causes me masses of anxiety. I like the idea of structure but I’m not always consistent in my methods. I also don’t like to over complicate things – I’m really a very simple creature at heart.

One of the ways which helps me to break past these conflicting needs and feel more organised is to have certain systems in place. In business I call these workflows. In life I call them routines or habits. But essentially the ways these are created are very similar. Think of it as not only setting goals, but going that one step further and creating a plan for how you are going to reach them.

The benefits of having a system in place are easy to see, they allow you to:

  • Be more productive
  • Work more efficiently
  • Produce higher quality results
  • Make less mistakes
  • Easily outsource certain tasks

Let’s explore some of the ways you can create systems for different aspects of your life.

1. Audit your current systems

One of the best ways to prepare for new systems is to audit those already in place, i.e. identifying what’s working and what’s missing. For example say you want to eat healthier meals or improve your morning routine. After a week or so of following a plan you can sit down and conduct a simple review. By identifying what’s working and what’s not you can determine pinch points or triggers and figure out how to get around them. Thus improving your system.

2. Create habits

I’ve touched on this in previous posts but one of the best ways of starting a new system is to start creating the habit of doing that thing. So for example, if you want to write a book but don’t know where you start set an aim to sit at your desk, open your notebook and write for 5 mins every day. This can then be built on over time but in the meantime you’re simply creating the habit of writing.

3. Create workflows for bigger tasks

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Whilst this may seem an obvious thing to do it is so often overlooked. By breaking regular tasks down into smaller manageable tasks you are effectively converting the whole process into a workflow which can be repeated and tweaked as you go. Not only does this ensure nothing gets missed but it also helps get those smaller to-dos done in shorter timeslots. In time this will help you estimate how long it takes to complete a task, schedule in the necessary time and therefore manage your time more effectively. Win win. Below are a couple of free templates you can use {featuring my not-yet-launched new branding!}, or if you prefer to work digitally why not use an app like Planner or Productive – Habit Tracker.

FREE Resources | Workflow template for a blog post + Workflow template blank

4. Create templates

Moving on from workflows another system is to create fill-in-the-blank templates for repetitive tasks such as emails, welcome letters to new clients, blog post structure, different stages of a product launch or even a weekend packing list. Making templates which can be repurposed for specific cases/people helps make repetitive tasks more effortless. For businesses this also means you can easily outsource certain tasks to free you up to do other more important things. For example, I have created a set of templates for my business which my consultants use under my business name. This ensures continuity for my clients and I know everything they need is right there in a template which has been quality assured by yours truly.

5. Automate repetitive tasks

Our days/weeks are full of repetitive tasks, some of which you can choose to spend a little more time on once before automating it and only checking in as and when you need/want to. In order to identify these tasks track all the things you do everyday for a week then take some time deciding which of these could be automated. Next spend some time identifying the tools that are best suited for these tasks.

As an example – I use the Emma App to track my personal finances. I’ve linked it to my main bank account, set my budgets and identified which items go where and the app does the rest. I then get notifications to keep me up to date but I only really need to check in every so often if I want more information or to check something specific. Other automation systems include Trello, MailChimp, Buffer and Canva.

6. Delegate or delete

There’s always going to be too much to do. It’s for you to decide your priorities and what tasks to focus your time on. Time is a limited resource which makes doing everything everyday impossible. Say for example you want your blog to be visible on all social media platforms but you don’t want to spend all your waking hours implementing this so you choose one platform to focus on. You can then choose to delegate/outsource content creation on other platforms or just leave them for now.

7. Systems on the go

Whatever system you decide on the more you can make it easy to access wherever you are the better. So for example if you have inspiration for a blog post whilst on your daily commute you want to be able to capture the essence of it easily and quickly {assuming you’re not driving at the time!} This may be in a notebook or diary you keep in your bag or apps like Notability, Evernote, OneNote or even the voice notes app on your smart phone make it easier than ever to jot things down or work through your systems on the go across multiple devices. The trick is to keep it simple and choose one or two methods or apps to use so it’s easier to keep track.

Do you have a system you follow? Let me know in the comments below.

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80:20 Rule {Intuition vs. Consistency}

“Which Chipmunk are you?” This was the question posed by Sarah Knight from the No F*cks Given podcast as I ironed a million pieces of school uniform. Turns out, similarly to Sarah, I appear to be a Simon teamed with a sprinkle of Theodore. Which is why {put simply} I like to be super organised but also so often feel totally out of the loop.

In the present {hello post-lockdown 3.0} I would describe my tendencies as being similar to the 80:20 rule. I probably spend around 80% of my time in Theodore mode and 20% as Simon. At my best {as Simon} I am creative, productive, form or nurture friendships, take on new clients, take actions on ideas, have school uniform ironed and ready to go and feel like I’m generally winning at life. Flip that to Theodore and I become overwhelmed, recluse, late, unorganised, unwell and unproductive.

Of course this is a sliding scale which ebbs and flows with the season and I acknowledge the fact that this current 80:20 ratio likely has a strong correlation to the recent pandemic.

My most recent Theodore episode resulted in a trip down memory lane. I was working through a free resource from Erin May Henry which included a section on thinking about your past life. Once again the common theme of a lack of consistency shone through. My diet, health, work, business, friendships, Instagram, blog – all seem to fall into this similar 80:20 ratio.

This is an area I’ve been focusing on during my 30 days of personal development challenge. Which now leads me to the question – does it matter? Is it important that all aspects of life are consistent? Is this even achievable?

Intuition vs. Consistency

For me I like the idea of certain things running in the background. In order to do this you need to form habits and create systems. Methods such as habit stacking, setting up workflows or ditching those jobs which are unnecessary will all help create processes for those things you decide need to be consistent. For example if you have a business or side hustle in order to be successful it’s very important to be consistent. On the other hand {for me} things like Instagram or blogging, whilst good to also be consistent, can be much more intuitive depending upon your mood or current circumstance.

Something which has become apparent is that although I’ve always craved structure and consistency a lot of the time strict regimes just don’t work for me. The obvious answer is to have a mixture of both.

Consistency helps create:

  • Habits
  • Discipline
  • Motivation
  • Discipline
  • Accountability

But can also be exhausting and unsustainable. Part of my all or nothing tendencies means I want to work on everything at once but I think the key to creating consistency is to focus on one or two areas {max} at a time.

Which takes a huge burden off the areas where I “allow” myself to be less or inconsistent. Again this could be a sliding scale rather than so black and white. For example I will aim to publish a new blog post once a week; however I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t. But then I will consistently show up for my children and business {more on this below}.

As I’ve already said I’m simply focusing on the habit of being consistent right now, part of which is showing up on Instagram and posting regularly to my blog. If I were to pick two areas to focus on next where I feel being more consistent would be beneficial it would have to be my health and my business. Now health has a million different aspects so I’d need to give that some more thought. And although I do show up for my business I definitely feel things could be improved by creating workflows and routines so I keep up with regular tasks and subsequently become more productive. Even simple things like checking and responding to emails or checking my diary everyday which in Simon state I’m there, super organised, written the book; but in Theordore state I let pile up so they become overwhelming.

In all honesty right now I’m happy to keep my blog and my Instagram much more about intuitive content creation. I think this makes it more real and therefore relatable rather than flat and uninspiring. And to be honest it’s not content I struggle with, it’s the time to get everything down and in a format to share. I struggle to forward plan content because the majority of my posts are spontaneous. Yet it’s good to be consistent. So how do I keep my intuitive creativity but in a consistent manner? Probably with a sprinkling of discipline. Food for thought.

I’ll talk more about creating workflows and systems in my next post but for now I’ll keep focusing on that scale of 20% consistency and admin to create space for 80% life and intuition.

Which chipmunk do you think you are? Do you struggle with consistency or prefer a more intuitive approach to life?

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All or Nothing Personality | {The Perfectionist}

Something I’ve been thinking about as part of my 30 days of personal development is my tendency to be very all or nothing. I’ve always known I’ve had perfectionist {bordering on OCD} tendencies but it wasn’t until recently that I started exploring my personality in more depth and learning about ways of avoiding certain triggers.

Perfectionism is an interesting beast. It’s not as black and white as people may think and not always about having to do something absolutely perfectly, but more the need to keep doing something until you get it “right” or feeling anxious when things aren’t “correct”.

It’s easy to see how these traits can develop into feelings of judgement, rejection or criticism and often correlate with an element of self-doubt. And how being a perfectionist acts as a protection mechanism.

Having an all or nothing personality literally can mean you’re the life and soul of the party or don’t even show it. It can make you wildly productive and creative whilst also putting the brakes on because you feel if you can’t do something perfectly then why bother or doing something you’re not good at/going to complete is a waste of time and/or energy. The knock on effect being potentially limiting the things you try and therefore finding out what you’re good at or what you can achieve; often projecting as a lack of confidence or self-doubt. You may also put off starting something until the “perfectly” opportunity arises, i.e. when you have time, are in the right setting, when things “calm down” or you’re feeling motivated. And this may be absolutely the best thing to do dependant upon what it is but it again can cause a huge block to not only productively but also consistency.

Let’s take the example of starting a business. You have a great idea, you can image where you want to be and how it’s going to look. When you’re all-in you set up the business, put the feelers out for clients, design a logo, set up an email account etc. but on the other hand you may either a) get declined by a potential client and instantly pull the plug or b) continue to put off starting your side hustle because things aren’t “perfect”. You’re either all in or you’re all out.

I can definitely relate to times when I’ve put off doing something even fairly insignificant to the point it becomes stressful. Like I can’t quite make myself “just do it” because things aren’t set up a certain way. For example I’ve been trying to do daily updates on my Instagram stories about my personal development journey. This is something I would usually very easily put off because my hair isn’t done, my skin isn’t clear or the toddler is running around. To just do it no matter how I looked or felt took a huge surge of confidence and effort to break down the barriers which would usually stop me completing or even starting something I want to do.

Here are some other ways I’ve learnt about to help manage all or nothing tendencies:

1. Focus on effort based goals

As opposed to results based goals, effort based goals are less likely to trigger all or nothing tendencies. So for example, you focus on eating three healthy meals a day rather than the end goal of losing weight. With consistency and patience results will inevitably follow. Focusing on smaller goals everyday helps you stop feeling disheartened and creating habits will help keep you going even when motivation is low.

2. Lower expectations

A perfectionist is unlikely to start something unless they think they will be successful. The pressure to be perfect often limits progress and it can be hard to stay consistent. Perfectionists are also likely to procrastinate and dream about their potential rather than put it into action. By lowering expectations you are more likely to take that risk and start something because the stakes are lower or there is a “backdoor” get out clause. For example, you may not want to go for a run, but you get your running gear on and say you’ll run for 5 mins or once around the block. Or you may have a project you’ve been putting off so you give yourself just 15 mins to focus on it. This technique not only helps make the task seem less intimidating but it’s also likely that once you’ve started you’ll have the momentum to keep going. And if you haven’t then that’s ok because you’ve done the 5 min run or you’ve done 15 mins on your project, which is all you set out to do. Something I remember hearing from James Clear was about a man who started going to the gym everyday. He’d get changed, drive to the gym, go in for 5 mins then drive home. Now this may sound bizarre but he got himself into the simple habit of going to the gym then built upon this until he was spending say 45 mins working out. Food for thought.

3. Grace days

Life inevitably happens and something comes up which means your day doesn’t go as planned. This can often trigger someone with all or nothing tendencies to stop a new {or even established} habit in their tracks which they then can’t/won’t pick it up again until the next the next “perfect” opportunity or level of motivation. For example say you’re starting a healthy eating habit but 2 weeks in you get invited to a party and eat alllll the cake and drink allllll the drink only to then give up your healthy eating because you’ve “blown it”. By granting yourself grace days for when you either “fall off the wagon” or simply cannot commit to something you’re giving yourself permission to take a day {or morning etc.} off and pick right up where you started from the next day {or the next meal etc.}.

The key here is consistency. Which is exactly what I’ve been trying to work on during my 30 days of Personal Development and I’m already seeing the benefits of just taking 30 mins a day {when I can} to work on myself; whether that be watching an inspiring YouTube video, listening to a business podcast or journalling. Ok there have been days when I’ve been poorly, busy with work or just really tired – but that’s ok, because here I am, still picking it up after my “grace days” without either beating myself up and feeling like a failure and pulling the plug completely.

Learning more about myself and my personality traits and tendencies is helping to somehow make them more accepting. I’m not necessarily on a mission to change myself, but more to accept and become the best version of myself, warts and all.

Do you find you have all or nothing tendencies? What aspect of personal development would you like to work on?

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I Made a Balloon Arch! {The Twins’ 6th Birthday}

{This post contains affiliate links for products I personally use and endorse – find out more about affiliate marketing here}

I can’t believe the boys are 6! {You can read my Early Days with Twins post here}. Their second lockdown birthday meant no big party or day out could be planned so of course I wanted to make sure we had a proper celebration at home.

The boys LOVE dinosaurs so picking a theme was easy and of course Pinterest provided all the inspiration I needed.

Of course the balloon arch won me over so I did a quick YouTube search to teach myself how to make one. This video by Camp Dash really helped give me an idea of what to do plus made me realise the set I’d originally bought off Amazon didn’t have all the bits I needed – cue a last minute Amazon Prime purchase {click on image link below or order here} thank the Lord for next day delivery!}

What you will need

Ok so to make a basic balloon half arch you will need:

  • A decent number of balloons! The pack I bought had 70 and I probably used ~60 of them
  • Balloon strip tape – this has holes to poke the knot of your balloon through to keep them in place
  • Glue dots – to attach smaller balloons to fill any gaps
  • Command hooks {optional} – this is something which didn’t come with the pack I bought but you need to think about how you’re going to attach your arch to a wall / door frame etc. We ended up using picture hooks
  • Some string – to attach your arch to the command / picture hooks

How to make your arch

The YouTube video I watched said to make some big and some small balloons and to let some air out to make them into a round ball shape rather than an oval balloon shape. In hindsight I wished I’d just left a few balloons spare to blow up to the right size and add later as I probably would have made some of my small balloons even smaller. And I just stuck to an oval shape which worked out fine.

I started with a rough pattern of balloon colours but, again in hindsight, wish I’d laid out a proper pattern to use – it probably didn’t matter in the end but it would have helped the flow of colours. I put large balloons through all the holes in the strip tape all the same direction. I don’t know if this is correct but it seemed a good place to start and I guess you can use your own creative preferences for this part, especially if you are using different sizes of balloon and depending on what shape you’re looking to create. Anyway my process seemed to work fine so I’d probably do it the same way next time.

The more balloons you add the more you’ll see the arch take shape and you can move balloons into place to create the desired shape or swap colours easily if needs be. I created the main part of he arch upstairs so I could get started before the kids went to bed {and hid it in our en suite!}

I then moved it downstairs {not the easiest of endeavours!} and moved bits around some more once I could see where exactly I wanted the arch to go.

I then worked out where I would need hooks to attach the arch to the wall and tapped in some hooks. I only needed two in the end but this will depend on the size and length of your arch. I then tied string around the strip tape before attaching it to the hooks {with help from Mr H}.

Finishing touches

Once your arch is up you can again move balloons around if you need to {it gets more fiddly by this stage!} then you can start adding smaller balloons to fill any gaps. To do this use a couple of glue dots to attach the smaller balloons to the larger ones.

The end result

And here it is! I was so pleased with the end result – especially as it was the first time I’d ever attempted anything like this! It made a real statement and with a few other decorations really made the room feel special. And the boys absolutely loved it which of course is the main thing ♥︎

Have you ever made a balloon arch? I’d love to hear your tips!

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30 Days of Personal Development {with a Life Twintastic}

Hi, remember me? Fresh from my latest bout of absence I’m the first to admit consistency is not always my thing. This past month I’ve not really felt like doing anything; whether that be Instagram, working on my business or blogging, to the point I actually started taking on consultants to take on some of my workload so that I could take an active step back.

With the fog beginning to clear and some kind of normality in the world returning I can begin to feel that familiar pull of creativity and the desire to re-take the reins.

But here’s the thing. Bouts of creativity and motivation are all very well but, for me, these usually end up in overwhelm and ultimately withdrawal. And so the cycle continues.

As I lazily scroll through YouTube for inspiration {aka the answer to all my self-sabbotage problems} I found myself skipping the usual “get it all done”, “day in the life” and productivity videos in favour of something new. It was then I came across a video by Sam Laura Brown {an Australian blogger, YouTuber and Podcaster – is that a word?!} called How To Create a Personal Development Plan which sparked my interest. In this video Sam spoke about her desire to create conent which inspires her to be a better person then tells her exactly how to do it which then prompted a series of in-depth exploration posts into how to be the best version of ourselves. Still with me? Exhausting as this sounds I watched on and it was literally one of those moments you have to laugh at because what she was describing was, well, me.

Alongside this video is a blog post; “A Beginner’s Guide to Personal Development”, in which Sam provides an overview of what personal development is and isn’t, including the misconception that personal development is for people who are considered “broken”. She also talks about how to start your own personal development journey, create a plan and what to expect. And as if this wasn’t enough – Sam also has a podcast and a FREE self-discovery workbook. Amazeballs right?

One of the things Sam talks about which really resonated with me was about being a perfectionist and having an all or nothing approach. This has always been a personal battle of mine with many aspects of life which brings me back to the first area of self-development I’d like to focus on – consistency and the development of positive habits.

This could easily branch out into different areas – health, business, blogging – something which would usually trigger my all or nothing approach where I would want to change or work on everything at once then when I inevitably realise I can’t, I stop. But what I really want to focus on first is the habit of simply being consistent. To do this I’m setting myself the goal of spending 30 mins a day {max} working on my personal development – 15 minutes of learning {watching/listening/reading} and 15 minutes of implementation and action. For example, I may read 15 minutes of a personal development book {such as Atomic Habits by James Clear} or listen to a podcast then spend 15 minutes journalling about what I’ve learnt, completing a workbook or going out into the world to take action. By doing this relatively simple task I’m hoping to create a sense of discipline which I can then take into other areas of my life.

And I’d like to take you along on this journey with me. Sam undertook 365 days of personal development. I’m aiming for 30 days {in the first instance}.

Why I am planning to share my personal development journey

  • To give back more than I take
  • To stay accountable
  • To try to break my all or nothing tendancies
  • To challenge myself
  • To install some consistency and discipline
  • To prove to myself that I can do it!

How I am planning to share

I’m aiming to upload daily posts to Instastories over at my Instagram account @alifetwintastic to say what I’m up to that day, how I’m going to work on my personal development and how I’m feeling as well as updates on the blog. Some {most} days are going to be pretty boring with short posts but I’m hoping other days will be inspiring, productive and take positive steps forward.

My personal success criteria

My success criteria would be to be more present and consistent both on my a life twintatsic blog/Instagram, business and personal life.

What do I envisage this looking like?

  • Not waiting for things to be perfect before I start/take action vs. my usual all or nothing approach
  • Consistent, useful content vs. impulsive creativity followed by a drought
  • Consistently opening up and getting involved in conversations / communities vs. actively shying away from them
  • Checking and actioning/delegating my emails regularly vs. letting them build up and feeling constantly behind/overwhelmed
  • Creating boundaries around when I need/want to work, be creative, be lazy, be mum etc.
  • Putting the washing away before it becomes a mountain of doom!

Just to turn this on it’s head for a second, maybe I am already more consistent then I consider myself to be. I already consistently look after my kids, take them to school, feed, wash and clothe them. I show up to meetings and take phone calls. I put dates in my diary and give in permission slips. I brush my teeth everyday! Pretty darn consistent right?!

And maybe consistency is at times exactly what I don’t need. Something I definitely do not want to lose is the impulsive, spontaneous moments of creativity. I don’t want to create regimes so structured that I feel trapped and limited. Instead I hope to achieve the mental and physical space to take consistent action on these moments even if they end up not working out. This new endeavour, for example, may end up being a flop or my focus may completely change or life happens and things get in the way. And that’s ok, it’s all part of being productive not perfect. That is unless my desire to be more consistent and habit based is actually my subconscious sneakily trying to create a perfect life whilst I’m consciously trying to step away from perfectionism as a barrier to creativity. Agh – what a minefield!

At the heart of all this is my continued need to create a simplier, easier but also fullfilling life. I’m a very simple creature at heart. So watch this space {or to be more exact my Instastories} for regular updates and feel free to hold me accountable if I fall off the face of the blogging world again!

Have a great day

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Mass toy sort out | Project Simplify

The playroom of doom. Literally the absolute joy and bane of my life. We are so lucky to have such a great space at the top of our house but oh my days I must have lost YEARS of my life trying to keep on top of keeping it organised {and sanitary}.

Re-wind to pre-kids. This space {which is essentially 3/4 of the third floor of our house} was used mainly for storage. How two people can fill a four bedroom house with a fully converted attic and garage I will never know! Anyway, once the twins arrived it became a much welcome space to store all their stuff and hand-me-down clothes from friends and family etc.

It then became a playroom probably when the boys were around 2.5 years old and since then it’s been a great space to move around and adapt to their age and stage of development. BUT it has also been continuously used as a dumping ground and a space so full of STUFF that the boys just end up trashing then not playing up there. Which is a huge shame. {Note – I totally get this, it’s overwhelming having so much stuff and when they can’t find something of course they tip EVERYTHING out}.

Then along came little miss P and once again the room was re-worked so she could play safely away from the boys’ toys and have her own little area (of course they are always supervised). As the boys got older they started to take over again and we moved P’s stuff downstairs so they could play independently without worrying about their little sister eating/rampaging through their stuff.

This set-up has worked quite well but the playroom continues to be, well, pretty demoralising. Yes it’s a room we can shut the door on and essentially ignore the chaos but, speaking from experience, it also needs a regular “sweep” to discard of abandoned socks, apply cores, broken toys etc.

Although we are constantly tacking the playroom lockdown has provided the opportunity to really get into Project Simplify throughout the house. We seem to have been de-cluttering since March and, now almost a year on, I still can’t believe how much stuff we have. But it does finally feel like we’re finally getting somewhere. Of course things will continue to adapt as children and tastes grow but I would still like to live as simply as possible.

Which brings me back the playroom. The main aim of my current clear out has been to create space to store toys with a view to starting a rotation system {I know, I know, I’m totally late to the game}. So I cleared out the garage {just because that’s where I always seem to start}, moved on to the “sentimental” cubby hole, which now holds the season stuff from the garage, moved my “to fit back into one day” clothes {yes I know but I can’t help but keep them} into one wardrobe, moved Mr H’s seasonal stuff from our built in wardrobe to where my “skinny” clothes were {still with me?!} so that FINALLY I could utilise our big built in cupboard for toy storage {if that felt like hard work imagine actually having to move it all}.

Of course I’ve also ditched a lot of stuff and now have a good car load to donate/sell so it does feel like we’ve made progress in the battle to simplify but I know we still have a long way to go. I want everything to be used, useful or something we love. I try to think – if we moved to a smaller home would we take it? This helps be decided if I really like something or not.

Anywho, I digress {again}. So the plan for the playroom was this: to keep it clear enough that the kids could actually play. Swap out the fabric cube storage for hardier plastic ones then keep 4-5 boxes of toys they are actually “into” at the moment {namely cars, dinosaurs, two boxes of train sets and the mega blocks for P}. A box of their favourite toys would l go into their room {monster trucks} and the rest would go into storage to be rotated/got out and put away. {Note – this doesn’t include the stuff in P’s room, stuffed toys or the toys downstairs – wow they really do have a lot don’t they!}

10 lessons I’ve learnt from {home learning} | Lockdown 3.0

{Thursday 21st January 2021}

I think it’s pretty fair to say that week 3 of lockdown 3.0 has pushed me to the edge. It was always going to happen. My inner perfectionist kidding me into thinking we can do it all and come out feeling rosey on the other side. Yet here we are. Fresh off what may have been the worst day since Covid was nothing more than a mere whisper back at the start of 2020.

Let’s rewind to week 1 of lockdown 3.0. That first week of January was a bit of a blur. The swift 180 from preparing to go back to school to being delved back into juggling home learning, home life and work wasn’t easy for anyone. Can I just make a note here to say {in my opinion} schools have been INCREDIBLE! I literally would have spontaneously combusted with all the pivoting they’ve had to do and quite frankly everyone working in the education sector deserves a medal.

For context, for those who don’t know us, we have 5 year old twin boys and a 2 year old little girl. My husband has been furloughed and I work 2 days a week plus run a small business {in addirion to this blog}.

We started lockdown 3.0 ready to take on the world; only for that world to buckle under the strain to the point I feared I would come out of lockdown with not only an expanded waistline but a damaged relationship with my children. And this was something I could not allow.

So, if like me you have been struggling – here are a few things we have learnt during our most recent home learning journey. {Some of these may not be relevant to your aged children or seem obvious – but it takes my inner perfectionist a little while to “do one” and simmer down,}.

1. Trying to replicate school at home DOES NOT WORK

My inner role play {steady} dreams came true. Armed with a white board and pens, date neatly written at the top ready to greet my eager students for the day. Then I remembered these eager students are in fact my children. And I am their mum. It was fun to play classroom teacher but, for us, it didn’t work. This is home learning during a National pandemic. Not school or homeschooling.

2. Address your expectations

If like me you have a nagging inner perfectionist who wants to be able to do absolutely everything to the best of everyone’s abilities you may need to have a stern word and remind him or her to chill their beans. This is not to say we don’t have high expectations of our children but these expectations also need to be achievable. And we all know what happens when you put too much pressure on a child {or yourself} and it’s not usually pretty. And I know our school for one have repeatedly said they don’t expect us to do everything, even though my inner perfectionist hears “but really you should be able to”.

3. Structure vs. Flexibility

Ok, so I loooovvveee me a routine. And I loooovvveee writing out a schedule. Your school may even send you a timetable and you may have set lessons or live sessions each day. Now this may work a treat for your family, a lot of children thrive off routine and structure. However, again, they are not in school. They are at home. So building in some flexibility may help ease some of the pressure. Think about when your children would do their homework on a normal day. Do they enjoy reading at breakfast time or going through their spellings before bed. Maybe they would be better doing bits of their work, if they can, before morning registration. You don’t necessarily have to stick to school hours during this time.

4. Take the spot light off yourself

It’s easy to feel pressure on ourselves to get our children to do all their work to a high standard as if this directly reflects on our ability as a parent. Do you think teachers are able to get the best out of their students every single day? If you’re feeling the pressure try making some tweaks – be honest with your friends if you’re struggling, you may find they are too. Don’t compare your child’s work to that of their peers. Your child doesn’t like to be seen on camera and never talks? That’s ok. Feel like a everyone is winning at life on Instagram? Take a break or follow some more honest accounts.

5. Give them some independence

Something I hear a lot with having twins is people saying but at least you have two the same age. Whilst I can obviously see the advantage of not having to cover several different year groups make no mistake. This s*it ain’t easy. They may be learning the same things but that doesn’t mean they are at the same level and enjoy or are good at the same things. They are individuals. And should be treated as such. Something I noticed this week is how much we hover over them when they work. Instantly correcting or even doing the work for them {blush}. Being only 5 my boys do need supervision but they also need a bit of independence. You may be amazed at the results.

6. Let them get things wrong

On a similar note. Let them make mistakes! Mistakes are how we learn. They shouldn’t be punished, blamed or shamed. Teachers won’t be fooled. If little Jonny is suddenly turning in perfectly formed sentences and reading 14 books a day it’s going to ring alarm bells. The most important thing is that that they try.

7. Half a day at a time

Home learning is INTENSE. For you. For your child. For your neighbours who hear you shouting 4+10 is NOT 10!! for the millionth time. I heard quite a few people say they like to do school work in the morning then let their kids play in the afternoon and I couldn’t fathom how on earth they fitted everything in. Today we all agreed we’d “smash out” {yes, that’s what we said} school work in the morning and have the afternoon off. Do you know what happened? We got through maths, phonics and English {with the boys having much more ownership over their work}, stopped for lunch. They played all afternoon then before dinner we looked at their phonics and maths puzzle books {which we had at home anyway} and practiced spellings. This is when we would usually do homework and taking that pressure right off did us all the world of good.

8. Be open and honest with your child and their teacher

My younger twin in particular has been having a hard time of home learning. Yesterday was a dark day in that I was at my wits end. He had completely shut down and we were both in tears. I didn’t know what to do. All the “parenting techniques” google had to offer weren’t working. We were at breaking point. I felt like a total failure. He was confused, upset and angry. In the end I sat him down and explained why we had been asked to do school work at home at the moment and why I was finding this really hard. He still didn’t want to open up much to me but he was able to express that he was finding it hard too. I then arranged a one on one video chat with his teacher and another chat with my sister {who is also a teacher}. Having that link back to school and some one on one time to himself was really helpful. Did I like his teacher seeming my ugly crying face? Not particularly. Was it a huge weight off to be honest that we were struggling and to hear it straight from her that we were doing ok?? Absolutely.

9. Think outside the box

If you’re really struggling to get the set work done each day and, like us, are having daily battles which you’ve quite frankly had enough of, remember there are other ways children can learn. They don’t need to be sat at a table, pencil in hand. Use toy cars to run through some maths equations. Ask your child to dictate a story for you to write down then maybe they can draw some pictures to go with it – English and art, boom! Let them practice letter formation with an app or on a white board. Let them be the teacher for the day and teach YOU about the different ways to write the sound “e” or find number facts of 13. I heard someone say the other day – why do you think teachers are usually so tired? Because they spend all their time trying to make learning FUN.

10. Celebrate small victories

Only managed to do half the set maths work today? Amazing! Your child sat to do their spellings without fuss? Fantastic! They tried their best. Well that is all we can ask. Remember, you’re not lowering your expectations, you’re trying to get through a really strange time as best you can. Schools are amazing. They will offer support if you ask and they will help close any gaps in learning when your kids go back to school. They do not expect you to suddenly be expert at something they undergo years of training to do. And if your child is proud of something, let them celebrate or share it.

Remember, the most important thing from all this is not that little Jonny completed all his phonics every.single.day. But that he is healthy and happy. And if he’s managed to conquer conjunctions and convections then gold star for him. And if not, that’s fine too. And don’t forget to thank those who are doing all they can to support you and your children. This lockdown is different. A higher proportion of children are in school. Schools are not “babysitting”. They are teaching, creating home learning, supporting and being asked to do all this during a National pandemic and with bearly any notice or concrete guidance. We are doing our bit by keeping our children at home {if we can}. This too shall pass. There will be bad days and better days. You CAN do anything. But not everything.

Habits over {motivation} | 8 habits before 8am

I am a BIG fan of routines and when thing get on top of me laying out a plan of action is definitely a big part of my go-to self-care toolkit. But creating {or sticking to} new routines is HARD. We so often think we need to be more motivated or have more willpower then beat ourselves up when these start to wane. You may have heard people referring to motivation as a limited resource which will eventually run out. No wonder we find it hard to keep up!

I was watching YouTube the other morning {hello 4:30am wake up call from the toddler}. Sam Ozkural was talking about 10 habits before 10am and how to habit stack which really sparked my interest.

As you know a lot of the actions we undertake everyday are done out of habit – from brushing your teeth to checking your social media and putting the dishwasher on before bed every night.

But creating a new {of breaking bad} habits can be tricky. Habit stacking {taken from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear} is where new habits are created by “stacking” them onto already established habits and therefore making them more likely to stick.

For example : After I {existing habit}, I will {new habit} / After I put the kettle on for my morning coffee, I will practice 3 minutes gratitude.

So although motivation may not always be on your side, building habits can help you be productive and successful without the reliance of feeling motivated all the time.

The key here is consistency. Another thing I really like about Sam Ozkural is how she holds herself accountable to, for example, workout every day. I find how she practices discipline in her daily routine {as well as her business and other areas of her life} really inspiring.

I don’t know about you but lockdown 3.0 has really knocked me for 6 and the constant rollercoaster of change has definitely affected my productivity and get-up-and-go. Our routine has been tuned on it’s head and I’ve been struggling to see the wood for the trees.

I always think I am more productive in the morning {even though I’ve been struggling to get out of bed lately!} So I was really interested to see Sam’s morning routine and how she used habit stacking to get tasks done and set herself up for the day.

Sam advised setting a goal time to achieve certain things by and not to check your phone/social media until after that time. You also want to make sure you pick achievable habits and start small! I decided I wanted to try to get certain things done before 8am which is when I need to get the kids ready for school etc. Here’s what I came up with:

Habit 1 : 6:30am : Wake-up

Habit 2 : Workout clothes and trainers laid out, get dressed

Habit 3 : Fill water bottle

Habit 4 : 6:45am : 10-15 mins exercise

Habit 5 : 7:00am : Shower, skincare, get dressed, make-up and hair

Habit 6 : 7:30am : Make beds, clean up space

Habit 7 : 7:40am : Make coffee

Habit 8 : 7:45am : Drink coffee at table, update planner and / or journal

8:00am : Goal time! And onto school routine / work / toddler time

And of course I may not keep this up everyday {and I don’t intend on beating myself up if I don’t} but this, for me, is a very achievable routine which not only sets me up for the day but also ensures I make that time for myself and find a way of fitting in a few of the tasks which I often feel I don’t have time or the motivation for. I will be aiming to complete these habits 5 days a week and enjoy a more relaxed weekend.

Namely – 10-15 mins exercise {whether that be a run, on the bike, following a YouTube video or stretching}, drinking enough water, cleaning up my space and consistently using my planner. All {in theory} before 8am! And of course habit stacking can be completely customised to suit you. And also changed or tweaked as our “new normal” changes once again. These habits can also be added to to create a whole day’s or an evening structure. For example if you want to change the habit of looking at your phone before sleep perhaps you could start a new stacked habit of brusing your teeth then plugging your phone in to charge across the room.

What habits would you like to add into your day? What habits could you stack them onto?