tips

10+ Keys to Successful Communication in a Relationship

Because I believe that you can be in a healthy relationship and still not fight with each other, I’ve listed my top suggestions when it comes to having successful communication in a relationship. In this month's currently post, I briefly shared how I prayed for the happiness of my friends. My desire for each of them is to find someone who they can unconditionally love and become best friends with. Some have asked Caleb and I how it is that we've stayed together for nearly 4 years at such as young age. While I believe that there are many factors that play into that, one of the top reasons is:

We don't fight.

That's right. We don't argue. Usually at this point I get crazy looks from whoever I just said this to, but just stay with me. If you look up the definition of "Argument" on Google, you'll come up with this: “an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.”

This first part of that definition is fine; an exchange of diverging or opposite views is simply a discussion. It is the latter portion of that definition that should (and can) be avoided. A "heated or angry" exchange makes it difficult to take turns listening to each other and solving the problem at hand. A discussion should be both of you against a problem, not both of you against each other. 

Because I believe that you can be in a healthy relationship and still not fight with each other, I've listed my top suggestions when it comes to having successful communication in a relationship. I also should mention that by no means do Caleb and I follow these perfectly. We're human! Our discussions aren't all rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes we tend to become walls and bring up the past or criticize. Tears are often shed (by me haha). But we don't talk angrily to each other. Why would you talk to someone you love like that? You aren't against each other; you're a team.

Keys To Successful Communication in a Relationship

1. DO express your expectations

Sometimes we tend to think that our exasperation will lead the other person understanding what it was that we want. We get upset because they don't take out the trash, do the dishes, or they complain too much. But there’s a simple solution: Just use your words. Kindly express what your expectations are without attacking them. They aren't mind readers.

2. DON'T attack

Even if we mean well, sometimes we can come across as harsh because of our word choice or tone of voice. Using “you” can make it sound like you’re attacking. Instead, try using “I” or “we.” For example, say “I would love if you could take a short break from (whatever they're doing) so we could spend some time together” instead of “You're always working and don't take time to be with me.”

I also heard of this saying, which I find very true: 10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion and 90% is due to the wrong tone of voice. Think about that.

3. DO check your body language

Sit up, face them, and make eye contact when speaking. Don't cross your arms or roll your eyes. Let them know you’re listening and that you really care.

4. DON'T become a wall

If need be, take a short 10 minute break to calm down before talking. But withdrawing from interactions and refusing to communicate at all will only amplify the problem at hand and drag it on. Couples need to communicate about their issues. Giving the other person the silent treatment is about as useful as a goldfish with a bicycle.

5. DO be completely honest

Little lies turn into big lies. Hiding things from your partner can lead to distrust and even more relationship problems.

6. DON'T criticize

Going along with #2 up above, don't attack their personality or character with accusation and blame. Not only is that hurtful, but it doesn't help solve the problem at hand.

7. DO listen and force yourself to hear.

Really listen. Sometimes we can let words go in one ear and out the other without truly hearing what it is the other is saying. Rather than using the time to decide what it is you're going to say next, stop and force yourself to hear what they're saying. You might find that the discussion will end a lot sooner with both of you hearing one another.

8. DON'T bring up the past

Stay focused in the here and now. It's easy to veer off the road and talk about everything but what the discussion really is about. Whether or not things were resolved in the past, this is not the time to bring up another discussion from the past. If it wasn't resolved, bring it up at another time.

9. DO understand differences 

You are both different people with different backgrounds and different ways of seeing the world. Sometimes these differences can get in the way when one person expects the other to behave a certain way. Understand that what one person might find as normal, the other might not understand. Communicate these differences to each other and put yourself in their shoes sometimes.

10. DON'T assume that it's the other person who always needs to change

When you really listen with an open heart and ears, you might find that you're the one who needs to make a change in your life. Admit to it, and work hard on changing that. Sometimes it can be difficult, but it's definitely worth it.

What do you think? Can an argument free relationship exist? What are some other ways to improve communication?

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How to Make Time for Your Side Gig while Working Full Time

Let’s look at a few ways on how to make time throughout your day, fit a side-gig into a hectic life and make it into a regular habit. This past week has been busy! I'm all moved in back in Nebraska, and ready for school to start next Monday. Last week turned out to be a tech fast for me. I found myself not constantly being on social media (or my phone in general) and I only replied to urgent emails. It feels sooo good to do a digital detox, but I'm getting back into my blogging routine again this week! Today though, I'm super excited to have Kayla Matthews from Productivity Theory sharing some AMAZING tips on how to balance your side hobby along with the rest of your busy life. Be sure to leave some comments on what you all think!


Whether it’s blogging, starting a business, launching a Kickstarter, or something else, finding time for a side-project in addition to full-time work can be seriously hard. I recently read an article on the Huffington Post about how overwork and perfectionism can lead to burnout, and when you’re balancing two jobs at once, that’s twice as true.

So let’s look at a few ways how you can make time throughout your day, fit a side-gig into a hectic life and make it into a regular habit.

Do It in the Morning

Did you know morning people are happier? It’s true: science says so. Science also says that the best way to learn a new skill is by practicing first thing in the morning, after getting a good night’s sleep. So if you’re looking for a time to put in work on your side gig, the morning might just be the best time to do it.

If that sounds appealing to you, then try this: instead of rolling out of bed with just enough time to get ready for work, try going to bed earlier and waking up an hour or two before you need to. Make a pot of coffee, eat breakfast, and then sit down to work on your thing (whatever it is).

Doing so will let you start every day off on the right foot, doing what you enjoy the most, and will also help make sure your brain is up and humming at maximum power by the time you go to work.

Do It Over Lunch

Using your lunch-break at work to put in time on your side gig can be an amazing jump-starter. Your brain is already buzzing, you’ve got a built-in deadline and it makes a nice way to break up the day.

Just be careful that you don’t step on anyone’s toes, and make sure to follow all your company’s guidelines. For example, don’t send personal emails from your work-address or blog on a work-computer—bring a laptop and do your work from there instead.

Do It in the Evening

Working after work—as in, immediately, before you eat dinner or do anything else—can be another great way to find time. That’s probably why so many people use that time to hit the gym: once you get home and have the temptation of food and Netflix in front of you, it becomes a lot harder to haul yourself off the couch and go do stuff.

You’ll have to watch out for a few things here, though. First of all, you’ll want to eat a snack in the afternoon, or dinnertime hunger will make it tricky to focus on work. You’ll also probably want to talk with your friends and family in advance about how you’ll be switching up your schedule, so you’ll be “coming home” later—mentally and maybe literally.

Whatever You Choose, Stick With it

You can find a million articles that tell you when to work and how, but no one knows how you work better than you do. Pick a time in your day that works for you, use that time to focus on your side gig and try to do it at the same time every day.

Because I have one more science fact for you: It takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. That means the longer you do something, the easier it gets to do it.

Once you’ve made time, and committed to sticking with it, you stop having to “make time” at all.

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger at ProductivityTheory.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter to read all of her latest posts!

Image by Kaboompics

20 Ideas for a Digital Detox

We deliberately need to disengage from things that crowd our life, clutter our relationships, and isolate us from each other. We need to digitally detox.

The internet brings a strange paradox. At the same speed it connects us around the world, it often seems to isolate us from real-life relationships. We can Google answers, have an app direct us around town, and talk to multiple people at one time.

We are strangely captivated by our smartphones and other devices. It's increasingly hard to simply sit and wait and focus on one thing. To us, waiting has become wasting.

There are many things to unlearn in order to develop a new appreciation for real-life experiences. We deliberately need to disengage from things that crowd our life, clutter our relationships, and isolate us from each other. We need to digitally detox.

My hope is that you'll join me in intentionally cutting back on technology and focus on the simple things in life that are often overlooked.

20 Ideas for a Digital Detox

1. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience something new. If you're not used to going without technology, it can be very difficult to start because you don't know what to do with your time. So try this. Before you attempt a digital detox, make a list of activities you can do/want to try that don't require the internet or your phone. Keep that list handy for when your "bored".

2. Download an app that tracks how much you use your phone and force you off your device once you've reached a limit. Moment is a great iPhone and iPad app, while QualityTime is perfect for Android.

3. If you have a Mac, download SelfControl. It lets you block distracting websites and anything else on the Internet you choose. Just set a period of time to block and click "Start." Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

4. Step away from your phone – and give clean water to children in need. The UNICEF Tap Project encourages you to stop texting, emailing, calling, and using social media on your phone to help provide clean, safe water for children around the world. The longer you go without touching your phone, the more clean water will be given to children in need.

5. Set aside half a day, or even a whole day, once or twice a month where you deliberately disconnect in order to focus on what is important to you.

6. Can't do a whole day without just yet? Try it for an hour or two each day then. Put your phone in flight mode and turn your internet connection off. You will be amazed at how productive you'll be!

7. In the morning, go online only after you have had devotions and only after you've taken time to decide what you need to do for the day. This way God and you determine your agenda, not incoming urgent emails.

We deliberately need to disengage from things that crowd our life, clutter our relationships, and isolate us from each other. We need to digitally detox.

8. When you're on the train, bus, or passenger seat, keep your phone in your pocket or bag.

9. Delete the app you're most addicted to for a week. After the week is up, re-evaluate if you really need it. Who knows? Maybe you'll have even forgotten you deleted it!

10. Take the weekend off from replying to emails! Chances are you don't actually need to respond until "normal" business hours on Monday morning. So if you run your own business (or even if your blog is your business) give yourself a work break and reply to emails later. It's the weekend after all!

11. Check your emails only during restricted periods during the day, such as once in the morning, once at lunchtime, and once in the afternoon.

12. Charge your phone at night so that it's full in the morning. Once your phone runs out of battery during the day, don't recharge it until 2 hours before bedtime. (This way you have an hour to check any messages or calls before putting it away for the evening.)

13. In the hour before you go to sleep, put away your computer and phone and read a book or talk with your spouse instead!

14. Cut down on the number of times a day you check Facebook and other social media. Most of the time, we check it because we're bored. Go outside, work on a project, read, or call one of those Facebook friends instead.

15. Another way to cut down on the social media checking is to leave your notifications be. Once you post something, leave it at that. No need to double and then triple check your "like" count on your Instagram photo or obsessing over how many times your post on Twitter was retweeted or favorited. Just check it later that day.

16. Or just simply turn off notifications and alerts!

We deliberately need to disengage from things that crowd our life, clutter our relationships, and isolate us from each other. We need to digitally detox.

17. Be present. Make a rule that you won't check your phone at restaurants or when in the presence of others. Learn to put the smartphone down and give people your full attention.

18. Even better. No phones at the dinner table.

19. Stop walking and checking your phone! There are so many things you miss by constantly looking down, not to mention it's the easiest way to drop and shatter your phone. Looking up every once in a while is a great way to experience the world – and keep your phone in one piece.

20. Leave your phone in your pocket during even the most awe-inspiring experiences. We all know that sunsets and sunrises are beautiful, so enjoy it instead of taking a picture. There will be many more of them to come.


I hope you'll be inspired to try some of these ideas! The one I'm most excited to try is the no walking and phone checking. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy what's around me more this way!

How do you plan to digitally detox? Have you tried it before? Was it easy or hard for you?

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The Three Equations of Kindness

Think of kindness as not just an act, but as a lifestyle. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion. It's time for a kindness comeback.

In this media driven, socially connected world we live in, kindness matters more than ever. The problem is, many view kindness simply as an act, which it is, but it's more than that. Kindness is a lifestyle. It softens and warms the heart while making the world a nicer place to live.

Consider the acts of kindness you've witnessed, gave, or received. How did you feel? One time during a snow storm in my college town, Caleb and I had to stop on an icy hill due to traffic and a stoplight. The wheels spun round and round and we didn't move an inch, but it only took a few more tries until we finally got going. Only after we were moving was when we saw it. Down the highway a bit, four young men had gotten out of their truck and were running in the snow towards us. They soon saw that we were fine and turned back, and, sadly, we never got to thank them for the act of kindness they showed us, even though the act wasn't fully carried out. But just seeing their willingness to help made our day.

So what can we do to bring kindness back? Lots of things, really. But in order to do so, we must understand more about what kindness is and isn't, and how we can use it effectively.

The Three Equations of Kindness

[Tweet "Learn more about the Three Equations of Kindness you need to know to help kindness make a comeback."]

Kindness = Altruistic

While kindness is not selfish, it doesn't happen solely for the benefit of those receiving. Let me explain. When choosing to do an act of kindness, what's your motive behind it? To help because it makes you happy to see others happy? To show others that kindness makes for a better workplace in effort to make work less stressful? We show kindness because it makes us feel good.

Kindness motivated by positive thoughts that also benefit us, is healthy. It becomes unhealthy when one does an act of kindness without the heart in it. But more on that in the third equation.

Kindness ≠ Weakness

Sadly, kindness has become confused with weakness. But in recent years, more and more companies are incorporating acts of kindness into their workplace. Consider Ikea Canada, which distributed more than 15,000 free packing boxes to help those moving in the summer. Or Kleenex, which allowed people to send free packs of tissues to their sick family and friends during its “Softness Worth Sharing” campaign.

When you ask for help, kindness comes to the rescue. People are willing to share their secrets and help you get the answers you need, plus more! What could be viewed as weak actually comes out as strong.

This doesn't mean that you should let yourself get walked on and feel pressured into doing something because it's the kind thing to do. Remember the first equation: Kindness is Altruistic. Kindness is positivity. If anyone or anything tells you to do a "kind" act and it'll have a negative effect on someone else, or if you don't feel like your heart isn't fully into it, don't do it. Don't associate kindness with weakness or negativity.

Mindfulness + Kindness

They go hand in hand. Transitioning towards kindness requires mindfulness, whether it's intentional or not. Making the conscience effort to be mindful of every interaction with another person will affect you positively, causing you to feel compelled to spread more kindness, which in turn encourages you to be more mindful. Mindfulness and kindness feed on each other in a beautiful, wonderful cycle.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. ~ Colossians 3:12

I encourage you to begin thinking of kindness as not just an act, but as a lifestyle. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion.

In seeking to understand them, listen to their needs, both verbal and non-verbal. Find ways in which you can simplify their life and address their needs. More often than not, we become so self-consumed in our lifestyle that we don't take the time to give others our full attention. By doing this, we are pushing ourselves further away from creating meaningful relationships.

So when someone comes to talk and visit with you, when your kids are begging for attention, when your spouse has something to say, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen. Be 100% present.

Kindness changes the world.

What acts of kindness have you performed? How have acts of kindness by others blessed your life?

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8 Ways to Make a Habit of Waking Up Early

8 Tips to Make a Habit of Waking Up Early I'm so excited to have Kayla Matthews on the blog today to share some her tips for getting up earlier! She's a productivity and time management blogger who writes for Lifehack and The Huffington Post. Her blog, Productivity Theory, is chock full of useful tips and ideas. I'm excited to use these ideas in real life, because waking up early is one thing I really want to begin doing. So be sure to leave her some feedback on what you all think – she's pretty awesome!


The phrase “the early bird gets the worm” can be annoying to those who live for the long evening hours. The excuses for getting up late are too numerous to tell, but the one reality that all late people relate to is this: Unless you are a late person, you don’t get it.

For some, it doesn’t even matter what time the alarm clock goes off. It could go off at 3 a.m. and it still wouldn’t mean punching the timecard early.

Well, late people, it’s hard to wake up early and be on time. There are a lot of benefits to seeing the sunrise.

See what the other half of the population sees, and try the world of early rising. Here’s how to make a habit of waking up early:

  1. Find Something to Be Excited About

Dreading the early morning comes from dreading what the day holds. If you aren’t excited about what you’ll be doing the next day, come up with some things you know you’ll enjoy. This could be a special trip to your local coffee shop or a really great breakfast sandwich. Even something as simple as a new shampoo can make taking a shower something to look forward to.

  1. Open the Blinds

Rising with the sun may seem like a thing of the past, but if waking up early is important to you, try opening the blinds. The natural sunlight will stream through the window and begin to brighten your morning, making it easier to open your eyes.

  1. Close Down the Screens an Hour before Bed

An hour before you get ready to hit the pillow, close down the computer and tablet screens, which can overstimulate the mind and make your sleep lest restful. Instead, find something relaxing to do to wind down the day. Try a warm bath or reading a book as part of your bedtime routine.

  1. Set an Alarm that’s Enjoyable

This is a really tough one to do. However, by choosing a song that you love or that is meaningful to you as your morning alarm, you’ll associate those good feelings the song provokes with waking up.

  1. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

Seriously. Just don’t. This may be the hardest bad habit to overcome, but actually getting up when the alarm goes off is the key to rising early.

  1. Find Someone Who Will Keep You Accountable

Habits are hard enough to form on your own, so find someone you trust who will help you reach your goal. This may be a person who already enjoys getting up early, or it may be a friend or family member who also wants to become a morning person. Whoever is chosen, lay out the strategy and make sure you are both on the same page.

  1. Write Down Your to-Dos the Night Before

Sleep often gets disrupted when the to-dos for the next day keep bombarding your thoughts. When sleep isn’t restful, there’s no way getting up early is going to be pleasant. Instead of mentally making a list of everything that has to get done tomorrow, try writing it all down today. Doing this will help wipe out the anxiety associated with too many tasks to do.

  1. Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day, Even on the Weekends

The human body is wired like a clock and appreciates the order that waking up at the same time brings. Waking up at the same time every day is beneficial in many ways, including setting your circadian rhythm and improving your productivity. Once you’ve established a sleep pattern, try keeping it as close to the same schedule as possible. Your body will thank you.

Waking up early can boost productivity and can clear the mind to help deal with any potential issues that may arise during the day. In fact, the benefits of waking up early far outweigh the consequences of sleeping in late.

So try these tips to start your journey to early rising today.

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger at ProductivityTheory.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter to read all of her latest posts!

Image by SplitShire

10 Things to Stop Wasting Time On

Stop wasting time on things that don't matter.

When thinking about ways to live life authentically and with purpose, a few things come to mind. One, everything you do should have a positive effect on your life, and two, you should stop wasting time on things that don't. Here are some things to consider eliminating from your life:

Distractions that keep you from spending time with those you love

We spend so much time around those we love, but how much of that time is spent spending quality time with them? Too often we're on our phone rather than engaging in conversation. Pay attention to the little things. Go for long walks. Enjoy great conversations. Count your blessings. Simply be together.

Constant busyness

Don't worry if everything doesn't happen right on schedule. While working and being productive is great, constant busyness can cause you to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Be kind to yourself and schedule in some downtime a few times a day to rest and recharge.

Needless drama

Stay away from that nonsense, because it never does anyone any good.

Social comparison

I once heard it said that you could spend a lifetime worrying about the things others have, but it wouldn't gain you anything. Be grateful for what you have.

Worrying about what other's think

Because it doesn't matter! If it makes you happy, who cares what they think? You'll find that you're much more happier when you live your life without running it by anyone else first.

One-sided friendships

Don't put time and energy into something that doesn't help you become the best version of yourself – that includes friends. Friendship is a two-way street. If you're the only one who cares about the friendship, maybe it's time to let it go.

Fad diets

A healthy body is a happy body. Quit those fad diets and cultivate the habit of a healthy lifestyle. Eat more fruits and veggies, cut back on those cheesy dishes, improve your flexibility, and workout a few times a week!

Need some help getting started? Check out these apps: SWORKIT, Yoga Studio, and MyFitnessPal.

People who aren't supportive of your goals and dreams

Don't let negative people and their opinions put a damper on your hopes and dreams. You can prove them wrong! Find support from those who are willing to help you reach those goals.

Hateful Thoughts

Don't dwell on hateful thoughts. Make kindness a daily ritual, even to those who are rude to you. Who knows? Maybe your actions will inspire them to be kind!

Procrastinating

Just do it already.

What else should we stop wasting time on?

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Simplify Your Routine

Simplify your routine by trying these simple things to set you up for a successful week. Tired of waking up to busy and frazzled mornings? Or just wishing your life was a little more streamlined? Sometimes all we need is to change one aspect of our very busy lives to make things easier. Try these easy and quick ways to simplify your routine and make life more manageable.

Let sunshine brighten up your day.

Even if it's a beautiful sunny morning, closed blinds or shades can make you never want to leave your bed. Get a head start on the day! Open the blinds and let natural light stream inside your home to awaken and brighten your spirits.

Find a regular, simplified beauty routine.

Creating a simplified beauty routine can make getting ready less of a hassle. Instead of having 3 lotions to choose from and a drawer full of makeup you hardly use, find your core pieces and keep those only. Your skin will thank you for the simplicity and you'll be looking and feeling your best!

For example: moisturize entire body, wash face with a gentle cleanser, apply SPF moisturizer, concealer, light foundation, blush, a dash of eyebrow color, a simple neutral base to your eyelids, eye-liner, and mascara. Finish with some deodorant and your favorite perfume, and voila!

Pack your lunch at dinnertime.

An easy way to get lunch packed and ready to go in a flash is to use dinner leftovers. As you’re cleaning up dinner the night before, pack or make your lunch. Your morning just got a little more free.

Lay out your outfit in advance.

Get rid of the whole "I don't know what to wear" dilemma and pick out what you're going to wear the night before. Pull out everything you’ll need for your outfit: tops, bottoms, undergarments, accessories, shoes and socks.You can even hang it on a special hook to hold your outfit, stylist-style. This way, you’ll be able to get dressed without having to worry about what to wear.

Plan a menu for the week.

Not only does this save you money, but it helps you use your evening time efficiently. Begin by making an ongoing list of grocery items you've run out of and need to purchase. Then sit down once a week and decide what meal to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every day. Maybe saturdays are pancake days and Friday is pizza night. Great! Schedule that in. Maybe your lunches are last night's leftovers. Perfect! One less meal to make. Add any ingredients you need to your shopping list and get cooking! And don't forget dessert ;)

Give your purse a makeover.

Stop frantically searching the dark depths of your purse just to find your phone, keys, or wallet. Instead, create a system of organization that works for you.

Use bags within your bag and assign each one a category: makeup, snacks/gum, pencils/pens, receipts, chargers, etc.

Dedicate an interior pocket to just your glasses or sunglasses. That way they'll be easily accessible.

Charge electronic devices at night or at the same time each day.

Hate realizing that your phone is going dead, right when you need it? Get into the habit of charging your phone and any other electronic devices at night so that everything is charged and ready to go.

How are you going to use the above tips to simplify your routine?

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How to Write Content that Keeps People Reading

Want to know the secret to getting people hooked on your content? Use these tips to engage your readers. Have you ever come across an article or blog post that was REALLY good? Like mindblowing, share-with-everyone-you-know good? Probably yes.

And have you ever come across a post that was maybe...not-so-good? Unfortunately yes.

So what's the secret?

What makes some information is so captivating that you just can't stop reading while other information makes reading a college history textbook sound interesting? Why do some words cause you to excitedly take notes while at other times you re-read the same thing three times and then give up?

The good news is that there is an answer (and a pretty simple one too).

Write content that causes readers to learn and/or laugh.  

[Tweet "Want to know how to write content that keeps readers hooked? @britthouchins shares the secret."]

The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that people read for two very basic reasons.

  1. People read because they want to be EDUCATED.
  2. People read because they want to be ENTERTAINED.

Let's go back to #1.

People love to read articles that teach them something, whether it's how to make a delicious recipe, start a capsule wardrobe, or to Google why platypuses have bills. To ensure that your writing gives readers what they're looking for, there are a few steps you should take.

Write to Educate

  • Give action steps. When a reader wants to follow your lead and learn a process, be sure to tell them the necessary steps involved in order to complete it. Of course, not everything is going to be in a step by step format, but if done right, a well-written post should explain concepts thoroughly and in chronological, reasonable steps.
  • Include tips. Everything you write should have tips included. Everything. It doesn't need to be a basic list of tips either. Tips can take on many forms: keys, tactics, techniques, ways, warnings, suggestions, methods, rules, options, processes, etc. All it takes is for one good idea that you've shared to satisfy the reader.
  • Make them think. Give examples to help get their brain juices flowing. Readers crave more than just information. They want to see how they can apply it in their own lives.

Now for #2.

The internet has brought entertainment to our fingertips 24/7. We like to read articles that are captivating, not boring. Bringing this element into your own writing can dramatically increase the engagement in your posts.

 Write to Entertain

  • Write conversationally. No one wants to read a dry article. My writing style is very informal; I write the way I talk. My hope is that by doing so, my readers can feel as if I'm talking with them one-on-one. Writing conversationally can help readers feel more at ease and even more willing to comment.
  • Use humor. Most people like to laugh. (To those of you who don't enjoy laughing, my apologies. You may skip this and go immediately to the section labeled "Don't Have A Sense Of Humor"). Basically it just means when you have a chance to say something in a funny way, do it. Of course, don't use too much humor and stay away from anything offensive, but by all means insert some light-hearted fun when applicable.
  • Tell a story. Especially a real one, as it provides a sense of credibility to what you're saying. A story can set the mood or provide a background to what you're about to say later on. It can be funny, sad, serious, or embarrassing. Sharing a good story always a great way to engage the reader.

There you have it! The secret to keeping readers hooked on your content. Try it out and see if people don't come running back for more ;)

What do you think? Is the reason people read because they want to be educated and/or entertained?

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Fun and Easy Ways to De-Stress

Need some ways to de-stress after finals? We've got you covered. #relaxationtips Life has gotten so busy these past few weeks. I'm taking six finals in three days, starting today! Wish me luck! The great thing is that once the tests are over, summer is here. And although I'll be taking summer classes, I absolutely can not wait to sit back and relax for a bit. So if you're trying to get through finals week (like me) or are just simply looking for easy yet fun ways to de-stress, this post is for you. Have a great day everyone!

  1. Sleep. Many of us are overworked and overwhelmed. We have so much to do in so little time. But the thing is, getting enough rest is even more important. What better way to lessen the fatigue than to curl up under the covers and catch some much needed z's. To help you out even more, here are 10 secrets for a better night's sleep.
  2. Treat yourself. Indulge in that ice cream. Buy yourself some flowers. Schedule a massage. Whatever you do entirely up to you.
  3. Don't do anything. This might sound contradicting and dull, but just sitting and not thinking about anything for 5 minutes straight can do wonders. Find a quiet place and just sit and breathe. Your body will be able to wind down and relax easier.
  4. Stretch and deep breathe. Nothing feels better than a deep breathe and a good, long stretch. It helps eliminate tension and stress by bringing more oxygen to your brain and also loosens tight muscles.
  5. Read. No, you don't have to read another (boring) textbook during your free time. But studies have shown that sometimes moving to fun read for enjoyment is a good idea. Get lost in some books!
  6. Attend an event. Check your city website, local newspaper, or college campus bulletin board to find fun events to attend (many are free!). Maybe it's a summer festival, a monthly art walk, or a concert. Find something that you would enjoy.
  7. Dance. Listen to music for the sake of listening to music. Dance to your heart’s content. It can revitalize your energy, especially after you've been stressed out.
  8. Get some exercise. For a quick de-stress, take a quick jog or run. An energizing exercise can help clear your mind and calm you down.
  9. Spend time in the park. Nature is one of the most calming de-stressors out there. Nothing feels more freeing than feeling the sunshine on your back and the wind blowing across your face. The simplicity of nature is calming and the it's beauty is soothing to the eyes. Take a trip to the park and take a deep breath of some fresh air.
  10. Hang out with friends. Chances are that when you're stressed, you're not in favor of spending time with other people. But you're most likely not the only one who needs to de-stress. Take time to catch up with friends, especially funny ones. After all, laughter is the best medicine.
  11. Create a relaxation space. Bring in things that personally help you de-stress: candles, a book, a blanket, a sketchbook, magazines, etc. Use this space to remove yourself from the usual routine of life.
  12. Shift your focus. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, try distracting yourself by doing a different activity. Paint your nails, straighten your desk, do you laundry, THEN come back to the task at hand. Don't confuse this with procrastinating! You're simply taking a break to clear your mind so you're better prepared to conquer whatever it is you're doing.

What other ways to you use to relax and de-stress?

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How to Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner for Better Blog SEO

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner. If you have a blog or a website, you're probably well aware that SEO (search engine optimization) is important for gaining traffic and ranking higher in Google searches. Many bloggers have shared tips for great SEO. Some of my favorites that I recommend reading are 10 Ways to Boost SEO for Bloggers by Gina and Simple SEO by Nora. They both provide great tips for those who want to increase their SEO but aren't sure how.

One thing I've learned about SEO is the importance of the keyword you set for your post. So today I'm showing you how I use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to increase SEO for my blog. And guess what? It's easy! :)

A keyword rich post is more likely to show up in higher ranks of Google, especially if it's specific. But if you're anything like me, coming up with the perfect keyword is a struggle sometimes. Google's keyword planner takes away the fuss of trying making up a keyword for your post. Ready to get started? :)

Step One

Go to Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Step Two

Log in or Sign up.

If you already have an Adwords account (a.k.a you host Google Ads on your site), just log in using your Adword credentials. Otherwise, go ahead and sign up (it's free).

Step Three

Follow the prompts until you reach "Your First Campaign"

Don't worry about the "Billing" section that comes right after. You aren't setting up an ad on Google, so you won't pay a thing. Rather, you're just here for the keyword planner. Once you're done using the keyword planner, go ahead and exit. No need to go on to the billing step (unless you're a business and want to pay for ad space on Google).

Step Four

Navigate to Choose a Target Audience > Keywords. Click on Select Your Keywords.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Step Five

Type in a few different keywords that are relevant to your post. The number that appears is the search popularity of that combination of keywords. While a bigger number means more searches, it also means that there's more competition. Select your keywords carefully.

Another tip!

Hover over the right of the green bar and click More Like This. More keyword suggestions will appear! You can keep doing this to get an idea on what's being searched frequently.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

And that's it! Told you it was easy :)

I hope this helps you when deciding on keywords for your posts. If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them below!

Have you ever used Google's Keyword Planner?

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7 Ways to Give Back while Simplifying Your Life

What if you could live a simpler life–while giving back at the same time? I challenge you to make the best of every situation and strive to live an eco-friendly, simple lifestyle.There's a lot of talk about simplicity and living a minimalistic lifestyle. There are numerous lists on the internet of ways to simplify your life. But, what if you could live a simpler life–while giving back at the same time? I challenge you to make the best of every situation and strive to live an eco-friendly, simple lifestyle. [Tweet "What if you could live a simpler life–while giving back at the same time? Here are 7 ways to do so."]

Step away from your phone – and give clean water to children in need.

The UNICEF Tap Project encourages you to stop texting, emailing, calling, and using social media on your phone to help provide clean, safe water for children around the world. The longer you go without touching your phone, the more clean water will be given to children in need. Just think, you'll be simplifying your life by being less dependent on technology all while providing clean water for children. It's a win-win!

UNICEF Tap Project

Donate your clothes – and help kids rise up with education.

thredUp* is an online consignment shop that sells popular brands at discounts of up to 90%! Even better, they provide you with a Clean Out bag to send your gently used clothing items in exchange for cash, for FREE. They'll pay you up to 80% of the resale value, and items that aren't accepted go to charitable partners or textile recycling companies. It doesn't end there. thredUP* will also donate a portion of proceeds from every thredUP bag to support the development of high-quality teachers in schools through Teach For America.

*signing up through this referral link will give you (and me) $10 to spend on thredUp!

Get rid of junk mail (easily) – and cut down on paper waste.

PaperKarma is the easiest way to eliminate junk mail. Simply snap a photo of the piece of mail and they'll figure out what it is and instantly submit a request to stop the mailing on your behalf. By doing so, you'll be saving trees and simplifying your mailbox.

Be creative – and plant a tree.

Baron Fig has created the ultimate creative notebook. 192 acid-free pages open completely flat for effective use. The dimensions are wider than traditional notebooks, making it more useful for drawings. And, for every Confidant notebook purchased, they will donate seeds to plant a tree. Even the smallest thing can make positive change within the creative lifestyle.

Baron Fig Plants Trees

Reuse shopping bags – and reduce emissions and waste.

Did you know that more than one billion single-use plastic bags are handed to consumers each day in the U.S. and it takes a 15-year-old tree to produce just 700 paper grocery bags? Paper or plastic is no longer the question. Reusing shopping bags significantly reduces both emissions and waste. Purchase one for a few cents or up to a dollar at participating retailers (they usually donate the proceeds of the bags to charities as well).

Donate your jewelry – and help homeless pets.

Unwanted jewelry? Donate it to Indigo Rescue and receive a tax receipt and the satisfaction of knowing that your your jewelry donation is helping save homeless animals.

Learn more on how to live a purposeful life – and end sex trafficking.

One of the best publications ever, Darling Magazine's mission is to encourage us, as women, to embody virtue, wit, modesty, wisdom, and love. The articles in each issue (published every four months) show how to practically live a life of purpose and intention. Even better, Darling is partnering with International Justice Mission and will donate a portion of proceeds from magazine sales specifically for the work being done to end sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic.

What other ways can you give back while simplifying your life?

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Easy Ways to Promote Your Blog When You're Bored

If you ever find yourself with a spare 10 minutes or longer, try some of these easy blog boosters to expand your online presence. #blog #blogtipsWe all have those days when we feel bored, uninspired, or lacking energy to create a post – and that's totally okay! You can still use your downtime to promote your blog in small ways. If you ever find yourself with a spare 10 minutes or longer, try some of these easy blog boosters to expand your online presence:

[Tweet "Does your blog need a boost? Here are 9 SUPER EASY ways to promote your blog when you're bored! via @britthouchins"]

Create, maintain, and edit a list of blog topic ideas

Even before I started my blog I had a Google Doc called "Blog Post Ideas". I still use it to this day! Whenever I have an idea pop into my head, I write it down. I've found that using Google Drive works better (for me at least) than a notebook because it's synced with the cloud and I can access it both on my phone and computer. If you're feeling bored, use this time to jot down some ideas for upcoming blog posts. I find some of my greatest inspiration by reading magazines or simply browsing the web.

Reach out to a blogger you admire

Making blog friends is one of the best things about blogging! Don't be afraid to send a friendly email to a blogger you admire or one you have been following for a long time.

Comment on other blogs

Networking with other bloggers is one of the best ways to boost blog traffic. Take an hour to read through other blogs and leaving genuine comments on posts you love. If you're not totally in love with the post or the blog, then don't comment. It's better to be genuine and make connections with those you click with than to just leave your link and run.

Repin old posts onto relevant Pinterest boards (again)

Pinterest is such a great referral source. While pins will continually show up in search results and get repinned, it doesn't hurt to do some extra promotion ;) Go through your archives and pin your images to relevant boards, even if you've pinned it there before. You've most likely gained some followers between now and then who haven't been exposed to that amazing post of yours!

Make your images Pinterest friendly

In the blogging world, it's really important to have visually appealing images. And, we have to admit, sometimes our old posts aren't very Pinterest-worthy. Maybe your blog style changed (or you discovered it!) or the photos are just plain outdated. Go through your old posts and check to see if the photos/graphics match the branding of your blog.

Follow new people on Twitter and Instagram

Growing your audience can be as easy as finding and following other like-minded people. Take a few spare minutes to follow some new people and comment/like/send them a tweet. It’s important to interact with other people online if you want to get noticed!

Discover your social media influence

If you haven't done so already, sign up for Klout to determine your social media influence. Klout is designed to help you understand and leverage your influence on different social networks. Advertising agencies use it to identify influencers that would be great at promoting their products.

Make your pitch list

When you have some free time, sit down and come up with a pitch list. Think of dream brands you would like to work with, brands that would be a good fit to work with you now, and ideas for guest posts/collaborations with other bloggers. Once you have a few ideas, go ahead and contact them! The worst that could happen would be them saying no. And even if they do, the fact that you'd tried shows that you're serious about your blog and want to leverage it in the best way possible. So don't be afraid! Take the chance! :)

Schedule social media promotion of old posts

Most of the time, only your most popular posts will be revisited. But what about the rest of your archives? Take a few minutes to go through your archives and schedule each one for some social media promotion. Personalize your tweets and Facebook shares using Hootsuite or Buffer (I prefer Buffer, as it's minimal and more aesthetically pleasing). Try to schedule them out over a long period of time, especially if you've been blogging for over a few years. Once every few days should be fine, since you'll still be promoting your current posts.

What do you do in your free time to promote your blog?

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Elevate your blog by following these blogging basics from The Kardia.

100 Things to Throw Away

The first step to minimalism is reducing clutter in your home! Many people dismiss the idea of simplifying or minimizing their life because they don't know where to begin. Truth is, the concept of minimalism isn't to own a certain number of items or get rid of all your favorite belongings; it's living with enough to be content and getting rid of unnecessary clutter.

Taking the first step to owning less isn't difficult. Begin by simply reducing the excess things in your home. For example, you need towels so you will never remove them completely—but you could simplify your life by reducing the number of towels you own.

You can even go a step further and recycle, donate, or trash items. I'm working on doing this in my own life (I have wayyyy to much junk!) and have come up with a list of 100 items you can most likely do without. Try getting rid of 10 items a week and before you know it, you will have made significant progress in your journey towards a more simplified life.

100 Things to Throw Away

  1. Old makeup/ones that you don't use much
  2. Old nail polish
  3. Movies you don't watch anymore
  4. Old coupons/flyers
  5. Old manuals to electronics
  6. Ticket stubs
  7. Takeout menus
  8. Cards given to you with no sentimental value
  9. Socks with holes
  10. Old t-shirts/ones you were given for free that you don't wear
  11. Dried flowers/dead leaves from house plants
  12. Old planners
  13. Old notebooks
  14. Unsubscribe from email subscriptions you don't absolutely love
  15. Expired food
  16. Old/broken phone cases
  17. Ripped denim
  18. Travel brochures
  19. Old shopping catalogs
  20. Old magazines
  21. Boxes that you aren't using to store anything in
  22. Purses you don't use
  23. Old shoes
  24. Empty bottles of
  25. Broken necklaces
  26. The other half of a missing earring
  27. Clothes that don't fit you right now
  28. Old/unused/broken hangers
  29. CD's
  30. Receipts you don't need
  31. Old bills
  32. Empty perfume bottles
  33. One of anything you duplicates of
  34. Old invitations
  35. Outdated electronics
  36. Piles of plastic grocery bags
  37. Old paint
  38. Neglected projects you won't get around to finishing
  39. Rarely used kitchen gadgets
  40. Extra buttons
  41. Soap/shampoo/conditioner from hotel rooms
  42. Tissue paper/gift bags/bows that you're going to "reuse"
  43. Hair accessories you don't use
  44. Old bras
  45. Ripped up pet toys
  46. Stockings with runs
  47. Unused vases
  48. Extra tupperware containers (they're reusable!)
  49. Unused stationery, stickers, sticky notes
  50. Last year's calendar
  51. Business cards from places you don't need
  52. Books you have already read
  53. Chopsticks from restaurants (if you use them a lot, buy a reusable pair!)
  54. Pencils where the eraser doesn't work
  55. Dried out pens
  56. Extra shoelaces
  57. Last years Christmas cards (both yours and ones you received)
  58. Cardboard food boxes
  59. Old dish sponge
  60. Hair products you don't use (you don't need 3 different types of shampoo)
  61. Board games with missing pieces
  62. Old homework
  63. Textbooks from classes you're finished with
  64. Extra sets of headphones
  65. That bag of gems/rocks you got from a tourist spot
  66. Old prescription glasses
  67. Broken sunglasses
  68. Worn out flip-flops
  69. Loyalty cards you don't use
  70. Free samples
  71. Posters you don't display
  72. Excess decks of cards
  73. Phone books
  74. Magnets
  75. Extra decorative pillows
  76. Paper plates
  77. Plastic forks/knives/spoons
  78. Empty shoeboxes
  79. Lanyards/keychains you don't use
  80. Puzzle books
  81. Broken Christmas lights
  82. Ornaments that have no sentimental meaning
  83. Old contact lens cases
  84. Extra bubble wrap
  85. Crafting supplies you bought for a project but don't use anymore
  86. Plastic water bottles (buy a reusable one!)
  87. Belts you don't like
  88. Hats you don't wear
  89. Puzzles with missing pieces
  90. Old medication
  91. The other half of a missing mitten/sock
  92. Used/ripped envelopes
  93. Random containers/jars
  94. Extra matchbooks
  95. Chip clips
  96. Old, raggy towels
  97. Old school projects
  98. Small pieces of scrap paper/ribbon/string
  99. Notes from your middle school lover
  100. Chapstick

What else would you add to the list?

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How to Start a Blog (and Make it Successful) Part 2

Start a blog the right way. In this post, we'll cover what platform to use, decide whether to use a template or not, and learn how to create community and promote your posts. #blog #blogging *There are referral links present in this post.

Last week I posted the first part of a two part series on how to start a blog, and this week is the second post! If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to do these steps in order, beginning with the first part.

Now that you've narrowed down your focus, chosen a name, and bought a domain, it's time to make some bigger decisions.

Decide what platform to use

The three most popular and user-friendly platforms are Blogger, Wordpress, and Squarespace. I'm not going to go too in depth about each of them, but here's a quick rundown on the pros and cons of each:

Blogger:

Pros - Free and reliable. Many blogs are run on Blogger and there are many designs and templates you can purchase if you wish.

Cons - Ownership. Google owns and runs Blogger and has the right to shut your blog down at any time.

Wordpress.com:

Pros - Free + no maintenance.

Cons - Not allowed to sell ads unless you receive 25,000 page views a month. No plugins, limited theme support.

Wordpress.org:

Pros - Customizable. Wordpress is the standard for websites and it can be customizable to anything you wish.

Cons - Expensive. To own a wordpress.org site, you must pay to have it hosted on a server from a provider, such as Bluehost.

Squarespace:

Pros - Appearance. Squarespace offers visually pleasing, mobile responsive template designs.

Cons - Limited template designs offered by Squarespace. Customization can be done through blog designers.

Theme or custom blog design?

Your next step is to choose whether you want to use a theme or have a blog designer custom design your site. For my blog, I purchased a theme and then went and changed the CSS code to make it look the way I wanted. Some of you may not feel comfortable doing that, so a theme with customizable options is a great way to get the look you want if you're on a budget. I recommend checking out Creative Market's blog themes. They have a lot of affordable, beautiful templates.

Create community

One of the main reasons I love blogging is the community and people I meet. It's amazing to read other's perspectives on life and get inspired by them. Here are a few ways to begin creating a genuine community of readers and friends:

Follow other blogs

Now, don't just follow blogs in the hopes that they'll follow you back. Genuinely follow blogs that you love to read. Click around and discover new blogs. Comment on posts and make conversation. You'd be surprised at how interconnected the blogging world is.

Join blogging communities

Blogging communities provide some of the best support and friendships. Many blogging communities have a facebook page where you can post questions, share your posts, and meet other bloggers whose interests are similar to you. I highly recommend The Peony Project if you're looking for a group of bloggers who are great at supporting one another!

Participate in Twitter chats

Twitter chats are a fun way to meet others and discuss different topics. I always leave a Twitter chat feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired. Some great Twitter chats to participate in are #FireworkPeople, #OhSimpleChat, and #ElleChat.

Include your post in linkups

As a new blogger, this is a great way to expose your blog to others. I love participating in linkups because they create such neat, niche communities in the blogging world. Many linkups occur on a weekly or monthly basis, so you can usually plan a post ahead of time. Find a linkup in your niche or join in on a fun one! Some of my favorites are the Guys Behind the Blog, Currently, Week's End, Marriage and Relationship Goals, and the Creative Closet. If you're looking for a linkup that encourages you to live life to the fullest, consider joining the Flourish linkup, hosted by yours truly :) I know, shameless plug, but I had to ;)

I have discovered one big tip when it comes to linkups though: Don't go overboard. I know it may seem like a great idea to link up the same post to three different linkups, but in reality, it lowers the reputation of both you and your post. Instead of just seeking comments, seek connections. Click on multiple links, not just the minimum required for the linkup. Discover new blogs you genuinely like and comment!

[Tweet "Instead of just seeking comments, seek connections. via @britthouchins"]

Promote your posts

Ah, promoting your blog posts :) If only there were a secret formula to getting the optimal amount of traffic from social media promotion. Still, promoting blog posts isn't difficult at all, nor does it have to be time consuming! Here are a few basic ways you can promote your blog posts.

Pin to Pinterest

I can't express how important Pinterest is when it comes to blogging. It's what drives the most visits to my website. Even if you're just starting out, make sure your blog post images are pinnable! Clear, bright photos with minimal text are golden. Pin your posts to relevant boards: if it's a dessert recipe, pin it to your dessert board. Likewise, if it's a post on blogging, pin it to your blogging board.

Follow Brittany Houchins 's board b l o g g i n g on Pinterest.

The size of your image matters too. The optimal Pinterest image is around 735 x 1100 pixels. When you click on a pin, it will expand to a width of 735 pixels and the height will adjust depending on the size of the image. Keep in mind that images on a website need to be a minimum of 100 x 200 pixels for you to be able to pin them.

Share on Twitter

Twitter is a must for bloggers! Think of it as a mini feed of ideas, questions, and insights. It's also a great networking tool, so don't be afraid to follow and interact with the bloggers you admire. Interacting is a great way to make connections and get your name out there without being too in-your-face.

I recommend using Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your posts throughout the day (and week). Promote your blog post once or twice the day it's posted and schedule another post a few days later as well as one later in the month. I also recommend promoting some of your favorite posts by other bloggers. It's a great way to connect and build relationships!

Another thing I find useful is that whenever you have some time during the day, check Twitter, respond to others, and post something! This shows that you are engaged with others and don't just solely promote links.

Post to Facebook and Google+

In all honesty, I'm not the best at doing this (but I'm working on it!) Posting your blog posts to Facebook and Google+ are a great way to reach your readers who don't follow you on a blog reader or Twitter. Share some lifestyle posts to these accounts as well, like photos from your vacation or pictures of your dog, just like you would on your personal account.


Now, let me tell you one more thing. You could follow all of these tips, be the master of social media, and have a gorgeous website — but none of those things matter if you don't follow this one rule:

Be Authentic

Don't be a copy of someone else. What makes you special and different from all the other blogs is that there's no one like you! So share life photos on Instagram, post your random thoughts on Twitter, don't be afraid to admit that you make mistakes. After all, blogging is supposed to fun :)

Thinking of starting a blog? If you have any more questions, be sure to let me know! 

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Blogging Basics from The Kardia

How to Start a Blog (and Make it Successful) - Part 1

Start a blog the right way. In this post, we'll cover how to create a focus, determine a name, create a vision board, and purchase a domain. #blog #blogging *There are referral links present in this post.

I've gotten multiple emails over the last few weeks from people asking for tips on how to start a blog and I'm really excited for them! Starting a blog is one of the best decisions I made, and I'd like to share a few tips to help others begin this journey of their own. I've made this into a two part series because there is so much to cover! I could definitely write more than two posts on this, but I want this to be a starting point for new bloggers as well as a refresher for those of you who already have a blog but are looking for ways to improve it. :)

To start off, why start a blog? Good question! I listed 7 reasons why I started my blog here in my very first post! Like the cake I made? ;) Start off by making your own list of why you want to blog. Is it a creative outlet? A place to document your life? Somewhere for you to write stories? This list is something you'll look back to when you're in a blogging rut, so it's handy to have.

Next, narrow down your focus

What do you want to blog about? Fashion? Food? Decor? There are a lot of different niches and categories but many bloggers categorize themselves as a "lifestyle" blogger, including myself. But I also have an overall theme. My posts are all centered around encouraging others to chase their dreams and inspiring them to live an intentional life. I provide tips to help make their lives easier, but I throw in some personal posts as well.

So even though I'm a lifestyle blogger, you can see that I blog with intention. And I believe that blogging with intention is what will set you apart from other bloggers.

[Tweet "Blogging with intention is what will set you apart from other bloggers. via @britthouchins"]

Your next step is to narrow down what you'd like to blog about. Begin by listing topics you like, such as decorating or cooking; don't worry if you find yourself listing a lot of topics, we'll narrow it down :) Next, try to group topics together into main categories. Then think over each category: Do I have enough knowledge to write multiple posts on this? Does it fit my current lifestyle? I had a lot of categories when I first started out, but now I have them condensed down to five. Over time you'll discover what you like and don't like to blog about and your blog will grow as you grow.

Create a blog vision board on Pinterest

Now before you jump in and pick your blog name, I recommend creating a blog "brand" vision board on Pinterest. I'm using the word "brand" because essentially, your blog will be a brand. Cohesive brand elements are what makes great blogs stand out from the rest.

Pin photos that convey the look/feel of what you would like your blog to have. For example, my blog brand board (which is a secret board, so I can't show you guys :( sorry!) is full of beautiful handwritten script fonts, simple and clean lines, my favorite inspirational quotes, and bright airy photos.

You should also pin blog layouts and templates for inspiration. Take a look and see what they have in common. Are they all minimalistic? Do they have bold lines and colors? Determining the style of your blog is the first step to creating the blog of your dreams.

Brainstorm and choose a blog name

Now is the fun (and sometimes really hard) part! Choosing a blog name is serious business, because it's something that you will be known for. Make a list of 5-10 blog names that are relevant to your topics and you can see yourself using multiple years from now. Coming up with 5-10 names may sound like a lot, but it's a good idea to have backup ideas just in case the name is already taken on social media sites or the domain is already bought.

Write a blog mission statement

Like I said earlier, you can’t blog about everything if you want your blog to be successful. You need a focus; a purpose; a mission. Having a blog mission statement enables you to have a constant reminder of what your purpose is.

Don't skip this step! Many bloggers, including myself, don't usually do this until after their blog is established. But if you do it before you even start, you are way ahead of the game! Use this post I wrote solely dedicated on how to write a mission statement for your blog for guidance.

Purchase a domain

Once you've decided on a name, the next step is to purchase your domain name. Purchasing your domain name adds a professional appearance to your blog as it takes away the .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com in your domain.

There are multiple ways you can get your domain. The most popular option is to purchase directly from a domain registrar, like GoDaddy.com or Registrar.com, for anywhere around $5-$20 a year. Even if you decide to not spend money on anything else for blogging, I highly recommend buying your domain.

This is where we'll stop for today. Starting a blog doesn't happen overnight; it takes a lot of time and effort. These first few steps set the foundation of your blog, and they are incredibly important, so don't try to jump and skip ahead.

In Part 2, I'll help you decide what blogging platform to use, choose a theme/design, and provide tips on promoting your posts! So be sure to check in next Monday!

Do you want to start a blog? If you have any more questions, be sure to let me know! 

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Elevate your blog by following these blogging basics from The Kardia.

5 Ways to Live Life with Intention

Cherish the simple things, love unconditionally, and flourish in the life we are given. Let's live life with purpose! Last week I wrote on how the death of a girl I never knew changed how I live my life. Her legacy has inspired me (and thousands of others), to live our lives with intention. We need to cherish the simple things, love unconditionally, and flourish in the life we are given. My dream is to help people live a life of purpose. Don’t waste away your days, because you never know if it's going to be your last.

[Tweet "Cherish the simple things, love unconditionally, and flourish in the life you are given. "]

5 Ways to Live Life with Intention

1. Don't become set on routine

Routine is good, don't get me wrong. I love feeling comfortable about how I go about my day. But sometimes we can get so stuck in a routine that we lose focus on the simple (and even more important) things. Break out of your routine, whether it be by going somewhere new, eating something different, or even just taking more time to relax. Get out and do something fresh, new, and exciting! You'll be surprised at how refreshed you'll feel, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

2. Be grateful

I can't emphasize it enough. Gratitude changes everything. Keeping a gratitude journal was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only do I have an ongoing, comprehensive list of everything I'm grateful for, but it causes me to take time each day to pause and reflect on the simple things I appreciate. Those simple details can get overlooked in our busy lives. Sometimes the best things are the simplest things.

3. View the glass as half-full

Optimism is catchy. :) Unless you're the type of person who is never happy, seeing someone with a positive outlook can really make your day. Maybe it's the way they smile at everyone, marveling at how nice of a day it is. Or maybe it's the way they find something good in trials and setbacks. Let's fill our lives with less complaining and more complementing.

4. Give back

Your generosity can have more of an impact on someone's life than you might ever know. If we all just give back even a little bit, imagine what an awesome place this world could be, how much fulfillment we'd get, and how much happier we would be on Monday mornings! Give back to the world you live in and the people who inhabit it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pay for someone else's meal
  • Leave a large tip
  • Volunteer
  • Sponsor a child in a third world county
  • Donate (clothes, hair, time, etc.)

5. Try something new

Learning new things helps broaden your knowledge and opens up your mind to new possibilities. Get out of your comfort zone. This post on how to make learning and personal development a regular part of your life is amazing!

How do you plan to live your life with intention?

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P.S. 8 ways to simplify your life!

How to Set Up a Professional Email for Your Blog

Make your blog more professional by using a business email. #blogtips #blogging *There are referral links present in this post. All opinions within this post are always 100% honest.

Deciding to take blogging seriously is a big step that involves a lot of time and commitment. You begin to set up all the "prerequisites": a domain name, hosting, blog design, business cards, accepting sponsors/advertisers, going to conferences, etc. There's one thing that's usually overlooked though.

A professional email.

This is especially helpful if you want to collaborate with other companies. Some opportunities became available to me simply because I had my own professional email. For example, brittany(at)thekardiablog.com is much more professional sounding than thekardiablog@gmail.com.

[Tweet "A custom email can amp up the professionalism of your blog. via @britthouchins"]

There are two ways to set up and use your own professional email. *Please note that you must own your own domain to be able to use a custom email.

1. If you self-host your blog, many web hosts such as Bluehost allow you to set up different email accounts using your domain name by clicking the Email tab. I recommend setting up two or three: hello@yourblog.com, yourname@yourblog.com, and sponsor@yourblog.com. You can then check the webmail by clicking on Check Webmail on the home page (if you're using Bluehost).

Set up a professional email

2. The second method (and the one I highly recommend!) is using Google Apps for Work. Google Apps for Work enable you to use the Gmail interface with your own custom email. There is a small fee ($5/month), but you can try it for free for 30 days to see if you like it. This is definitely worth the money though!

When you sign up, I recommend signing up with yourname@yourblog.com at first. This is what will become the primary email. You can set up other emails later on (hello@, sponsor@, etc.) After you sign up, you'll need to verify that you own your domain by calling the phone number that is provided and have the support team walk you through some steps. It's super quick and easy!

Once everything is set up, you can add more emails by going to your admin page (admin.google.com) and clicking on Users, then your name. Now click on Account and a sidebar will appear. Scroll down to Aliases and click Add an Alias. Whatever email alias you enter here will automatically be forwarded to yourname@. This way, all your replies will be sent through the same account.

Set up a professional email

Easy, isn't it? :) This is just one simple step you can take to amp up the professionalism of your blog!

What do you think about having your own professional email?

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Blogging Basics from The Kardia

3 Easy Steps to Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a great alternative to doing a brain dump. It can help you brainstorm ideas or solve complex problems. Do any of you do brain dumps onto a piece of paper? I do.

Although recently, I've discovered something SO much better than just writing down a list of the random thoughts that float around in my brain all day. It's called mind mapping.

I've been using this process for the past week or so, and I've found that it helps me keep my random thoughts organized in a fun, colorful way. Technically it is still a brain dump, just a more outlined, visual one. Mind mapping is such a useful way to think about new ideas and simplify complex processes. You can use it for school projects, your business ideas, product ideas, blogging, or just your daily life in general.

[Tweet "Mind mapping is the new brain dump. @britthouchins"]

Making a mind map is really very simple. First you must choose whether you want to write it out on a large piece of paper or use an app. The app makes the process much faster, but writing it out by hand is good if you want to personalize it and be more precise. Listed below are a few different mind mapping apps I've found. Check them out and see which one you like!

Coggle (Website)

MindNode (Mac / iOS)

XMind (Windows / Mac / Linux)

SimpleMind (Windows / Mac / iOS / Android)

If you're new to mind mapping, here are three easy steps to help you begin and get the most out of it!

1. Write and don't stop

The first step to creating your mind map is to just write anything and everything that comes to mind. Don't spend too much time on one item; just write. If an item is related to something else, keep them connected by creating branches off of the original item. If you think of a totally unrelated/different/random topic, create a new "main" stem (in MindNode, you just right click to create a new "node"). The goal is to get everything out of your system.

How to make a mind map

2. Add steps

Second, take a look at the items you've listed. Are there any goal items? To-dos? List any sub-steps needed to complete that item by branching them out. Check them off/delete them once you finish them!

Add steps to a mind map

3. Select your top three

The great thing about mind maps is that they give you the ability to see the big picture. The not-so-great thing about mind maps is that sometimes being able to see everything can cause you to lose focus. Once you've finished making your mind map, choose the top three items you want to focus on. If you listed sub-steps, start tackling them! A mind map used in the right way could help you even more than a to-do list.

Have you ever used a mind map? Which you you prefer: a brain dump or mind map?

 

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8 Ways to Make Your Mac Run Faster

8 ways to make your mac run faster!When I first got my Macbook Pro for college last year, I Googled everything I could about tips, tricks and changes I could do to personalize my computer. One of my biggest worries was that after a few years of owning this baby, it would eventually become slower. Little did I know that there are a bunch of steps you can take to ensure that your computer will be good shape - and even cause your Mac run faster - in a few years.

Delete apps and files

The number one thing that clogs up your computer are files and applications. Do a quick audit of what you have on your computer and delete anything you don't use or need anymore. Put files in Dropbox, iCloud, or Evernote. Delete files from your "Downloads". Organize what you have and keep the desktop free from clutter. Having excess items on the desktop can result in slower loading times due to the fact that the desktop is the first page that loads! Also, don't forget to empty the trash bin after you've dumped a bunch of items in there!

Restart your computer at least twice a week

I'm one of those people who almost never shuts off my Mac. I almost always have it sleeping. One day I realized my computer was lagging more than usual. I did a little research and found out that your Mac has a few tools that it uses automatically to help maintain itself. Some of these tools only run during shutdown and startup. Get into the habit of powering down your computer at least twice a week. A simple restart before you go to bed each night works too!

Quit, don't just close, apps

Most apps don't completely quit when you click the red button. The application continues to run in the background in an effort to start up again quickly. If you're done using the app for a bit, quit it completely. Command Q is a quick shortcut. Or you can right click on the app icon and click Quit.

8 ways to make your Mac run faster

Manage your startup items

When you start up your Mac, a lot of things load up in the background. Get a faster Mac startup by removing unnecessary apps. Go to System Preferences > Users and Groups > then click on your username. Now click on Login Items, click on the name of the application you don't need at startup, and then click the "-" sign located at the bottom left to remove the app from the list. The less apps on the list, the better!

8 ways to make your Mac run faster

Keep your computer cool

A hot computer is a suffering computer. If you feel your computer getting warm or hear the fans turn on louder, place your computer in a place where it can get good ventilation. On a Mac, the vents are in the back by the hinge.

If you use your laptop on your lap, in bed, or on top of any sort of blanket, place the laptop on a lap tray, box, or something else that is flat and sturdy. Overheating your computer can be very damaging to the hardware, so make an effort to keep it cool.

Install the FlashControl Chrome Extension

Another way to keep your computer from doing more work and possibly overheating is to control Adobe Flash. A lot of embedded videos use Flash, and while it's not a bad thing, the content can sometimes be annoying. Installing a Flash block extension allows you to control what you want to play.

For example, if you went to a website and there's some ad content on the side that uses Flash, it won't load. But if there's a video somewhere that you do want to see, all you need to do is simply click on the blank space and the video will load! Blocking Flash essentially blocks unnecessary loading that slows down your browser.

Delete the cache and cookies from your internet browser

If your browser is slow, everything else seems slow too. Delete the cache and cookies every once and awhile to give the system a nice refresh.

Install virus and malware protection (for free!)

Free Mac security and antivirus protection.

It's been said that Macs are immune to viruses and other things that are common on Windows. Because of that, many Mac users never even think to install antivirus protection. But that's not the case anymore.

Turns out, it's not impossible to create a virus that affects a Mac; it's just more difficult than with Windows because of nature of OS X and its security model. Think of all the hackers who would spend their time creating a Mac virus, just to be able to prove that Macs are vulnerable.

Also, security issues might allow some form of attack, even if it's not in the form of a virus. Something might erase your data or gain access to your personal information. Either way, having some form of protection will ensure that you're taking the right measures to protect both you and your Mac.

 I have Avast Free Antivirus installed on my Mac, and I love it! It's free, simple to install, and updates automatically to keep protection current. I encourage you to use it!

What do you do to keep your computer in good condition?

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10 Secrets for a Better Night's Sleep

10 secrets to a better night's sleep. As a college student, sleep is one thing I cherish. Sleep helps your body rejuvenate and keeps your brain to operating at its best. Too many times, I have gone to bed late and gotten up early. And if I do have time to get to bed early, falling asleep is another story. My goal is to begin a healthier sleep routine. Following these simple tips, we all can benefit from a better night's sleep and a more energized day.

1. Make a bedtime routine

For a great night’s sleep, give yourself a bedtime routine to alert your body that it's time to sleep. Put things away, take a bath or shower, and start dimming the lights up to two hours before your planned bedtime. If you're busy up until the point you crawl into bed, your body might still be awake even if you're exhausted.

2. Get up around the same time every day

Our bodies love routine. Your internal clock has the ability to wake you up without an alarm clock. The only catch is that you must be consistent with your sleep schedule. Drastic changes in your sleep pattern can actually cause you to be even more tired than you were before. Try to be consistent. Your body will thank you.

3. Avoid any mentally stimulating activities before bed

This includes reading, watching TV, and checking social media sites (we've all been guilty of that, haven't we). Activating new thoughts can be very counterproductive. 30 minutes before you climb into bed, make it an effort to not check any screen devices, especially in the dark. The light emitted from your device stimulates your brain and causes it to be more alert, not what exactly what you want late at night.

4. Avoid eating close to bedtime

Eating one to three hours before bedtime can decrease the quality and length of your sleep. Avoid snacking or eating a big meal right before you go to sleep. Give your body time to properly digest your food so it can give you energy when you need it.

5. Avoid caffeine intake after midday

There's no doubt that drinking caffeine will make you stay awake. Getting into the habit of consuming caffeine throughout the day may be the reason you have a hard time falling asleep at night. Try to avoid caffeine intake in the afternoon, or better, avoid it altogether.

6. Use earplugs and/or an eye mask

This is such a simple solution for those who are light sleepers. If you have a roommate that wakes up earlier than you or a husband who snores, there's no need to lay awake wishing you were asleep. Grab a pair of earplugs or slip on an eye mask to block sound and light. They're great for traveling on planes too!

7. Keep your bedroom cool

Most sleep studies recommend setting your thermostat to about 65ºF. That may seem a bit cold to some of you, but before you go to sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops, which helps promote deep sleep. Setting your thermostat to around 65º will help your body get to that temperature faster, which will let you fall asleep faster and sleep better.

8. Exercise daily

Try to get in at least 15 minutes of exercise a day. Not only does exercising keep your body healthy, but it can relieve pent-up stress and energy that keeps you awake at night.

9. Do a brain dump before bed

I've mentioned this before, but doing a brain dump right before you go to bed can really help clear your mind and keep you from staying awake. It's very simple. Just take a piece of paper and write down everything and anything that comes to mind. Don't think, just write. In the morning, take a look at the list and organize it in whatever way you choose.

10. Use a sleep tracker app

Hate that feeling of waking up groggy and tired? It might be because you were woken up in deep sleep, the most restful sleep. Studies show that waking up in a light sleep stage cause you to feel happier and more rested. The Sleep Cycle app analyzes your sleep and finds the optimal time to wake you up during a 30 minute window that ends at your set alarm time. Graphs provide you with information about your sleep quality, what times you went to sleep in the past 3 months, the average time you spend in bed, and your sleep quality on certain days of the week.

Sleep has never been better.

What do you do to get a good night's sleep? What does your bedtime routine look like?

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P.S. Check out these 8 Ways to Simplify Your Life!