Welcome to part two of Coming Out of Lockdown: Lessons Learned. I’ve been discussing some of the things that I’ve been learning and practicing during this lockdown period that I will be carrying forward for when, or if, we get back to something resembling normality. I’ve also started a weekly newsletter The Grappler’s Weekly Weigh In in which I discuss what I’ve been finding useful and interesting during the week. Included also are links to any content that I’ve been putting out.
The two areas discussed on the blog this week are blogging and meditation.
I write everyday in my diaries and I make notes on most things that I read that are of interest, more on note taking on the next post. I find writing brilliant for clarity of vision and also for conversation, the latter, something I found difficult when I was younger. I had restarted my blog last year to document the Olympic qualification period, travelling around the world to various tournaments and training camps. I find with blogging that if I can get a few reserve posts done then it is a massive help. I aim to post ideally once per week, fortnightly at most. Some weeks when a lot is going on that can be hard, if I have a post already done then it makes life a lot easier. That’s not to say that I want that to happen often, the blogs that I like to read I prefer to be largely current, I’d like mine to be the same. This water post was one that I was holding in reserve.
Below are a couple of the books that helped me think about how and why to persist with blogging and also what content to aim for:
Very good for setting clear rules and boundaries. Helped me with planning; carving out time to write, the idea of having posts in reserve.
This is such a brilliant book. In regards to blogging and writing this helped me think about where to write, how much time to allow myself, breaks to stimulate the creative side of the mind, the connections that can be made through writing, the positive impact of writing on the personal life.
This book was a game changer for me in so many ways.
A friend of mine, Julian, very kindly gave me a voucher for the New Skills Academy website a couple of months back. They have a wide range of courses on there for a reasonable price. I chose to do a course specifically on blogging. It was brilliant! So, so informative. No deadline to finish, courses to be completed at my own leisure. I did a module (roughly 60 mins) most mornings until completion. Thanks again Julian. Here are some of the key notes that I took from the course:
Evergreen topics- subjects a lot of people are interested in
Health and fitness
Dating and relationships
Your main niche (Judo for me)
How to come up with post ideas
Find out what is current with your audience and any problems they may be facing- lockdown closing down Judo and BJJ clubs for example
Think of all your interests that relate to each other, you’ll be surprised how many there are and how they all can connect, some of mine for example: Judo, BJJ, MMA, boxing, nutrition, strength & conditioning, psychology, philosophy, clothing, history, music, tattoos, spirituality, business, comedy etc.
I find when I write those things down I don’t feel like my mind is blank, I actually have plenty to go at.
Find a quotation that you like and build from there.
E.G: “When we are tired we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago”- Nietzsche
For example I could write about the things in my personal life that I may be trying to change but that if I let myself get tired then my default decision will nearly always be to go back into those old ways. I could then continue to talk about the importance of sleep and some of the science behind it, following up with psychological evidence of sleep patterns of people that experience mental health issues.
Title, title, title!
We live in a world where we are bombarded with information at every turn. With an abundance of articles online why is anyone going to read mine? The title is main reason that the post will be opened or not, particularly if I am just starting out or wanting to attract new readers. Titles need to be catchy but also informative. Below is an example of where I got it wrong regarding choice of title for a post about a memory from fighting at the Commonwealth Games:
A Full English…In Scotland
I suppose I always tried to be a bit too artsy with my titles. The information on the course helped me with this. The article is about me and my friend both winning gold at the Commonwealth Games, something a bit more out of the ordinary than a breakfast, yet I chose to title it on a breakfast. Although a fry up is a feature in the post would I, as a reader, read a post about a breaky? Probably not. If I want an artsy, not too clear title then I should include an explanatory subtitle, or, use a colon and add it into the main title. I changed the post’s title to:
I regard that article as one of my best so far yet, I probably lost a fair amount of readers due to a poor title, I shan’t purposely make that same error again.
Listen to feedback
Essentially I have to put myself in the readers shoes, I read blogs myself so that isn’t too difficult. I think of someone whose articles I like and ask myself why I like their work. Using those ideas I then think why someone may want to read my blog, Judo being my main niche. Blogging is a cathartic exercise for me and I enjoy it however, if I want to connect with people, I have to make it interesting, informative and somewhat relative to my niche. Listening to what other people say and reading the comments is a great way to gage whether people are connecting to the work.
Make use of images and other media
Images make posts more personal and attractive
Photos and videos break up big blocks of text nicely
Images make posts more trustworthy, if I can see the product that you are talking about it helps affirm to me what you are saying about it
A picture is worth a thousand words- keeps posts shorter, readers more likely to finish reading them
Don’t worry, this isn’t the bit where I talk about eating only kale, walking barefoot up a mountain and sitting cross legged under a tree for 3 hours! If you’ve not tried it though, I couldn’t recommend giving meditation a go more. I am still very much a novice. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to sit completely still and only concentrate on my breathing. It’s only through trying meditation that I realise just how much my thoughts can be all over the place! To quote the comedian Frankie Boyle “your thoughts are never in one place. Be honest. My thoughts are with the family…and also wondering if I can fit a folded up flip-flop into my mouth!”
I started with doing the beginners course on the Headspace app which was very helpful. Now I just try to do 3 minutes unguided most days. I tried to do it for longer, but personally when I was trying to do it for 10 mins I found it pretty easy to just sack it off altogether. Again, I’m still very new to it, only really making somewhat of a habit of it through lockdown. Things may change. Below is what I’ve been doing so far, made up of what I learnt on the Headspace app and recommendations from friends:
Sit upright on a chair
Feel the floor under my feet, the air at the top of my spinal chord
Relax and feel the weight of the different parts of my body, let the body go heavy
Breath only through the nose to warm the breath- aids relaxation
Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds
Close the eyes
Focus on the point of the body where the rise and fall of the breath occurs- top of the stomach for me
Any thoughts that enter the mind just cast them aside and just focus on the point of the body where the rise and fall of the breath occurs
Don’t be frustrated if thoughts do enter the mind, I try and see myself as an indifferent observer, almost as if I am getting the chance to look inside someone else’s head and clear it out
For a long time I didn’t give meditation a real consideration because I thought it was very a phase like hippy-ish or treehugger-ry thing but, at the same time, I didn’t have a problem with modern psychological relaxation techniques! Which was a bit ignorant of me. I feel calmer when I meditate regularly and I definitely feel like I have more clarity in my thoughts and decision making. I’ll certainly be continuing with it.
With the introduction of our Grapparel line we are giving away 3 t-shirts. Simply follow @kosmos_ltd on one of our social media accounts and share one of the competition posts. Winners will be announced on Sunday 12th July.
Have a great week all. Next Thursday shall see the third and final part of Coming Out of Lockdown: Lessons Learned where I’ll talk about the improvements I’ve been making with technology addiction and note taking.