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4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

Random Giant Hammer (and Good Dog) by Steph L..

    Photo by Steph L.

    Tools. We all have ’em. We all use ’em — or at least try to. It’s one thing to read a glossy list of “44 hot WordPress plugins!” or “25 ways to look for stock photos”, another thing to actually try them all. The best tools are delved into very deeply, and like Thor and his hammer, can at times be inseparable from their wielders. I’ve personally skimmed through 1,000s of tools over the years and regularly use a few dozen.

    But let’s focus further: what if you want to blog about inspirational, motivational, life-bettering stuff — like here on Lifehack? Over the past stretch of weeks, I’ve been refining what I use to craft my posts. Here’s my exceptional faves — only the best of the best — and I’ll share why they work for me. No offhand, brief mentions of “maybe you should try it out…”, just strong votes of confidence from firsthand experience.

    1. Compfight – Find heart-warming pictures faster

    Ah, ’tis a cliche to see radiant suns, wide-eyed babes (of both sorts), cute animals, and compulsory nature scenes preceding an inspirational post. But it isn’t without merit. Many of these pictures are sourced from Flickr’s wealth of Creative Commons-licensable material. What does that often mean? Great imagery for free as long as you provide proper attribution.

    I use Compfight. Why bother, since Flickr has a built-in search? Like the essence of many a “get it done” article, beauty in simplicity. Compfight is minimalist, lean, and search queries are more plentiful-per-page and easier to sort through than Flickr’s own search. As a result, I — and you — can easily click through a great image, drag-and-drop it into your blog editor (most support this), and with proper credit included, enhance your post in seconds.

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    Such as this match for “cat sun baby”, which isn’t quite what I had in mind, but would work well for one of those “How to deal with stress”-type posts:

    Joy Harjo Project with Poem by ittybittiesforyou.

      Photo by ittybittiesforyou

      One downside: Compfight doesn’t save search settings as reliably as I’d like. I asked Ryan (one of the creators) and he said it should, but I keep having to set the options.

      2. Windows Live Writer – Blog better

      That’s really at the core of WLW, you see. Maybe I should’ve posted this first because you can’t blog without a blog editor. Sure, there’s built-in stuff like the TinyMCE-based editor that WordPress uses, and many blog clients/platforms abound. What’s such a big win for WLW? It’s not singular, but I can think of several reasons why it comes ahead, which I’ve written about at length before. To sum up and save you time without bullet points:

      It’s free. It can use your blog’s style. Auto-links save you time. Rich media (videos!) is easy to embed without mangling code. Plug-ins add what you want but don’t have yet.

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      And surprisingly personal support for a Microsoft product — there’s a dev named Joe Cheng who frequently answers questions on the WLW board. He doesn’t seem to be as active recently, but he definitely helped solve some of my problems, enabling me to enjoy WLW more. A fine example of where incidental customer service has resulted in me singing praises many times over.

      Yes, I wish WLW were for Mac too. Yup, it’d benefit from custom fields support. Aye, I wish more blog themes (esp. some video-centric and magazine-format ones) were supported correctly. But WLW is one of those tools that, if it works for you, it works extremely well. And you don’t have to think about it — like they say about great software, it doesn’t get in your way. It lets you get your way. :)

      3. QuotationsBook – Notable quotables indeed

      Need some wisdom of the ages to prop you up? Support a point you’re making? Provide some much-wanted levity? Sound sage by referring to the old masters; there’s quotes all over the Internet and you just need to find them. QuotationsBook makes this very easy with a friendly interface. You can clip-and-save quotes for later retrieval, should you be dry for ideas.

      For example, a casual search for “inspiration” turns up this gem:

      “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” -Frank Tibolt

      Also, while it’s not as elegantly-designed or eminently searchable, WikiQuote is popular with many. There are copious quote-sites on the web, and my point is: get at least 1 fave and keep it close, so you can refer to wise words in seconds as needed. (Just don’t take them out of context.)

      4. popurls – Keep your imagination tank full

      There’s no shortage of inspiration on the Internet — that’s part of what’s so daunting, finding focus amidst the many to create your unique take. popurls is one of the original single-page aggregators, and among the best designed: it does many things well, mostly highlighting notable headlines from many top social media sites (including visual content blocks for Flickr, YouTube, and others), enabling you to rapidly scan for stories to pick up on. Many of them are, of course, related to life improvement.

      popurls will help you discover favorite new feeds to subscribe to, get early dibs on Internet memes spreading like wildfire, and keep you entertained. What’s more, it’s got a fair degree of customization, and if you login, you’ll see Recommended stories for your tastes — it doesn’t work exceptionally well yet, but it’s promising.

      I surf popurls daily so I’m both well-informed and laughing a lot. If that isn’t inspiration in itself, I don’t know what is.

      What are your essential inspirational tools?

      Before we close today, here is a gratuitous picture of a girl wearing rainbow arm-socks and her cat. It’s the one opportunity I’ll have to do such a thing:

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        Photo by Hayley_Bouchard

        Was that purely devoid of meaning? Not quite. It generated an emotional reaction, didn’t it? Which brings me to this:

        As obvious as water is wet, each of us has our own style. But there are many shared tastes, and being a passionate advocate for the tools we hold dear — as I do for the above — can benefit others greatly, appropriately inspiring your fellow lifehack devotees in the process.

        If you haven’t heard of some or all of the above and I’ve introduced you to something new which is useful + fun, bravo! If you know all the names but haven’t tried them, I encourage you to — and I only say this from personal experience. My general philosophy with tools is to go through as many as you’re interested in, and the ones which are truly useful will stick with you in the long-term.

        Let me know what your inspiration indispensables are in da comments!

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        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        No!

        It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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        But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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        What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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        But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

        1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
        2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
        3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
        4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
        5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
        6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
        7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
        8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
        9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
        10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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