What’s it that you do, Jules?

Recently, conversations with strangers or old friends go this way …

“What do you do?”
“I am a blogger.”
“Hmm… Ok. What do you blog about?”
“The crazy things people do to their IKEA furniture.”
He/She stares at me blankly for a moment. “Oh, my aunt has a blog about her cats …”

Not that I have anything against blogs about cats but I get the feeling that friends and family find it hard fathom what I do. They understand usual occupation labels like “accountant”, “sales manager” … even my previous incarnation “copywriter”. (Oh, you must be so creative!) But blogger? (They nod and maybe secretly think I should get a real job.)

Then, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “What do you do every day?” or “You must be so free?”

On one hand, yes, I do have better control of my time, compared to my crazy no-sleep-full-on advertising agency days. But no, I am not twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do next.

So let me invite you to spend a day with me. My days may vary from day to day, some days with more out-of-home-office time but the structure remains. I like structure. It gives me room to build upon.

The best part of my day is I don’t wake up to an alarm clock. I mean I have an alarm clock but I don’t set it unless I need to wake up early to catch a flight or an appointment. On most days, I wake up when I wake up. (And I am not a chirpy morning person. So please don’t call me and say “Gooood Moooorrrrning!!!” Don’t. Do. That.)

I believe in breakfast but I also believe it should be quick. On my go-to breakfast menu are 2 – 3 soft boiled eggs with a side salad of diced cucumbers or tomatoes sprinkled with salt and extra virgin olive oil. It is nutrient dense and hassle free. Here’s what I do: I place 2 eggs in a stainless steel pot, with water just enough to cover the eggs. The pot goes on top of the stove and while it is waiting to boil, I turn my attention to the most important morning ritual – my coffee! It’s a delightful thing which cheers up most of my mornings – preparing my espresso with my Bialetti Moka Pot. When the water in the pot of eggs boil, I remove the pot from the stove (but leave the eggs in the hot water) and place the Moka Pot on the stove. When my Moka Pot finishes its happy gurgle, my feels-almost-like-Italy-coffee is done and so are the eggs – perfectly soft boiled. Beautifully timed to go together.

While I eat brekkie, I read (and listen) to my Bible on my iPad. Today, I read Ephesians 1 – 3.

Then I start work. It usually begins with my Most Important Task (MIT) – the No. 1 thing(s) that I want to accomplish for the day. This is a principle I learnt from Leo of Zenhabits. Big rocks first and then the little pebbles. I don’t have a lot of MITs – usually just one or two that I prioritize for the day. Too many can be distracting, overwhelming or defeating. Today my MITs are to provide my designer with temporary logins so that he can get on with some design tweaks and secondly, finish this post.

I block out an hour or two for MIT sessions, depending on the complexity of the tasks. Today will probably take two hours or more because content creation takes time.

Photo: StephenMitchell 

After I am done with the MITs, I turn my attention to what I call my “Dailies”. On my browser bookmark bar, I have a folder named “Daily” because I need to use these sites everyday. They include my emails (personal and for IKEAhackers), my Adsense account, my website IKEAHackers.net, my WordPress admin, my Google Analytics and my Google Calendar. I open all bookmarks on my browser, crack my knuckles and dive into it. I process my email, moderate comments, check my numbers on Analytics for sudden spikes or drops (and try to figure out why), check my calendar, schedule to do’s and appointments as needed.

Usually emails are the one that occupy the bulk of my time. Today, a reporter sent me a list of questions for an interview, another blogger emailed me on possible collaborations, some readers check in on the latest on the IKEA trademark dispute with me. I also subscribe to Google Alerts on all IKEA related news. With the volume of mail I get it does take me all the way to lunch to process them down.

Fortunately one thing I have learnt from my advertising days is that I should never put work before food. Terrible things happen if I skip meals. Angry makes up half of hungry. I am not a terrific cook but an efficient one. I made Chicken Cacciatore and a big ass salad in 30 minutes. If I feel lazy, I walk out to a cafe nearby for lunch.

Photo: Tony Horton workout mantra

With lunch firmly in the tummy, I brew another cup of coffee and get down to posting on IKEAhackers. I review the hacks that have come in and select suitable ones. For some posts I do photo resizing and editing. Another one had some photos missing, so I emailed the hacker. For all, I check for typos, grammar errors (as much as I can) and clarity. I schedule posts to appear automatically on my blog. Whenever I can, I try to bulk process and complete posts for two days or more. When the posts are done, I move on to IKEAhackers’ social media – comments and messages from Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Social media is something I am still grappling with, especially on how to maximise these channels to engage with my audience. Lots to learn.

It is close to 4pm now and my work day is almost done. Time to hit the gym! A workout feels good after sitting on my rear end the better part of the day. (Note to self: I should hack a standing desk.)

After my workout, I am all ready for dinner. I’d be meeting up with a friend for a meal and a movie – my default method to unwind.

If I don’t have plans for the evening, I do have the bad habit of continuing to do work/blog related things – like reading up on how to use Instagram for blogs (do we need one?) or looking for WP plugins that can serve the site better or learning new stuff from Darren at Problogger.

There is no end to what I can do on a daily basis as a blogger. I have a running list of things I have yet to start on – like a reader’s survey, an ebook (this is coming along), ideas for future site expansion (videos? designer content?). And there are always things to test and tweak for better engagement, more traffic, higher page rank, SEO etc … you get the idea.

By 1.00 am, I collapse on my SULTAN bed.W

Till tomorrow,

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  1. my lord you cook a lot! very healthy 🙂 – I could never be bothered! – I hope all goes really well with ikea hackers 🙂 – I did have a thought for something I would like to see on your ikea hackers – it would be great to have a star ratings or thumbs up system to award some of the very clever hackers that post to your site

  2. I do try to eat healthy but I don't always make it. Thanks for your suggestion, Helsyd. Will see how I can implement that on the site.

  3. Try telling people that you are a journalist instead. It might be easier for people to grasp what a journalist for a web-based magazine does.

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