Jules Yap at IKEA Cheras, Malaysia

What’s it that you do, Jules?

Recently, conversations with strangers or old friends went 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 to 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 the one hand, yes, I have better control of my time than in my crazy, no-sleep-full-on advertising agency days. But no, I am not twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do next.

A Day with Jules Yap

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. My go-to breakfast menu is a soft-boiled egg with a salad of diced cucumbers or tomatoes sprinkled with salt and extra virgin olive oil. It’s nutrient-dense and hassle-free.

My go-to breakfast

Photo Credit: Jules Yap

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 that cheers up most of my mornings – preparing my espresso with my Bialetti Moka Pot.

When the water in the pot of eggs boils, 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.

Start with Most-Important-Tasks

Photo: Stephen Mitchell 

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 learned 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 he can get on with some design tweaks and 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.

After I am done with the MITs, I turn my attention to what I call my “Dailies”. I have a folder named “Daily” on my browser bookmark bar because I need to use these sites every day. 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.

Process Inbox to Zero

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, and schedule to-do’s and appointments as needed.

Usually, emails are the ones that occupy the bulk of my time. Today, a reporter sent me a list of questions for an interview, another blogger emailed me possible collaborations, and some readers checked 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 takes me all the way to lunch to process them.

Let’s do lunch

Photo: Tony Horton workout mantra. 

Fortunately, I have learned from my advertising days 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 I am 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.

With lunch firmly in my 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. I check for typos, grammar errors (as much as I can), and clarity.

Schedule Ahead

I schedule posts to appear automatically on my blog. I try to bulk process and complete posts for two days or more whenever I can. When the posts are done, I move on to IKEAhackers’ social media – comments and messages from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Social media is something I am still grappling with, especially on how to maximize these channels to engage with my audience. Lots to learn.

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

Evening plans

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 have the bad habit of continuing to do work/blog-related things – like reading up on SEO for blogs or looking for WP plugins to serve the site better.

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), and 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.

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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