You're not a bitch if you're busy

My excuse for not having written here in over a month is that I was busy – busy in the typical having-many-responsibilities-to-fulfill sense, as opposed to the type of busy I would try to embody in order to appear more important than you. But this is not the case. What do you think I am, some kind of monster?

Busyness can translate into superiority. If you’re that busy, you must be some regal, untouchable being, as if any sort of disturbance will mess with your chakra and your holier-than-Thou stature. Another grand, sweeping statement for you: having actual free time to watch a season of Orange is the New Black, uninterrupted, means you are some type of good-for-nothing who needs to take on more projects at work. Right?

In truth, being so overwhelmingly busy that you don’t have the time to Snapchat me a photo of your new cat at least once a day can mean two things: you either have a) no interest in expanding your social circle to horizons broader than that which contain your cat (achoo!) or you have dismal time management skills, which is a setback in itself and probably my next blog post, but who knows. In fairness, I don’t have time to Snapchat you photos of my hypothetical cat either as I am asphyxiated by deadline-induced stress. True story.

Is busyness synonymous with importance? Let’s have a look. As a general rule, the corporate hierarchy suggests that interns are glamourized slaves (yup, I went there). Paid or not paid, they are often bombarded with tasks that their superiors don’t have time to do nor want to do (let’s be real here, not all internships live up to their “for educational purposes only” mandate. This is a reality. But as a wise man once said, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game”).

It’s not as though anyone has bestowed upon these interns the opportunity to make revolutionary decisions – instead they toil away and do what they are told and make a suggestion or two. While having someone take care of menial tasks is essential to the health of any organization, you’ll rarely see an associate bow down to an intern, unless of course their basic HTML skillz are 2 die 4. The higher-ups have generally already paid their dues and thus have a little more legroom. While interns are often some of the best-dressed in the office (it’s like going on a first date, but every day for 4 months!!!!) there’s something inherently blue collar and unsung-heroic about how busy they are.

My friends have been expressing resentment towards me as of late for being too busy to step away from my work. I admire them all, firstly, for being able to uphold sophisticated positions and secondly, for having the time to hit up happy hour on the regular with little to no fear of their work quality being compromised (and also for having really nice hair and nail beds, but that’s a given). I admire them for being able to turn off work mode. I admire them for being able to relax and give busyness the manicured middle finger.

How do you decompartmentalize? How do you remove yourself from something in which you’re so completely engrossed? I was following a major league baseball player on Twitter a few months ago, Jose Canseco, who said in order to attain balance, your life should fall into the pattern of 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of play. Talk about normcore and a sentiment to which I will never relate. Unfollow.

                                                                      Would you take life advice from this guy?

                                                                      Would you take life advice from this guy?

What if being busy is truly and organically a result of your work being synonymous with your play? Is it destructive to cut off momentum when your brain is transfixed by all the spelling errors you get to edit? Or are there proven therapeutic benefits to prematurely cutting your work time short in favour of this contrived idea of play? That last bit veered on the introvert vs. extrovert battle we all have going on internally, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Many people tell themselves that this year will finally be the year they remove parasitic people from their circles, otherwise those known as toxic, unstimulating or #basic (I’ve been reading awful memes in Earlybird filter on Instagram, so naturally I am on board with the common resolution). My friends embody none of these colloquialisms, but of course, sometimes it’s important to do you. If you care about someone to the moon and back yet they find a way to hinder your ~*~CrEaTiVe PrOcEsS~*~, you are not heartless nor are you psychotic for opting out of certain interactions. You are a human and you like creating things and creating solidifies your existence. We good now?

Being “busy” is an excuse you will tell that  guy on Tinder who can’t discern “your” from “you’re”. It doesn’t mean you’re better than him (cognitively, maybe) but that he just doesn’t fit into your self-defined equation of happiness in that moment. Being happy is letting yourself melt into your endeavour until the sun rises. If that’s in line with your definition as well, let’s live busy ever after. Because what’s worse than having nothing to do besides maybe death or running out of ink?

After all this banter on how busy I am, you’re probably wondering how I made the time to write this blog, or maybe you are also busy and that thought did not once cross your mind. The truth is that you just have to suck it up. We’ve all been allotted the same 24 hours, and I have faith that Darwin magically whittled our workloads down to a manageable scale so that we can Snapchat each other our hypothetical cats and call it a day.

Google and Ryan Gosling love you! (example of a non-SEO friendly headline)

I want to talk about SEO in a way that won’t gross out people who don’t care about SEO. For those unfamiliar with the acronym that has become as trendy as the shift from kale to cauliflower (PS: I do not endorse this. Cauliflower is the herpes of vegetables), it stands for search engine optimization. Media brands, be they blogs or multi-national corporations, are resorting to various algorithmic techniques to ensure their content wins the Number One Spot (the Ludacris song, obviously) on search engines, yielding more traffic, engagement, shares and sales. Side note: when you work in digital media long enough, you tend to forget that there is such a thing as traffic with cars.

Yesterday at the magazine, the staff was (sounds weird but it's a collective noun so we're good) invited to an SEO workshop. I don’t need to go to this, I thought. The best way to learn SEO is to JUST DO IT (brought to you by Nike) as a sort of trial-and-error-experiment. Wrong, Marissa! You did need to go to this!

One fascinating thing I learned is that yes, it means you are doing something right if your article ranks top 10 in a search request, but while the top result garners 53% of clicks, the 10th result garners, wait for it…wait for it… one meager depressing per cent of clicks. Imagine how much exposure the 30th or 50th or 100th search result get? Chew on that for a bit. 

Very fundamentally, it starts with a focus keyword. Let’s say nail art tips. Because really nothing is more important than nail art tips. You can’t just toss around “nail” or “art” or “nail tips” on their own throughout the article content, meta description, headline, page URL, heck, even the image file should be something like nail-art-tips.jpg!!!

My aim is not necessarily to demystify SEO as a practice, but to encourage you all to play around with various techniques and figure out what works for you, what makes sense in the context of your brand. The key, in many ways, is to play reverse psychology (or maybe just psychology, I don’t know, I’m not Freud, leave me alone) and envision what people will type into Google, and in what order they will phrase their search inquiry. How does the mind work? How do people want their information served? This includes embedding your post with relevant hyperlinks in an organic way and, the money tip, producing quality content.

When the lecturer was all like “quality content,” I was all like “Hold the phone, mister.” How do you measure quality content? Besides being some subjective evaluation, how do you create content that is holistically *good enough* for SEO?

He said the trick is to produce original content. This means that all of that syndicated crappola (excuse my French) that you read on blogs who regurgitate one another, are truly shooting themselves in the digital foot. The take away: Be fearless in the content you create. Be artists, visionaries and abstract thinkers whenever you can. Ironically, it's important to be creative in how UN-creative you get in terms of crafting SEO-friendly headlines. A pretty pun on a print page is a disaster in digital. Think in numbers, lists, how-to's. When a Google user wants to get rid of a cold, they don't have time to type in "Sucker punch those sniffles in the face!" but, quite plainly and banally, "Get rid of a cold fast."

There is a plethora of replicated garbage out there and not enough room for it in search engine rankings and in our brains. I get that it’s financially savvy to run stories from a newswire, but the return on investment of producing a fresh angle on an old story is invaluable to your brand and to readers. Or, you could just save a ton and get your intern to write it. But don’t worry, because that intern will one day be successful and enterprising and all that fun stuff. See? It’s all about ROI. Wink.

Pretty much, if your crush isn’t noticing you, it is because you are not SEO-friendly enough and you’re just ranking low on search engines and you should probably paint more relevant keywords all over your skin. Feel me? 

The trick now is to implement SEO best practices into this SEO blog post. How’s that for meta?

gosling-seo.jpg

Sprinting, running and getting it done

Let’s play a game of Would You Rather.

Yes?

Okay.

Would you rather spend a month doing passive leg workouts with minimal resistance and range of motion because that’s all your hotel room and schedule could afford, or abandon your blog like a lost child in the abyss of a Target store only to find it weeping and begging for your attention, all sad, yanking at your pant leg with metaphorical mascara running down its eyes?

Neither of these! (Spoiler alert: I just played a round of Would You Rather with myself. Separate issue, separate post.)

I get it. These are all major #firstworldproblems, but there is something about losing momentum that is so eerily debilitating. In many cases, stepping away from a mentally exhausting project or creative endeavor can help you breathe new life into something once you revisit it, but in my case, the opposite tends to usually ring true.

I like to think of the types of momentum I experience in my life as mental inertia. Whether it’s torturing myself at the gym six days a week to sneak in a full-body workout (trust me, it feels so good) or vowing to complete a feature in under two days, time off removes me mentally and physically from my work to the point where it feels like a foreign entity to me. Fear of the unknown, or rather the forgotten, sets me back. 

Trainers always tell me to take rest days. I don’t refrain from taking them because I’m particularly maniacal about working out (white lie #1), but because the comfort in doing something one day and then again the next at the same time creates structure and flow in a transitory world. The same goes for writing. I looked at this blog thing after a month of not touching it like it had 12 hands and googly eyes. Who are you? Why are you looking at me like that? You’re making me uncomfortable. Stop it, I said to this blog.

But of course, there are exceptions to every rule. My friend called me yesterday, lets call him David to protect the innocent (his real name is also David), to ask me how I developed my strong work ethic. I told him two things. A strong work ethic is really nothing to admire. If you are a human being you will naturally be so passionate about something, at least one thing, that there is really nothing you’d rather spend your time doing.

The second thing I told him is that it’s important to get invested in multiple projects at once so that you don’t feel suffocated by one in particular. Like interval training, sometimes it’s more effective to imbue short bursts of energy into a certain project than to test your endurance, yield lackluster results, and come out drained and hating yourself and the thing that you once loved, on the verge of murdering an innocent bystander for the nearest Gatorade. 

David has so many ideas that he often isn’t sure where to start, and I think that if he were to spread his little videojournalism wings (am I giving away too much info? Were we off the record?) he would view each of his projects with a newfound sense of excitement and maybe even first-date butterflies.

That’s all I have to say about momentum for now. Some people are sprinters and some are marathon runners. Where do you fall?

 

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