I can't quite believe that it's been 8 years since I set up my blog. While my blog is definitely not in the same place as when I started, every year it's taught me something new and has become a lovely little part of my life. I shared not too long ago why it is I still blog and I thought I'd follow on from that and share some lessons that my blog has taught me - not just about blogging but about myself as well. 

1. Not everyone will understand, but that's OK! 

I remember sharing a post years ago "Yes, I have a blog". It was when I was still in school, my blog was still very much my own space. As a few people started to discover it, it became hard to really hide it and I didn't really want to anymore - I wanted to tell people! 

There were definitely some people who didn't get it (some of which later have messaged me to ask for help with their own social media), some that were just curious ("so are you, like, Zoella?"), some who just didn't care and those who embraced it and I grew to be fine with all of this! There are still times where my little hobby is the wrong end of a joke but I laugh it off and carry on as I always have. I also think part of it has been growing up and being in a space where it's quite normal to do what I do and I'm happy to be open about my blog. 

2. Writing, SEO, marketing and more! 

I'm yet to really share I whole post about this but I very much believe that I wouldn't be in the position I am now, professionally, without my blog. From blogging to writing articles for others to writing freelance articles to landing my internship and onto my full-time role of SEO exec, my blog has given my opportunities and experience that has allowed me to work in marketing like I always wanted. 

It's taught me so many skills that my degree did not and that even a marketing degree couldn't have given me. I'm so happy I've carried on bloggers for 8 years as it's become like an online portfolio of not just my writing and a place I can almost showcase myself!

3. The best inspiration comes from those around you

This kind of draws on something from #1. Now more than ever, I'm surrounded by people who not only just get me but also inspire me and a lot of the time, without even knowing it! Whether it's seeing them starting up their own side hustle, having conversations that spark an idea or letting me share ideas for feedback. I have some truly fantastic friends and people that are definitely one of the biggest sources of inspiration for what I've created. So, if you're reading this - thank you!! 

4. There are people just like you

Whether it's people going through similar things, having the same difficulties, there's always going to be someone out there that can relate. The blogging community on Twitter and now Instagram was a blessing to discover. For supplying inspiration but having people who understand blogging problems. A lack of inspiration, motivation, perhaps a technical issue. The blogging community has definitely had it's low moments but there's a great community to support you and chat to whenever you need. 

5. Find time for things you love

Not only just finding time to blog but this expands to other hobbies as well. Finding time to do what makes you happen can offer even more inspiration but really it gives you a break to do something else in between other commitments. Blogging gave me an outlet away from studying and something completely different to focus on and I was so glad I had that to step away from the stress and do something I enjoy each week. 

6. It's not all about the money

To be completely honest, there was definitely a point where I did care too much about the money that blogging gave me. It was when I was lacking focus, motivation to be creative and I just wanted some form of positive reinforcement to keep me sharing posts. After there being a point where I was getting regular sponsored posts, when that dwindled out I actually didn't mind in the end. The pressure of needing money had gone with my job and it allowed me to find my creativity again and let it flourish! That dry-spell of sponsorships really put into perspective why I personally still blog and what I wanted out of it and, for me right now, it's not the money. 

7. Take breaks is a good thing

I can't stress this one enough! I always felt guilty during uni when I did have to prioritise my studies and also my part-time job at the time but, looking back at it, not pressuring myself allowed me to produce content that I only really wanted to. It let me take a step back, think of new ideas and come back to it with a fresh head of ideas. My breaks have never been intentional. It's usually I have too much going on and something has to give and it's usually this. I've learnt that that's okay and actually the best thing for myself and my blog. 

8. You really don't need a niche

I remember back around 2015 when I was posting more regularly, every post someone shared around starting a blog, how to get rich from blogging, blogging tips you must follow all said the same thing - "find your niche" and it's probably the biggest piece of advice I disagree with. While yes, it offers you focus, it gives you a place in the blogosphere, is it really what you want your blog to me. Take me for example, I want to blog about books, productivity, self-care, sometimes fashion and beauty - where does that sit? Lifestyle is usually the answer and I go with that but I don't let that stop me sharing any of the content I do. 

My main piece of advice is if you don't want to stick to one niche forever, then don't feel you have to, to have a voice in this space. Just be you! 

I'd love to hear what you think of these. 
Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x 

When I had the idea to write this post, for the first time ever I'm thankful that I'm not someone who manages to read 100 books in a year because this would be a very long post! I've also never been a liberal 5-star giver, saving the top score for this life-altering reads but this year I realised how stupid that is. A book doesn't have to be life-changing to deserve the 5 stars. This year I've read some really great books and while not all of them were life-changing, it would be wrong to not shout about how their beautifully written, amazing reads that I will be recommending to everyone I know. 

If you're looking to 2021 and starting to put together your TBR, if you haven't read any of these I definitely urge you to add them to next year's TBR. So without further ado, enjoy this post of my 5-star reviews of my favourite books of the year! 

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa is a 2020 fave for so many people and it's easy to see why. This debut novel from Kate Elizabeth Russell is a hard read and it sure leaves a lasting impression. A truly interesting and worthy read. I recommended this one for people who also loved Normal People

We follow the stories of Vanessa in 2000 - a bright student who becomes entangled with her English teacher - and Vanessa in 2017 at a time where allegations of powerful men taking advantage of women are all over the news. We see Vanessa toying with the facts and questioning her relationship with her professor. Such heavy topics tackled in a way that is so unique and so rememberable. 

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge

2020 has been an educational year for many and the Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront of many people's minds. This was the most informative and necessary book I read this year. While many like to believe racism doesn't exist in the UK or that "it isn't as bad as the US", this book shed light on those who believe this and how wrong they are. It explores the ongoing racism that goes beyond race and looks further at the role of gender. This gave me an introduction to black feminism that I've been wanting to read ever since my sociology lessons at college skipped over this strong of feminism and I'm ready to learn even more in 2021 on this topic. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

What a beautiful, emotional and just all-round great YA read. Felix Love is a teen living in New York, fully aware of the irony in his name when he says he has never been in love. When Felix receives anonymous transphobic comments from a fellow student, Felix sets out on a mission to find out who it is and in doing so, ends up in a complicated love triangle. 

This is a book exploring identity, self-discovery and acceptance. Such a lovely read that I recommend anyone to pick up.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

This was an unexpected favourite that I picked up on a bit of a whim earlier this year. Historical fiction is definitely not an area I thought I would enjoy but I was happily mistaken with this one! 2 stories intertwined over time - the story of Odelle, a newly appointed typist for Marjorie Quick at Skelton Gallery. The other is the story of Olivia Schloss, the daughter of a famous art dealer, and her relationship with Isaac Robles and Teresa who become part of the Schloss family. When a mysterious painting arrives for Quick in 1967, it's the story of Olivia that starts to piece together the secret history of the painting. 

I loved Jessie Burton's writing style and how these stories interweave. This was probably my most shocking 5-star of the year!

If you’re a Pisces, this book might just be for you! Check out a book recommendation based on your zodiac sign.

Heart Stopper Vol.1 by Alice Oseman

Such a sweet, heart-warming graphic novel! Charlie is a shy student and Nick is a friendly, rugby player. They both attend the same all-boys grammar school but it's not until they are put in the same tutor group that their friendship blossoms, or is it something more? 

This whole series of graphic novels is so adorable and this is such a comforting graphic novel. If you're looking for a graphic novel to up in 2021, I suggest starting with this one! 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Last but certainly not least is my final 5 star of the year. This is another one that really pushed me out of my reading comfort zone but after reading the synopsis I was very intrigued and I ended up loving it! 

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for a door he doesn't know he's looking for. After picking up a random, unknown book in his college library which strangely tells him a story from his own childhood, it sets him on a path that he could never have thought possible. 

Erin Morgenstern is a story-telling genius. She not only tells us one story within this novel but it has so many layers! Beautifully written, so intriguing and so worth the read. It sounds vague but this is a book-lovers dream and I assume if you're reading this then that's probably the case - aha! This is definitely one to read if you haven't already and is a fantastic winter read. It has definitely opened my eyes to new genres I wouldn't have thought I would be reading heading into next year. 

And that's it! 6 5 star reads of 2020. I've read so many fantastic books this year, I can't wait to see what stories I'll discover in 2021. 

What was your favourite book of 2020 (if you can choose!)? Any I should add to my TBR for 2021? 
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

There is no doubt that this year has been tough and this winter will be like no other we’ve had before. This year has been challenging for many reasons but taking some time to celebrate and support your friends and family is one way we can try and stay positive this winter. Here are just some ways you can do this.

Support small and local businesses

Businesses have truly been hit by this year’s events as well as more people relying on their side hustle to bring in an income. It’s the perfect time to shop small - whether it’s a family friend or someone you’ve just seen online, why not buy your presents from them this year? Buy your Christmas cards from an Etsy seller, had an IG account bookmarked that you've been meaning to buy from? Now is the time! 

This year has hit everyone so if aren't able to buy their products, even just liking their posts and photos on social media, sharing their site with friends, they will truly appreciate it this year more than ever.

Extend your Christmas card list this year

Whether they are a close friend, an old friend, someone you’ve lost touch with, I’m sure they will appreciate the card to let them know you’re thinking of them - I know they will love this. If you’re not usually one to send cards, maybe this year is the year!

Keep on zooming! 

It can be exhausting and it can get old but winter opens up a whole host of new things you can do on zoom! Stream a festive film together, host a Christmas quiz, play an online game together (Pictionary is a fab one!). It's a great way to keep in contact and for those who live alone, they will be thankful that you took the time to chat.

Be charitable and help the vulnerable

Buy your wrapping paper from a charity (Oxfam are always great for cards, paper and even more!) donate to Crisis to buy a Christmas dinner to the homeless, donate items for Christmas presents or donate food to your local food bank. These small acts will be making someone’s year!

I'm actually hosting a fundraiser in support of Macmillan Cancer Support at the moment. If you have a spare pound or two, I would love your support! I have some fun things you can buy for your donation as well. Head to my JustGiving page for more details. 

Be kind to yourself! 

Don't pressure yourself to do too much, take things slow, do what you enjoy and remember to take time for yourself. Whether it's watching your favourite film, going for a walk or having those extra few hours in bed, make sure you're looking after yourself!

Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

 *AD - gifted/PR Sample. This post contains items sent from Mäl Paper, however, all opinions remain my own* 

As we pass through one year into another at a sped that I could never imagine (like seriously, where has this year gone?), it's time to start looking towards next year. It's that time of year where we start to set new year's resolutions, goals for the next 12 months and it's easy to get swept up in wanting to start a brand new year tackling all the goals at once. But, this can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and actually demotivated. Today, I thought I'd share some times on how to set effective and attainable goals for the next year! 

Break it down

If you have some big goals for the year, amazing! How can you break them down into manageable chunks? How can you split yours into simple tasks instead of trying to do everything all at once? Split that yearly goal up into monthly goals, even weekly and daily tasks that you can tick off. They may be small steps but slowly but surely you'll be working towards your end goal. 

Factor in the 'BAU'

BAU, the 'Business as Usual', can be easy to forget but the everyday tasks that take time away from your projects but need to be done. Don't forget about these! as you plan your week, add these in where possible. If they have set times, add them into your calendar first, next add an allotted time to tackle the other must-do items. Now, split out the rest of your time; add a note for your daily and weekly goals to help you reach the end goal. 

Know your limits

I've definitely been caught by this! It's easy to get wrapped up in the amazing idea and want to complete a project ASAP but mahoosive thing called life tends to get in the way. It can put a few blockers in the way to give you time to focus. What's important is when you do have the time to focus on your goals, that you still have to breath and reset - you don't need to be working on something 24/7 to make it a reality. 

Review your goals

It's normal to set yourself a goal at the start of the year, only for your priorities to shift once or twice throughout the next 12 months. Whether you're not progressing the way you envision, or your plan has changed - that's completely fine! The good time about setting your own goals is that they are your own goals. You can change them, adapt them, completely scrap them if that's what you feel is right. 

Even if you're on track to reach your goals, keeping track and reviewing your progress a few times over the year gives you a chance to take a step back, see the great things you've accomplished as well as adjust things, when you think it is necessary. Celebrate the progress you've made however small! 

Goal setting with Mäl Paper
Mäl Paper is made for the goal-getters, the planners, the organisers. The do goal setting right! From monthly spreads to daily breakdowns, their daily goal setter journal helps you plan the day-to-day the right way. 

I love that their planner includes a section to add your most important task each month followed by those of secondary importance - I haven't seen this in a planner before and it's a fab feature! 

The daily goal setter planner does more than just help you work towards your goals. The day-to-day spreads have room for you do reflect on your day - add positive affirmations, write what you're grateful for, add one thing each day that made your day great. 

It's such a lovely planner and definitely one to give a go in 2021. You can pick up their undated goal-setter planner over at malpaper.com.

How do you set your goals? 
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x