Seven Steps to Goal Setting Mastery

You’ve probably set loads of goals in your life before, and, with January coming up fast, you’ll probably set even more of them. But how do you set goals that last longer than the time it takes to write them down? There are a number of steps you can take to give those goals some staying power. If you want to master goal setting, that takes a little more time and thought.

Set your goals to become a goal setting master

Of course, you need to have goals before you can become a goal setting master. So you can start with a big brush and write out some notes before really buckling down. For instance, do you want to improve your health? Write it down! Want to improve your wealth or start a budget? Write that down, too. I’ve written about stretch goals before–you might like the article.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. model

Ensure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. In this MindTools article on SMART goals, the S in Specific is achieved by using similar tools to those a journalist would use. That is: what, why, who, where, and which. So in the second step, make your goals more specific! What do you want to improve about your health? Do you want to lose weight? That’s one of the most popular and common goals for New Years Resolutions.

Make sure you can measure your goal

Don’t just say you’d like to lose “some weight.” Surely you have a number in mind. You can start with a small number and work in increments, too. For instance, how about five pounds? When you reach five pounds, you can reassess. Or maybe that’s all you need to lose, in which case you’re done!

Is your goal realistic?

If you want to become the world champion heavyweight boxer or enter the next Olympics, is that even a possibility? Sure, it’s great to be ambitious, but even the most ambitious person has realistic goals. Again, dividing your long-term goal into short-term steps can really help here.

Timely goals are important

If you don’t give yourself a deadline to get those goals finished, there’s probably no point in having goals! Otherwise, you might be looking at decades before getting your goals done. That’s if they get done at all!

Say them, print them, post them all over

That’s right–you need to make your goals into something you can repeat, like a mantra every day. This is where it helps to have just a couple of goals and not twenty or thirty of them! So print them–on your printer or by hand is even better, and then put them up. How about on your refrigerator door?

Look at your goals every day!

Sometimes I fall down on this one. In the past, I’ve put my goal list into a folder on my desk so I can see them every day. Or, make a shorter list and look at them while brushing your teeth. Whatever you every day, make sure you can see your goals and you can really cement them into your brain.

 

 

 

What to Do When Writer’s Block Has Got You Down!

We’ve all had those times when we really feel like there’s nothing to say. Or when you think someone else has already said it and said it better than you! Not every day is going to be a productive day, but some days are terrible! Does that sound like you? Maybe writer’s block is keeping you from even starting on that project! If that sounds like you, stick around!

Review your old posts

Go through your old posts until something makes you look twice. Maybe something didn’t “click” the first time or the images weren’t correct for the post. Whatever it is, revisit it and look at it in a different way. Maybe the timing was off? This kind of review can really assist with your writer’s block.

Sleep on it

Right before you go to sleep, suggest to yourself that you’ll wake up with a topic. This often works for me, especially if I keep a pen and paper next to the bed. If you don’t have a way to record your idea, though, often it’ll disappear into thin air!

Take a walk

If you take your mind off your subject, often you’ll be inspired. A walk or a change of scenery often does the trick! Maybe you don’t like to walk. Then take a drive or call a friend instead. I’ve written about social media burnout before, and you might like that article: Social Media Burnout. There’s a link to forest bathing in it, too.

Eliminate distractions

Is that donut in the kitchen calling your name? Are the kids crying (if you work at home)? Is there loud music somewhere in your workplace? Getting rid of those distractions can often help with writer’s block. I’ve written about writer’s block before. You might like: How to Cure Writer’s Block: 10 Best Ways.

Put the seat of your pants in the seat of your chair

This is the one that has the most impact on me. Simply setting aside the time and writing. It doesn’t always have to be good writing! That’s why ideas like NaNoWriMo work so well! Try it and see if you can write more this November (it’s not too late!). You don’t have to write a million words in a month, but try to write more than you did last month.

Write for 15 minutes

Could you write for 15 minutes? Of course you could! So write in whatever way you want–with a pen, pencil, or keyboard in a Word doc. Whichever way you decide to write, just do it for 15 minutes. Even if you write the same sentence 15 times, it’ll get your brain in the right mode to write and that has to be good, right?

Make an Editing Checklist

Friend Randy Clark has a nifty list of things to watch for in his editing checklist on his article about How to Defeat Writer’s Block. And you might want to read it just because he writes a lot and you could find inspiration there.

 

Search Like a Pro and Save Time: Seven Ways

Everyone uses search all the time to the extent that Google has now become a verb. We don’t even bother saying we’re going to search on Google. We just assume that you’re using Google to search. Google is wonderful and I use it every day, but how can you optimize your search results? And are there other search engines you could use for other purposes? Why yes and yes! Stick around while I help you search like a pro!

Duck Duck Go

If you really want to search like a pro, try asking a 12-year-old. Yes, don’t be so full of yourself that you don’t think you can learn from kids because any 12-year-old knows a lot about how to search and keep it a secret. Want to know about that weird medical condition that you might have? Or want to find out the latest cannabis recipe without being followed all over the internet? Try Duck Duck Go!

Pinterest Search

Say you want to knit a sweater, but you don’t know exactly which one? Get on Pinterest. You can enter something like knitting pattern sweater and you’ll get a visual result of knitting patterns. I’ve written about using Pinterest as a search engine before here: Why Pinterest Isn’t Social Media–and Why It is. But you can also use Google the same way. Try the same knitting pattern sweater and you’ll get similar results in your search. You can narrow your search further by specifying images on Google (click on the images tab).

Google Scholar

Need to combat fake news? You can search for academic studies, articles, dissertations, and abstracts with Google Scholar. Of course, there’s a WikiHow on the subject that can explain this better than I can: 3 Ways to Use Google Scholar. Note: the best way to use Google Scholar is to sign into your Google account. Another note: there are ways to optimize your search within Google Scholar just as there are ways to optimize your search within Google itself. Scroll down in that Wiki article and you’ll see.

Reverse Image Search

This is one of the best uses of technology out there. Go to Google, type in reverse image search, click, upload your image, and voila! Recently, I was visiting a friend and she had been looking for an image’s source for months. With Google reverse image search, we found it in a matter of minutes. Here is how Google explains how to use reverse image search.

Use the tabs to search like a pro!

As mentioned above, you can use the tabs in Google search so that your search is visual. But there are other tabs, too! There’s a news tab, a maps tab, and a more tab! You may see a shopping tab and a tools tab if you click on the more tab.

Use a colon to search on a specific site

We’ve all come across those annoying websites where you can’t find anything! But! Did you know that you can use a colon to drill down in your search? Here’s an example. (And I’m not saying the Homeless Garden Project has an annoying website, either.) Search for the Homeless Garden Project’s store on their site as follows:

store: https://homelessgardenproject.org/

Start with a simple search

Chances are, you’re already doing this. Start with the most generic search and then make it more and more specific. For instance, if you want to know about artificial intelligence and its risks, first search artificial intelligence, then narrow your search further.

 

 

 

 

Five Reasons to Have a Home Generator

Friend Terri Nakamura and I have been talking (via tweets, mostly) about home generators and power outages lately. And she said she thought I should write about having a generator, which never occurred to me! But many people could use a home generator right now. If you’re thinking about getting one, here are some reasons you should. While I haven’t written about home generators before, I’ve written about emergencies. You might like How Natural Disasters Can Make Us More Grateful.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that you can keep your appliances going (especially if you have medical appliances such as a CPAP machine), your refrigerated items cold, and your heat on for your babies gives you peace of mind. Now a generator won’t necessarily run everything in your home, but you can get by with one. A whole-house generator will cost you a lot more, but give you even more peace of mind if outages are really bad where you are. For me, a home generator is just the right size.

Climate change is getting worse

When we first moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains, we rarely had power outages. Even though it seemed like we lived in the middle of nowhere, the power stayed on. And even though I could’ve gotten a Tesla Powerwall, I didn’t. Now of course I wish I had! Because they were around $5,000 then and now the price has tripled, if they’re available at all. And our power outages are happening all the time. To give you an idea of how often the power goes out, we sometimes don’t even bother resetting the clock on the microwave after it goes out. If we’re having a bad storm, we’re certain the power won’t stay on, and we’ll just have to reset it again. This time around, the power only went out for a few minutes, but we still didn’t reset the microwave clock.

Independence during storms

As I write these words, we just went through a pretty bad storm. Our area got about 10″ of rain. We were warned to stay off the roads, and watch for fallen trees and downed wires, which we did. With a generator, we could stay home, be able to cook and charge our devices, and stay out of the way of the emergency vehicles. Police and fire departments were out mopping up debris, downed trees, and helping people who got stuck in the storm. Even though we didn’t have to use the generator (this time), it was a godsend knowing it was there .

Five Reasons to Have a Home Generator

Losing food, even if you get reimbursed, is a hassle

You really don’t want to lose everything in your frig. Even if your local power company reimburses you, do you really want the hassle? Filling out forms, saving receipts, and waiting for reimbursements? Don’t we already do that with insurance claims? Who wants more bureaucracy? A generator costs relatively little when you measure what your time and the hassle cost you. Mine cost around $500, by the way. And also, if you don’t have food you’ll have to run to the store during a storm or emergency, which is not fun–and that’s if you can find one that’s open and has the supplies you need. During the early days of the pandemic, some of our local stores didn’t have much fresh food, and many lost their frozen food as well, since they didn’t have backup generators!

You can set up a home generator!

There’s no reason you can’t set up a generator. If I can do it, you certainly can, too! It’s really not that difficult. You may need some additional things, such as the following:

  • A heavy-duty extension cord to go from the generator to the frig;
  • A gas canister (make sure your generator uses the type of fuel you’re buying!);
  • Gasoline or some type of fuel (check which type of fuel your generator needs–I know I said it twice, but it’s critical);
  • Some fuel stabilizer so the gas doesn’t go bad when you store it. Bob Vila has a good article on gasoline and keeping it fresh.
  • A place to store your generator when not in use. You can get a shed if you don’t have an ideal spot to store your generator.Other than the above supplies, a generator is fairly simple to operate.

There are people to help you

Odds are one of your friends in your neighborhood already has a generator and can help you set it up and learn to use it. When there’s a storm, walk around your neighborhood and listen for who has one. There is also YouTube University, where you can learn more than you’ll ever want to know about this or nearly any other subject. Luckily for me, my friend Annie and her wonderful husband offered lots of help. Maybe you have an Annie in your life who could help you! Actually, she volunteered her husband and that worked out perfectly!

What Are Some Good Writing Topics for Transitions?

What Are Some Good Writing Topics for Transitions?

Right now, we’re experiencing a number of transitions. You may be facing some of these transitions, too. So here are some ideas for writing about those transition times. After all, you never know who is handling the same transition. Your words might make a difference for someone in a similar situation.

Transition between fall and winter

It’s not quite Halloween, and the weather is warm during the day but cold at night. So why not write about how to prepare for the upcoming winter season during the quiet time when not much is happening? With climate change affecting nearly everyone, we can all learn from each other. For instance, how do we prepare for flooding if an evacuation is needed? How do you stay on a diet during a pandemic and have a good holiday season? Here’s an article you might like: 10 Social Media Transitions and How to Use them.

Fire and rainy season

Here where I am, we’ve had a horrible fire season. Much of California seems to be on fire. So one transition for us will be between the dry (fire) season and the wet (rainy) season. This upcoming week we are promised an “atmospheric river” with possibly over 5″ of rain. Yikes! Again, why not write about how to prepare for the rainy season? Are there things your readers can do now to get ready?

Time before winter holidays

We’re coming up on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day. So you could write about how to prep for those. What will you say during those holidays? Time tends to speed up during November and December and now is a good time to prepare! Get those articles written, or at least started now. Don’t think you have time? Here’s an article that could help: Time Management for the Busy Professional.

Covid and post-Covid

For most of us, this is a huge transition. And the transition is happening at different speeds for different parts of the country, and the world. Here in California, the transition seems fast. People are almost acting as though there never was a pandemic. You could write about what that transition is like in your part of the country or the world. Or how you wish the transition would be, or how the transition could be eased or improved.

Personal transitions

Have you had a major transition? Maybe one of your parents passed away, or you lost a partner or beloved pet. Chances are, someone else has gone through the same transition. Your words could help soothe someone else. Or your words could help someone know what to do and how to emotionally handle such a transition. For instance, what is the mourning process like for someone who’s lost their partner? That’s a process that we rarely talk about. By the way, I highly recommend the movie Departures, about a Japanese man who is a ritual mortician. Don’t be put off by the subject matter–it’s very sweet! And that was recommended to me by a friend, Terri Nakamura!

There’s Slow Food, But What About Slow Social Media?

 

 

Do you ever feel like social media is making us all stupider? I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. People making things up, fake science, and people quoting from junk articles they’ve seen on Facebook. Can it get any stupider? Well, yes. Yes, it can! Let’s not travel down that rabbit hole just yet, though. Let’s talk about reversing the tide a bit. Let’s talk about slow social media. By the way, I enjoyed this article about Slow Social. You might, too.

Stop the ten-second videos

One reason I don’t log into certain video-sharing apps is because it’s easy to spend 15 hours looking at 10-second videos. You know what I’m talking about, right? Besides making me stupider, there’s a certain meanness to many of the videos. As if seeing someone falling down should be funny. Or hurting an animal should be entertainment. Or what about the “pranks” where someone pretends to spend $10,000 on a buttlift, and then the poor guy’s reaction. Really? How about if we just skip it?!

Social media whiplash

Watching non-stop videos of ridiculous subjects can give us all a kind of whiplash. You might not even remember what you just watched if you watch too much. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Before you even open that app, know why you’re there and what you’re going to do. If you want to engage for ten minutes, do that. Set your timer, then get out! It’s kind of like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. You end up mindlessly buying (or watching) things you don’t want. And you might not even remember why you bought something when you get home. If this rings a bell for you, you might like: Organizing Your Social Media So You Can Have a Better Life.

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Do people really fear missing something on social media? Do you? How do we get over this idea, as a culture? If you take a break from being online, you’ll see that you’ll hardly miss anything at all. Try it! Did the world end? No, it did not! The only thing that will change, probably, is your level of relaxation. So take the yoga class. Go for a walk. Or eat the ice cream. Avoid Social Media Decision Fatigue Three Quick and Easy Ways.

Can we use the slow-food movement as a model?

With the pandemic, many people began to spend more time at home, cooking more. Slow food was already gaining ground, but it became even more important as we had more time to spend baking banana bread. I like to think that we could all use a little unscheduled, boring time, if you will. Times when nothing happens. Like rest notes in music, for instance. The slow-food movement began as a protest against fast food. Could we start a protest against fast social media? And even though I’m a social media manager, how about if we have a day when we stay off social media? Who’s with me on this?

How a Good Editor Makes Your Writing Shine

If you’re a writer, blogger, or content creator then you know how much a good editor is worth. They can seemingly work magic with their red (or virtual red!) pens, sculpting and reshaping your badly-written words into something artistic. If not artistic, then at least something less bad! Here are some of the ways they can assist.

View your work from 20,000 feet

There may be some things you’re doing that you’re not aware of. Maybe you always make the same spelling errors, or use too many commas. Oh, wait! That’s me. My editor is always saying to remove commas. Not Oxford commas, of course, but some of those other ones that sneak in there. By the way, I’ve written about writing before. You might like: Content Creation: How to Make Your Writing More Fun.

Do a structural edit

If you know a really good editor, she can actually restructure your writing. For instance, create one chapter out of two, or change the order of paragraphs. Or say that what you’re really saying doesn’t match your premise. He can check the logic of your words. Wouldn’t you like someone like that to look over your work? I know I would!

Use a style guide

If you’re adhering to a style guide (hello, Chicago Manual of Style!), your editor can see that you’re following those rules. Do you like the Oxford Comma? Or are you one of those renegades who doesn’t bother, doesn’t care, or doesn’t even notice (do you see what I did there?)?

Check your grammar

Are you using active voice in most of your sentences? An editor can double-check and fix your writing if you’re not. In some types of writing, you may not want to use active voice, but that’s a whole other story. Technical writers, for example, use passive voice quite often. I dislike most automated apps for checking grammar, since they tend to simplify my writing style. Although writing for 12-year-olds is what a lot of people do, it doesn’t work for me.

Do some unfun jobs

Are you mixing up your bullet styles? Your editor will probably notice and fix that! Do your captions match your graphics? Again, that’s something an editor can check for you. Sometimes your editor has the completely unfun job of telling you your manuscript is trash and you should start over. Would you like that job? NO!

Ensure your formating is consistent

Does your formating change every other paragraph? An editor will mark that up and either you or she can fix it. That’s also an unfun job, but one every editor has probably had to do at some point in their career.

Be nice to your editor

Some of you may have the mistaken belief that editors are mean people, gleefully sitting around with their red pens poised to find mistakes. They are kind people, and they make your writing better! So bring them cookies if they’re nearby. Or send them something in the mail–cash is good, but even a cup of coffee would probably be appreciated. Editors are the unsung heroes of the world of writing.

 

How Do People Find and Consume Your Blog Content?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about blogging. I’ve been blogging for a long time now (nine years? ten years? who knows!), with no thought of stopping. But maybe I’ll write in a different way. Have you considered changing the way you blog? Stick around while I explore this topic.

Why do people read blog posts?

There are many reasons, but here are a few:

  • To learn about something they know little about
  • To amuse themselves
  • To connect with you and others in an online community

I really liked this article: Do People Still Read Blogs? And you might, too.

How do people find you and your blog?

Of course, there’s the usual Google search. But there’s also email marketing and social media. People may find an enticing headline and jump over from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Possibly a friend may tell them about your blog. If you know how people find you (via your Google analytics), you may want to give them even more reasons to find you. If you have analytics of some sort, then you can see how people are finding you.

Blogging on other platforms

There are different ways to blog besides the cost of getting your own website. For instance, Terri Nakamura blogs on Instagram. She has a much different approach, and I highly recommend her new book, Blogging on Instagram, available on Amazon for a song. If you’d like to connect with others, you’d like this book. Others may want to syndicate their blog posts with an organization such as Business to Community. I did that for a long time and really enjoyed it.

Video blogging

Is video blogging a thing? Yes, it is! Friend Mitch Mitchell talks about quite a lot of different topics on his vlogs. And no, he’s not Jimi Hendrick’s former drummer. If you prefer talking to writing, or in addition to writing, you might enjoy making videos and telling your story that way. You may want to have more than one channel, especially if you have different businesses, or divide your personal and business vlogs.

Blogging as a creative exercise

Some people write because they love to write, and others write because they want more followers or better SEO. Whatever the reason, you may be rethinking your need to express yourself in a standard blog. Journaling may not hold the same interest for you that it once did.

Other types of blogs

Some people create blogs for travel or photography and use hardly any words. That might be a good way to document your life. Other people use all words and barely any images. I’m of the belief that you need both words and images to tell a story or create a blog. There are personal blogs, business blogs, and affiliate blogs, where you make a little money by recommending a product.

Do you have a favorite kind of blog or blog post?

Do tell!

See What Happens When You Turn Your Best Blog Posts into a Book, Part Three

Have you ever considered writing a book? Recently, I’ve been writing about how to get started turning your blog posts into a book. This is the third in the series.

Here are the previous parts:

What do you do next?

If you get stuck at any point, realize that you’re going to need someone to edit your book and someone to create artwork for your book. You could ask among your friends or you could also check Fiverr. Fiverr is an awesome place, with lots of experts. I think Fiverr’s reputation has grown by leaps and bounds, so check it out! I’ve used Fiverr to help with formatting and to find someone to create infographics for my second book. You might find it helpful, too.

Get more than one edit

My recommendation for anyone writing anything is to have more than one edit. You may want to have two, or possibly three edits. That gives you time to let your writing stew a bit. Then you can incorporate your editor’s comments, and rewrite some more. That time on the back burner really helps–so long as you don’t completely forget that your draft exists, that is. You can use Fiverr to find editors, too, if you don’t know one personally.

Choose an artist, editor, formatter whose work speaks to you

When I was trying to find someone to create infographics for my book, I worked with three different artists. Eventually, I settled on one person to help. That person not only had an eye for infographics, he was someone I could easily communicate with. He got back to me quickly and understood what I said, although his first language wasn’t English.

Find someone generous and be generous in return

While searching for someone to format my drafts, I wanted someone who didn’t charge extra for little things. And I gave her a generous tip. I recommend doing the same. Not only does this create good will in the present moment, but when it comes time to use that person’s services again, they will remember you with fondness!

Keep writing

You may have several pages of writing at the point. Keep writing, even if some of it is garbage (and it will be!). You can rewrite, delete, and expand your writing. But if you don’t continue to write, you’ll never reach your end goal–a finished book! Another trick is to talk while you write. That is, read your words out loud. You’ll most likely find some things missing and your writing will be more conversational that way.

Enlist friends

You may know others in your community who are trying to write. It’s more fun when you’re writing with others! If there is no community, why not create your own? Meetup has many different groups, and you might find one that’s perfect for you. You might also host a virtual writing day or join NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in one month. Although that’s a lot of words, having others writing with you–even virtually–can help a lot.

 

 

 

Want More Followers? News Flash: Don’t Make it All about You!

The number one thing I first tell people about to embark on a social media journey is to consider their audience. Your audience, like you, is a multi-faceted bunch. They don’t have merely one interest. They have multiple interests, hobbies, and they’re complex creatures. So wouldn’t it make sense that you should listen to all the things they have to say and post about some of their other interests?

You’re not the center of the universe

If you’re a man posting on social media, listen to what your women friends have to say. If you’re a woman, listen to what your men friends are saying. If you’re older, listen to the whippersnappers. And so on! (Joking about the whippersnappers, by the way.) You get the general idea. You’ve got to be somewhat flexible. And listen. A lot. If you don’t know how to find who your audience is, you might like this article: Who Are You Writing For? Target Audience and Social Media.

Why it’s easier when you’re not the center of the universe

Have you ever tried to have a conversation when the other person doesn’t say a word? It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Since you’re not talking, I’ll answer that question for you. YES, IT’S EXHAUSTING. It’s so much easier when there’s a back-and-forth volley in the conversation. Teachers who don’t have conversations must have a difficult time since it’s like a one-way valve when they’re lecturing. A conversation is so much more satisfying. And if you don’t know how to have a conversation, Indeed has this nifty guide: 13 Ways to Start a Conversation. (I like the one about showing genuine interest.)

Speak in your audience’s voice

Now, this might be a little trickier, but if you can incorporate some of your audience’s language, that could really engage your audience more. See what they say, how they say it, and what specific words they use to describe things. Maybe they also use a lot of emojis. Don’t completely mirror their voice, but incorporate some elements into your voice. Here’s an article you might like about your audience and their voice: Audience: Use Its Language. Yes, it was written back in the day, but still relevant (if I do say so myself!).

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason

Someone said that once, and I’ve always remembered it. More listening and less talking is a good idea. After all, as my friend Amy Donohue is fond of saying it’s called SOCIAL media, so keep it social. By the way, Amy just wrote a terrific book–Social Media Stole My Kidney, which you can find on Amazon (highly recommended).

Share, be generous, and collaborate

When you share what others are saying and doing first, they’re much more likely to want to share what you have to say, too. So be generous, collaborate, tag others, and again–it’s not all about you! People are much, much, MUCH more likely to follow you if you make it about them first.

 

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