Productivity Tips

5 Quick Tips How To Revive A Dying Blog (Hint: I’m Using #5 Right Now)

how to revive your blog with branding

 

It’s time for a mea culpa here.  

Bless me, for I have committed one of the cardinal sins of blogging.  

I’m an inconsistent blogger. 

And what makes that even more embarrassing is that just the other day, I wrote a halfway decent post (I think) about blogging consistency over at Social Solutions Collective.

Ouch.

It’s the classic what not to do for someone using a blog to build a business, I might add.  If you want to earn money consistently, your blog (aka your online storefront) has to be fresh and up to date (aka have new content regularly).  Otherwise, you risk angering That Large Search Engine Which Shall Not Be Named, not to mention that you just don’t look as relevant to the people who manage to stumble upon your website.

It’s not as if I’ve been sitting around eating bon bons.  For starters, I don’t even like bon bons.  But in all seriousness, I’ve found myself busy with client work and the work of raising 4 wonderful small children ages 9 to 1 while their daddy, aka my husband, has been off saving the world courtesy of his work with NASA and the US Air Force Reserve.  I’m not sure if I’d call it that I have any kind of balance; most days it feels like I’m juggling chainsaws.

(I know, for other work from home moms who manage to keep up with blogs, that sounds like an excuse.)

But when I’m immersed in kid learning and not making sure I read or listen to something to keep myself learning, admittedly, it’s really, really hard to pull a meaningful blog post out of nowhere.

What can I say… it’s almost Lent, and I’m feeling all introspective and stuff.

Forgive me.

But I know I’m not the only one who has to figure out how to come back from the blogging dead, so to speak. I know there are other bloggers who have started with the best of intentions, only to become one of the vast majority of blogs that fizzle out due to lack of fresh content.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Just because you’ve had a lapse in posting doesn’t mean you have to give up on your website entirely.

Really, if you look at the number of large businesses out there that manage to stay alive without fresh content regularly, you’d see it’s entirely possible. Here’s how to revive a dying blog.

How to Breathe New Life Into Your Dying Blog

1.  Time for a vision check

No, don’t go hauling out your phone and calling your eye doctor (unless your visual issues really are interfering with your content production).  By vision check, I mean, it’s time to give your website a little tough love.

Is the reason you’re having trouble being regular with your content because your focus is too wide or too narrow?

Do you know what value you bring to your readers?  Do you know what action you want them to take (becoming subscribers or customers)?  Does your blog speak clearly to your ideal customer?

If you’re having difficulty blogging, it could be because you’re not 100% clear on the value you provide for your readers.  Get clear on the vision for your blog, and you might find that your stubborn case of writer’s block clears up nicely.

2.  Commit to blog regularly

It sounds simplistic, but one of the best things you can do to jump start your blog is to make the mindset shift that blogging isn’t a negotiable item.  Decide how often you’re going to post and make a commitment.  Write it on your calendar.  Just like you wouldn’t accept a job and then not show up, this isn’t up for debate.  If you are serious about choosing to restart your blog, make that choice.  Say it out loud.  Tell people you meet, “I am a blogger.”   As my writing professor used to say, “a writer is one who writes.”  Well, a blogger is one who blogs.  Period.

3. Feed your brain

Writer’s block is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome as a blogger.  I get it.

But every time I mentally “go there,” I can hear the aforementioned writing professor’s voice declaring that “writer’s block is another word for laziness.”

Ouch.

But I think he’s right.  I’m sure he’ll be relieved that I finally gave him my approval.

If I can’t think of what to write, it’s because I haven’t somehow given my mind enough quality content to interact with.  (Ideas do not come out of a vacuum. It’s a metaphysical law or something like that.)

The key to avoiding writer’s block is to feed your mind quality content on a regular basis, and give yourself time to think it over before sitting down to write.

4. Plan your content

One of the ways you can make starting a post easier is to have a content calendar.  A content calendar is nothing more than a plan for your blog content.  There are a ton of great templates out there.  

That said, ideally, your content calendar includes your social media content so that you can deliver a more focused, consistent message between your website and your social media postings.  (Your social media is nothing more than an avenue or channel for you to share the value of your brand…so it makes sense to have consistency between your web content and what you share on social media!) 

5.  Get started.

What time is it?

Writing time.  Not research time.

Plan when you will write.  Make it a date with yourself.  Sit down (unless you use one of thosecool standing desks).

And then write.

When you sit down to write needs to be writing time.  If you need to do some research for your blog, do so at another time.  (See point above about reading in your niche and then letting it percolate a while in your mind.)

I know a lot of people are going to resist this. But what I’m encouraging you to do is to make sure that you have as few ways as possible to distract yourself (in the name of “research” ) while you write.

Turn off social media and email.

Really, they’ll wait.

Unless you choose to outsource, this is the step where the rubber meets the road.  But if you’ve completed the steps above, I promise, it won’t be as painful as you might think.

Need MORE creative ideas to get out of your rut and Revive Your Blog?  Click here to receive my checklist: Revive Your Blog created just for you!

Working at Home with Kids: Tips for Productivity and Sanity

Working at home with kids might sound like an oxymoron. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not exactly as easy as it sounds on paper (or on screen for the techie types).  But even amid the juggling, it’s far better than the alternative, being away from them for 40+ hours a week.

Thanks but no thanks!

Still, it’s better to keep the chaos to a minimum, so I thought I’d provide some of the tips that have helped to boost my productivity and sanity while building a business and parenting 4 kids (including homeschooling the 2 oldest).

Working at Home With Kids: Tips for Productivity

1. Start with the end in mind

This borrows from the late (and great) Stephen Covey who talked often about beginning with your end state in mind, then determine what it will take to get there.

This isn’t quite that illustrious but equally important, in my book.

Begin with the end of your day in mind. Realize that at the end of your day, you’ll be tired, grumpy, and not wanting to do anything extra that you don’t have to.  So consider giving yourself a little gift in the morning – the gift of planning ahead to take care of what you can early on, before you’re quite so worn out.

Things like – dinner preparation.  Setting out clothes and needed items for the next day. Unloading the dishwasher so it’s ready to be loaded after dinner. And other similar tasks that just make your life easier when you’re exhausted.

Two of my favorite tools for this are a slow cooker and make ahead meals (such as Make 5 Dinners in One Hour).  Whatever tool you use, consider it a gift to your future self (even if the “future” is later today) to have a plan in place to make the end of the day smoother.

2.  Routines trump schedules.

Face it – the only constant in anything, especially parenting, is change.  Schedules are a great idea, but especially if you’re parenting very young babies or toddlers, schedules aren’t always possible.  On the other hand – routines are.  Create basic routines for each part of your day (morning, mid day and evening) to help yourself stay on track and focused.  That way, if something out of the ordinary happens, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off.

3.  Give yourself grace. 

Juggling multiple roles demands much from you. Keeping your sanity demands that you cut yourself some slack and give yourself some grace in the process.  You won’t be as productive as someone without distractions, this is true. But the long-term rewards of being present with your kids are worth it!

 

What are your favorite tips for staying focused as a work at home mom?  Leave a comment – I’d love to hear!

How a Content Marketing Plan Can Make You Love Your Business Again in 2013

it works content marketing plan (2)

Do you love content marketing and writing your business blog?

Be honest.

One of the most hated tasks when it comes to marketing online is content creation.  Whether it’s coming up with ideas and time for blog posts twice a week (minimum!), figuring out what to post on Facebook (or Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and now Google+ too), and let’s not get into “alternative” formats like You Tube videos, content marketing is work.  There’s no other way to say it – just like any other successful marketing strategy, using content marketing as a means of growing your business takes planning, persistence, and patience to be successful.  The payoffs, if you ask businesses large and small, are worth the time.  (And those who don’t agree aren’t likely to be around in 5 years, honestly.)  But actually doing your content marketing puts the work back into work for many business owners, if you know what I mean.

Even for those of us who enjoy writing (and playing with other media well suited for content marketing strategies) can find the actual implementation of content marketing to be overwhelming if we approach it without some thought and organization.

And it’s a secret I’m sharing with you today:  a content marketing plan can make you fall in love with your business again this year!

Now before you think I’m just blowin’ sunshine, let me tell you what I mean.

Do you sit down at your computer and wonder what to write for your blog?  Do you struggle to find time create unique, relevant content for your blog – and procrastinate to the point of rarely (or never) updating your blog because you just don’t know what to write?

And then let’s talk about your social media sites – do you just throw anything up on your Facebook page, not quite knowing what you should be posting in the first place?

Approaching your content marketing strategy via the age old technique called “flying by the seat of your pants” isn’t ideal for many good reasons related to the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing.  But there’s an even better reason not to do it.

It sucks the life out of you.  And you start to hate your business.

Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to be “spontaneous.”  Maybe.  And if so, good for you.  But for many people, the idea that spontaneity breeds more creativity is actually a myth.  For many who use the desire for spontaneity as their reason for not using a content marketing plan, they’re pleasantly surprised at how the structure of a plan for their social media updates and strategy actually frees up time and brain cells to engage in the fun, creative side of marketing.

How to Create a Content Marketing Plan

There are a number of templates and tutorials out there for creating a comprehensive content marketing plan that covers multiple social media platforms.

The simplest, cheapest way to create one is this:  Grab a calendar.  You can print one from Outlook or use the pretty one your church gave you (if it’s a wall calendar; you won’t have enough room in a pocket calendar).  I happen to like the calendar sold online at Flylady.net (it’s not an affiliate link; I just really like the calendar because of the large squares!).

1. To the left of the row for each week, choose a theme related to your overall mission as a company.  Jot it in the margin.

2. On each day you’ll be blogging, create a blog topic related to that week’s theme and write it in the square for that day.

3.  Choose a general topic for each day that week related to your week’s overall theme.  Using each day’s theme as a guide, research and create content for your social media updates.  You can jot notes on your calendar if you want, otherwise use the scheduling features in programs like Facebook, or HootSuite or others to actually post the content you’ll use at the times you’ve determined are most appreciated by your audience.  Most people work about a week at a time at this step, and as you get more experienced at it, it goes quicker.

4. You may decide you want to plan a year in advance, at least in terms of choosing your themes for each month.  Doing so gives you a bird’s eye view of where you’re going throughout the year.  You can make sure your topics are logical or discover ahead of time if you might need to switch out a few months so your content makes the most sense for your particular audience.

That’s it.  It’s not difficult; it just takes a commitment to sitting down and thinking ahead.

But I promise you this – if you do, you’ll find yourself loving this part of your business more than if you’re always worrying about your next content posts, whether on your blog or elsewhere.

What kind of content marketing plan do you use?  I’d love to hear – leave me a comment below!

Content Creation: Just Make Content (aka just live a little!)

What an amazing day! I had the pleasure of spending a girl day with my daughter and my dear friend – what a treat!

With having celebrated Thanksgiving, I wanted to show both of them how grateful I am for them.  We enjoyed pedicures this morning, lunch at my daughter’s favorite restaurant, a trip to the American Girl doll store, and then dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.

It was a beautiful day, and one we’ll all remember for a long time. My daughter came and sat on my lap a few minutes ago and mentioned that when she made a wish tonight on the wishing star, she wished that tomorrow would be a family day and that sometime down the road we might have another girls day.

I don’t know the last time I’ve just taken off and enjoyed a day away from the computer, away from most of the responsibilities and just had fun.  These are precious years with my kids. And while I want to make every moment matter in our lives, the reality is that I can’t. Juggling family life, kids, church, etc., it is impossible to make every moment matter.

So I settle for an occasional day like today. And it truly was magical.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in all of the have to do’s that we forget to improve the quality of our content marketing via the most organic way possible – actually having rich life experiences to draw from.

When’s the last time you got away from your desk and just played for a day?  I promise – it will enrich your content and make you a happier writer. 

How The Nightmare Before Christmas Taught Me To Be a Better Businesswoman!

This is going to be one of the world’s shortest posts, and not SEO’d perfectly at all.  I’m in the midst of nearly 4 weeks of solo parenting (after a stretch of 3 weeks of solo parenting just 10 days earlier), and with 4 kids, homeschooling, and owning my own business, it can get a bit dicey at times!  The metaphor I use most often is that it feels like I’m juggling chainsaws.

Yes, how’s that for an image?

But I took time to watch a movie with my kids yesterday (or I threw on a movie to try to get some additional work done before the end of the weekend), and I was blown away by its message!

It was The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I think I might be the only person in the world who hadn’t seen it yet.  But I was struck by the simplicity of the story.  The lead character, Jack, wanted to have a bigger impact and didn’t feel like he was passionate about what he was doing any more.

So he decided to look around for someone else who was experiencing success and steal the model they were using.

It was disastrous! Jack wasn’t meant to bring Christmas, and his horrible attempts at Christmas gifts showed it!

In business, how many times do we get distracted, looking for that “silver bullet ‘that’s going to make us instantly famous (or at least well paid) while ignoring the very skills and gifts that we’ve been using all along?

Once Jack embraced his true calling and allowed Santa to set things right in Christmasland, all was well with the world.

Sound familiar in your business?  I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

This Hurt To Learn!

Four weeks ago today I birthed my fourth child.

I chose to birth without pain medication (as with my previous births) for a variety of reasons.  I didn’t however, want it to hurt, so I took a home-study course called Hypnobabies where I learned self-hypnosis to assist with eliminating the pain of labor.

The title of this post notwithstanding, it worked. While I was laboring at home, I was able to experience the sensations of labor as pressure, not pain. When I arrived at the hospital, I was pleased to discover I was already dilated to 9 cm, and a short 30 minutes after arriving, I was holding my precious baby girl.

In those 30 minutes, however, my experience of labor changed. In the distraction provided by “standard medical procedures,” I lost my focus. In my struggle to regain it, I lost confidence in myself and my training. The change in focus alone changed my experience from pressure to pain – a lot of it as any laboring woman might tell you.

In thinking back over the birth, the importance of focus, choosing those we listen to, and the incredible value of motivation keep coming back as lessons that have value beyond my sweet girl’s birth. In the moment it hurt like heck to learn these lessons! But the takeaways are priceless, and I’d like to share them with you. I promise it won’t hurt a bit.

1. Keep your focus

As any trained hypnotist will tell you, all hypnosis is self hypnosis. Some people think that only weak-minded people can be hypnotized. The opposite is closer to the truth. Hypnosis takes a good amount of focus. Of choosing where to focus your mental efforts. When I was focused on my belief that labor can be pain free and that my body and mind were powerful enough tools to let me have that experience, my reality matched my experience.

When my focus wavered due to external influences, and I focused on the pain, I lost confidence. Wondered if I could do it.

In building a dream such as a business, it can be tough to stay focused on the goal. Especially when setbacks come. More than ever, those are times to refocus on the goal and not get distracted.

Which leads me to . . .

2. Know who to listen to – and who to ignore

I hired a doula to help me achieve the labor and birth I wanted – medication free, easy, and with a minimum of unnecessary interventions. She was a great advocate for me, as well as being skilled enough to be able to translate what the doctor was saying, allowing me to understand what was necessary (getting the baby out more quickly when her heart rate started to drop) and what was a preference (intervening with a particular medication as a “routine procedure just in case” before there was any clinical indication I needed it (which I never had).

On the other hand, as soon as I was in the delivery room, the doctor started in with a barrage of questions about my birth plan, criticizing my choices. Unfortunately, his was the louder of the two voices, and I lost focus (see above) and my experience of the birth changed. My progress slowed. My trust in my body changed in the experience of his own desire to treat labor as “something waiting to go wrong.”

There are a lot of people who will offer commentary on your dreams. Many people have “settled” for safety in their own lives and careers and will criticize your ability to achieve your dreams because it’s a painful reminder that they are unfulfilled.

Seek out people who encourage you in the achievement of your dreams. Consider hiring a reputable business coach who will provide a voice worth listening to with practical training and the encouragement you need to take your business farther than you could alone.

3. Know when to change course if needed.

I had a plan for my birth going into it. But I also knew that the plan was a framework to start from. I knew that if something unexpected happened during the labor, that the plan might merely be a starting point to deviate from if the situation required it.

During the labor, in spite of my desire to have as few interventions as possible, my daughter’s heart rate began to drop. It wasn’t an emergency, yet, but it suggested she needed to be born sooner rather than later.

My goal had been to labor without medication. As the doctor criticized my birth choices (before the deceleration in heart rate), my dilation actually regressed, so that I went from being 9 cm and starting to have pushing contractions to 7 cm. Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

In getting caught up in believing my doctor’s version of how labor should go, I began to doubt I could go through that transition part of labor again. I got so focused on my new mantra of “I can’t do this,” as well as my fear that my pain would delay my ability to cooperate well in birthing Sarah more quickly that I asked for pain medication.

When we pursue our goals, often we have a vision of exactly what success will look like. But it doesn’t always work that way. Maybe family concerns change the way we progress along the way. Maybe we have a series of stops and starts. Or maybe we discover that what we thought our ideal business was isn’t after all and we completely change our vision altogether.

Flexibility is the key to adapting to changes in our environment. It’s the key to taking those changes and translating them into more effective practices to achieve our vision. Often – it brings out our very best and allows us to use our inner creativity in problem solving and soar to greater heights.

My labor has a happy ending. In the quiet of transition (my second time of it!), while the doctor was trying to use his “knowledge” to convince me I wasn’t dilating and couldn’t push, the reassuring voice of my doula helped me refocus and know my truth. I was able to do this. As the nurse prepared the pain medication I had requested and the doctor babbled about not being dilated, I felt the sensation within that told me I had gone from 7 cm back to completely dilated. I heard him telling me not to push; with one mighty push my daughter was crowning and another 2 pushes she was born.

Focus. Know who to listen to and when. Flexibility. Which of these three lessons might help transition your business to greater success this week?

Leave me a comment below!

Coffee or tea – what fuels your writing habit?

Coffee Fuels My Good Blogging Habits

It sounds too cute to be taken seriously, right ? A blog post on whether you’re a coffee or tea drinker in the morning. 

Well, yes.  And no.  Really – there’s a great blog tip to be found in your answer to that question! 

But before we get there, let’s get the obligatory information sharing out of the way.  Being the good Californian I am, it’s all about the perfect latte my husband makes me in the morning and leaves at my side of the bed.  Though last year when I ended up in England for two weeks, I switched to tea for no apparent reason other than cultural. 

My morning coffee routine – it sounds so clinical to call it a habit – is one of those lovely, predictable parts of life.  It works with the logical part of my brain that still enjoys the statement, "If A, then B."  If morning, then latte.  And, if latte, then at my computer, writing for my business.

As a home based ghostwriter for business blogs, those precious early morning moments when the littles aren’t yet awake are some of the most productive time of my day.  I want to charge into them awake and ready for work.  Sitting down with my latte and writing is a habit that reinforces itself, helping me to continue to make that connection and seize that productive time. 

It’s a routine that builds in me the habit of consistency – one of the least glamorous but most successful tips to building a successful blog.

For me, this is an example of a good habit, a habit that boosts my effectiveness as a blogger. 

In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg talks about the science behind habits, personally, professionally and on a societal level.  Without giving too much away, he discusses research that shows how an ingrained habit actually takes less brainpower to perform than an action that isn’t a habit, and that even after a habit is changed, the old pathways in the brain still exist and are slow to fade. 

How does this translate into building a better blog for business, hobby, or anyone else who is an entrepreneur? 

Among other things, it’s a simple tip for success!  It means that intentionally creating habits for success is a powerful way to boost your success, even if it is as simple as a routine for writing that starts with that first cup of java, tea, or whatever works for you. 

 

I’d love to know – what’s the habit that jump starts your work day?  Leave a comment below?  If you find this interesting or helpful – please retweet! 

 

 

Entrepreneur, Know Thyself!

“Before you can enjoy success in life, you have to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are and what you want, there will be many people who will want you to become something you’re not” -Kim Garst

My business coach posted the above quote yesterday. It really caught my attention! Combined with some of the chatter in the coaching group having to do with honing in on your passion and turning it into a business, it seemed so spot on.

I had been taking with a girlfriend not too long ago who is at a bit of a crossroads. She’s at a great place professionally, having been recently selected for a training type position in her company that generally is a good predictor of future promotions. She’s bright, articulate, and will likely go far in her profession.

But she confided her growing dissatisfaction with the demands of the job, particularly where it takes her away from her sweet young children on a far too regular and unpredictable basis. It hadn’t been an issue when she started, and the common wisdom was that with flexible childcare and the like, she’d find a way to make it work.

It works, but the rising-star career path being carved out for her doesn’t match who she is becoming.

It’s common, I know, especially among women juggling roles
as mom and career professional.

Just because it’s common doesn’t make the tension any less painful, though.

When was the last time you took the chance to review who you are and where you’re going professionally? Does who you are match the path you’re on?

Anything less is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction.

On Thursday I’ll be sharing some questions you might ask yourself to help figure out if your purpose and passion are aligned with your actions.

Cheers!
Pauline