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  • Back to Basics: What is Marketing Communications?

    Part 1 of a Multi-Part Series on Marketing Communications Basics 🎦 TL;DR: Watch a high-level video overview. Let's start at the very beginning—it works for mastering the art of singing. It's also a good place to embark upon learning about marketing communications. Ok, let's dig in and see what marcom is. We'll also touch on some resources. Marcom Housekeeping First things first: "Marcom" is short for "marketing communications" and the terms can be used interchangeably. Marcom is sort of an umbrella term that covers a variety of "stuff." And different people may have a different concept of what marketing communications is and what's covered by that canopy. This is a BIG topic. So this is the first installment in a multi-part series about marketing communications. Stay tuned for future posts! (Topics will include How To Do Marcom, Why Do Marcom, etc.) Marketing Communications Defined That said, here's my definition of marcom: Marketing communications is a business function charged with connecting to stakeholder audiences and conveying specific messaging with the goal of mobilizing those audience members into a specific desired action. Ok, so what—exactly—does that mean? I know, it sounds a bit like word stew. Let's tease it apart a bit and look at each piece. Breaking It Down It helps to define some of the terms I used above: Business function: This is a specific and relatively narrow role or task that is done to help move a business toward its overarching goals (e.g., sales or growth targets). Businesses generally have many functional groups—like Finance, Customer Service, Quality Control—that work together. Connecting: This is the act of finding, contacting and engaging with people, prospects, customers, etc. Stakeholder: This is a person or entity (e.g., company, governmental body, community) that has some sort of vested interest in a company and its products and services. Audience: These are your people! This is the group of folks you're targeting with your marcom efforts. They are the ones that will hopefully be engaging with your biz and enabling you to meet those company goals. Conveying: This is the act of actually sharing or spreading content. It can be done via a number of media and methods. Message: This is more than just the vocabulary you use. On a surface level, it's also the voice and tone of those words. It's the colors, imagery, and branding. It's the platforms, channels, and media you leverage. On a different level, it's the actual product, services, information, content, values, personality, etc. themselves that you're putting out into the world. Mobilizing: This is the act of getting someone to actually do something. It's driving them from thinking to performing. Action: This is the thing you want your audience member to do. It could be to sign up for your email list, purchase a product, call for more info, back your campaign, etc. When this action is taken, it moves your business toward accomplishing its goals. See? It's clearer already! That strange sensation you may be experiencing is demystification. What Marcom Isn't Just a quick, clarifying note. Yah, it's a small detour, but I promise we'll get back to the main route asap. Marketing communications isn't Sales. It isn't Biz Dev. It isn't Account Management, Customer Success, Training & Development. These are other departments and functions. A quality marcom team works closely with these other functions (and others) to be effective, though. Synergy! Marcom may or may not include Creative or Interactive teams—there are infinite ways for a company to organize itself, yah? It's important to understand that marketing communications is not an exact discipline; it's an ever-wavering mix of art and science. The Marcom Mix At a High Level Marketing communications isn't a single, homogeneous blob of a thing. It's like an orchestra: a bunch of different players, instruments, pieces of music, format and venues all working together (hopefully!) to create sweet melodies for the listeners' ears. And it changes over time, a "living organism." In marcom, the players are the copywriters, social media manager, designers, web masters and so on. It's a blend of creative types and more administrative, support or operation types. It takes a village! The instruments of marketing communications are words, images, audio and video. Which you use to create pieces of marcom music: web copy, social media updates, product videos, etc. Music comes in various formats—vinyl, CDs, streaming, live. Format for marketing communications is similar—published (digital and print), live streaming, on-demand, live-and-in-person (events). The music halls of marcom are the platforms, apps and places that host your marketing communications "music" in your chosen "format." Uh...Give Me Some Visuals Please! This article gives a nice, though somewhat dated, rundown of the elements of a marcom mix. It will get you thinking in the right direction. But your marketing communications mix should include modern practices and approaches (e.g., use of social and other digital media). The colorful diagram is useful, too, for us visual learners. (That's me!) This explainer might also help to frame it up for you. To borrow from the orchestra analogy above, the verticals music/formats. The horizontals give details and examples. Definitely click on the image to get to the full PDF version, which has additional information (i.e., some context). Marcom is Dialogues, Not Monologues Marketing communications is...communications! Maybe this is a giant "DUH!" but it's worth stating explicitly. It's that important of a concept. Communication means multi-directional, multi-modal conversations. Even when you're broadcasting out to an audience, you should have feedback mechanisms built into your processes and campaigns. Having this back and forth is critical to your business. It keeps you honest and focused. (Oh, folks will let you know if you've over-promised and under-delivered! Don't you worry about that.) It helps you evolve your offerings and messaging. It enables you to be responsive and address issues with agility. It builds rapport with stakeholders so you can really solidify your brand, build trust and engage ambassadors and advocates. (Yay, happy PR!) Marcom Context Matters Other articles I've seen on this topic that haven't directly addressed this dimension of what marcom is. But, it absolutely makes a difference. Where/to whom you're marketing and communicating impacts every aspect of this function. B2C This is "Business to Consumer." It's marcom that's going from a business (e.g., company, non-profit, organization, etc.) to its consumers (e.g., users, buyers, subscribers, etc.). It's what you're probably most familiar with, and what comes to mind first, when you hear "marketing communications." That's legit. After all, you are probably bombarded all day every day with marcom from companies and organizations vying for your attention and $$$. B2B This is "Business to Business." As you probably can guess, it's marcom from one business to another. In this scenario, the recipient biz is the customer, client or consumer. Generally, what's being marketed are professional or industrial products or services that the customer business needs to produce their own products and services, and run their own biz ops. Internal Possibly the least considered is the marcom that occurs within an organization. As opposed to externally, outside the organization. This goes by many names, like Internal Communications or Employee Communications. It's often folded into the HR function, though larger companies may have a dedicated team (outside of and separate from HR). The role of internal marketing communications varies from organization to organization but can include organizational announcements, employee events and programs, perks and benefits, etc. Essentially it's trying to accomplish a similar goal as B2C or B2B marcom (inform, compel, engage, mobilize, whatever the call to action is) just with a different audience. Help & More Resources The Marcom Explained table above is a handy resource as you begin to learn about marketing communications. I've been doing marcom for years and still look at it sometimes to keep me on point, kind of like a checklist or memory jogger. For more goodies, swing by the Resources page. And, of course, you can always reach out to me for help. And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. Crowd Wisdom Marcom-Style How do you define marketing communications? What are your favorite marcom tips and resources? Share your thoughts and knowledge in the Comments section below. Thanks! Learn More About Marketing Communications We just scratched the surface here. Future installments in this Back to Basics: Marcom series will focus on other dimensions of marketing communications. Now that you know about the What, we'll explore the Whys, Hows and more. So subscribe to BrainWrap or check back soon. Thanks!

  • 50 Blog Post Ideas for Businesses

    Blow away the overwhelm or writer's block with this big, bad seed list of blog prompts! Blogging can be an effective way to flesh out your business’ online presence, engage with prospective and current customers, bolster your brand and reputation, strengthen SEO, and more. (Plus, it can be a lot of fun! And who doesn’t need a creative outlet?) Blogging 101 – The Basics Keep these best practices in mind as you create your blog post. Sometimes it’s easier to get started if you have some guardrails…. Always Include the Following in Your Blog Posts Heading 1 and Heading 2 tags. Goal: Improve readability and SEO. Text formatting like bulleted/numbered lists, bolding, italicizing and blockquoting. Goal: Improve scannability and provide text style variation. Imagery (pictures, graphs, etc.), tables, video. Audio is good, too. Goal: Break up a page of just text and provide some visual interest/variation. Backlinks and crosslinks. Goal: Point to other places in your website that you want folks to see; link to related web content (like social media platforms). More Pro Tips Open links to content and to outside of your website in new browser tabs. This includes attachments, assets and third-party sites/platforms. You want to make it easy for people to stay in your website. Call for reader participation. Be explicit. Ask open-ended questions. Request input or feedback. Remind them that there’s a Comments section. Create a series out of these prompt ideas. For example, create a periodic series of posts featuring interviews with your best clients, or a monthly gratitude practice post that acknowledges all the good things that have transpired. This facilitates planning and gets even more mileage out of your blogging efforts. (It’s easier to start writing if you already have a seed of an idea!) Start with an outline. It’ll give you structure and direction. You may find that it’s best to write the title after drafting your post. Be consistent; create an editorial calendar. Map out posts so you know what workload to anticipate and when. This helps you budget (time and money) and build rapport with readers. Blog Post Seed List The suggestions below are intended to jumpstart your blogging. While grouped to help bring some order to the chaos of a long list, some post ideas could fit in multiple categories. So, take a prompt and run with it! Announcements & Updates Events – Use your post as a landing page with a link off to the RSVP page. Or, use it to bring more attention to an event you’ve posted elsewhere (and then link off to it). New Content – Promote your new video/resource/product page/etc. or revamped website. Lead people to the new stuff. Give them a tour so to speak. New Offering – Launching a product, service or location? Announce it, VIP-style. Newsletter – Recap recent happenings and announce near-term noteworthy tidbits. News Flash – Share company updates, or post your press releases to your site. Brand & Culture Community Involvement – Share ways you’re helping out in your area or industry. Highlight how you’re supporting a cause. Great for humanizing a business. Differentiators – Explore how your biz isn't like your competitors. Why do you stand out? What sets you apart? How are you better? Why should people flock to you? Good Ol' Rant – This is a free-form stream of consciousness on a topic of your choice. Do this in an authentic-but-professional way (as you're representing your biz). Gratitude – Give thanks for the good stuff. Appreciate “wins.” Spread some positivity. Inspiration – Impart words of wisdom or motivation. Sometimes people are looking for a little boost. Intention-Setting – Lay it out there. Say how you want your business, program, campaign or clients (or whatever) to be, relate or do. Declare an underlying purpose. Points of Pride – What's making your chest puff with pride? Non-braggingly, share. Response to Current Events – Show your biz is keeping up with what’s going on in the world around it. Underscore your understanding of critical issues. It can let readers know your position, values, priorities. People & Team Interview/Q&A – Talk to others and relay those convos via your blog. You can write this as a narrative or — even quicker and easier — as question/answer couplets. Kudos – Shower a person or biz partner with praise; explain why he or she earned it. Meet the Team - Introduce each team member in a post that's a bit more fleshed out and personal than their professional bio (that may be elsewhere on the site). Personal Profile – Do a feature on a person who has significance to your biz or industry. This could be a mentor, advisor, innovator, historical figure, etc. Plans & Progress 5-Year Plan – Roadmap for your biz’s future. Call out your priorities and motivators. Achievements – Toot your own horn! Feature milestones you’ve reached, awards you’ve won, important rankings you’ve attained. Aims & Aspirations – Got dreams and goals? Tell folks what you want to accomplish. Reflections – Consider lessons learned and discuss inferred meaning. Storytelling A-Musing – Give commentary on a topic: its meaning, how it connects to other things, its broader impact. This is an Op Ed; it's ok to give your opinion. Curated Gallery – Ideal for visual artists who speak in images more comfortably than words. Showcase your work while providing context. Fortunately/Unfortunately – This is a fun way to point out pitfalls of competitors/circumstances/etc. and how your biz is the solution. It follows a pattern in which you make an “unfortunately” statement then a “fortunately” statement. Repeat until you’ve told a story or made your point. Imagine if.... – Explore a possible future. Fantasize about an alternate reality. Discuss how, if you change just one variable, outcomes could be better (then pitch your business as the bearer of that solution). Listicle – Take a cue from Buzzfeed and create a list of something. It can be any number of items, just be specific. (e.g., Say “17 Reasons to Get Organic Kibble” rather than “15+ Reasons….”) Photo Essay – Great option if you’re a visual artist or storyteller of any kind. Pictures catch people’s attention immediately. This is a powerful way to convey info. Round’em Up – Rally around a well-defined topical theme. Your post should articulate what the theme is and why it matters, as well as explain why each item is special/included. Storytime – Enchant readers. Your goal may be to entertain, or to push an agenda. Today’s the Day – Write something related to a holiday, “national day of __”, “__ history month”, etc. Top 10 – You know this one. Run with it. Just make it relevant to your biz. Compare & Critique Before & After – Show progress between then and now. Timelines and before-and-after and historical-vs-present-day pics work great in this sort of post. Comparison – Pit A against B. Or show how A and B differ. This may take the form of comparing your biz/product to competitors or your products against one another. Review/Testimonials – Everyone likes reviews. You’ve done the tedious job of researching and testing something out for them. You’re giving them food for thought, saving them time or giving them direction. Trends – Discuss patterns you’re noticing. Draw a line from the trends to what they mean going forward. Value Proposition – Propose the merits of doing something vs not doing something. Guide, Inform, Teach Education – Straight out teach readers something. Pass on knowledge in a narrative. FAQs – Turn each A into a post that addresses the Q. Follow the Leader – Guide readers through a process or provide actionable info. Guided Meditation – This is an awesome one if you’re in the health and wellness sector! It makes for a great audio/audio-over-sound-visualization post. How-To – Show step-by-step how to do something. Include pictures/video plus written instructions. This is ideal for DIY projects, teaching software, etc. PSA, aka Knowledge is Power – This kind of post is less about your biz and more about informing or awareness raising about a specific topic. Its intention is to serve the public good, not yours (though it can certainly offer opportunity to also benefit you — but that’s not the main thrust). Recipe – Another easy win for health and wellness, food and beverage, travel and culture or lifestyle businesses. Recipes can also be woven in to other content, like a recounting of a recent trip. Tips & Tricks – Give pro tips on how to do or make something better/faster/cheaper/easier/etc. Customer-Centric Are You A ____? – These are great posts because they immediately involve readers. They get readers to picture themselves as something or to join a “team.” Show how you can help that type of person. Contest – Pitch a contest and then (in a separate post!) showcase the winners. Good Client/Bad Client – Outline what makes an ideal customer. This can help prospects self-qualify, save you time and effort by preparing clients proactively, and facilitate account management. Marquee Customer– Spotlight a customer who has significance to your biz. This could be a success story, testimonial, personal profile, etc. Survey Says – Create a poll or questionnaire post. Great for gathering feedback. This or That – Ask your readers to make a choice. This could be just for fun, or it could have real impact — like which features to add to your product, services to discontinue, or charities to sponsor. Help & Resources Use the handy printer-friendly version below to keep this list close by. (Note: This post is slightly different than the linked-to take-away. I've added more post prompts, refined some of the descriptions and linked to some examples.) For more goodies, swing by the Resources page. And, of course, you can always reach out to me for help. (I write, edit and advise on blogging as part of my service offerings.) And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. Crowd Wisdom What are your favorite blog post ideas? Share your go-to prompts, or the ones that make the kind of posts you want to read. Thanks!

  • Does This Biz Want You to Buzz Off?

    8 reasons we have a failure to communicate... Communication is a tricky thing. It's complex. It's multi-layered. It can be subjective as h-e-double🏒. That said, IMHO this coupon that came in my weekly circular is a communication flop. Why do I believe this is a communications fail? Here are some reasons. And, just so you don't think I'm nothing but a naysayer, I've dappled in suggestions, alternative approaches and fixes! Practicality, hello: How are they going to implement this? You can't necessarily tell if a device is off. It'd be pretty invasive for your waiter to check throughout your meal. And, if you say your phone was off during the meal but you turn it on afterward — you know, to calculate that tip — are they going to argue with you and deny the discount? There's just no good way to enforce the terms of this coupon. We're living in a connected world: What about other connected devices? Are they asking you to turn off your watch or fitness tracker, too? Again, this isn't really practical, appropriate or enforceable. Social Media Foodies: No phone = no camera = no snapshots = no posting. We all know those folks who live by the creed, "If there's no pic of it, it didn't happen." It's fairly commonplace to photograph meals or check in at restaurants. This is second nature to many. Besides, why wouldn't a restau want folks publicizing its biz FOR FREE?! Unless their restaurant/food are or appear to be unappetizing.... The takeaway (← See what I did there? Geez, I ❤️ puns!) here is: Let people share their experiences with your business. In fact, leverage this as a way to engage with them even more (e.g., via contests and giveaways). In¢entive$: OK, so you can get $8 off your meal or you can get only $5 off but you also need to shut down your phone? That doesn't make sense. The math incentivizes you to do the $8-off deal and your ringing phone be damned. Purpose & Clarity: What are they trying to accomplish with the ad/coupons? Get bodies in the door or create a certain kind of ambiance? I'd guess they're running this promotion to get people to eat at their establishment. If so, the whole piece in the circular should be about the food, the environment, the service, etc. to entice new and repeat customers. Align the Promo: Consider adjusting the offer. Instead of stipulating turning off cell phones, the restaurant could offer a deal for dinners who come in during the typically slower hours. This would mean customer traffic — and the corresponding noise — would be more spread out. The net effect is that it would be quieter during the traditional "dinner" hours because there'd be less of a rush of hungry-hungries. (And, this might reap other operational benefits for a biz, too.) Goal-Oriented Comms: There are other — more appropriate and sensible — ways to promote a quiet, undistracted dining experience. Firstly, it's a bit weird to ask people to turn off their phones in your restau before they've even decided to go there. Tell them when they arrive. Which leads me to a second point. Asking for specific behaviors should be done at the place where the behavior is desired. It's more in context and bounded. It's within the confines of the private establishment being visited. Lastly, there are many opportunities and methods of making the actual request in a polite-yet-assertive way: Post a sign at the hostess stand, put it at the bottom of every page of the menu, etc. Phrase it as a request like "For the comfort and enjoyment of all diners, please turn off or silence your cell phone. Thank you!" (More casual or quirky businesses can take liberties with the messaging so that it fits their voice/tone/theme/etc.). It's Not All About the Comms: In addition to digital and print communications, you can architect an environment that supports your desired behaviors or ambiance. For example, if the aim is to have a quiet restaurant: Install carpets, curtains and upholstered chairs/banquettes. Use cloth napkins and tablecloths. Space out and stagger tables so they aren't all aligned in a sound wave-amplifying formation. Have potted plants and other decorations. Opt for the occasional column, post or divider in the dining room instead of a vast, airy space. Avoid having an open loft. Don't blare loud background music. Big, open areas and hard surfaces exacerbate noise; soft surfaces and intimate spaces absorb sound. You get the idea — design the physical to match the objectives. So what you say? Perhaps this all seems a bit nit-picky. Maybe. I'd like to argue, though, that words and structures and so on matter. What you put out there is a representation of your biz and its values, priorities, personality, etc. How do you want others to think or feel about your business? You should use all the tools at your disposal to create a positive, enduring impression and to convert prospects into customers. Extrapolate, please! This post uses a restaurant as the example. But we've all probably seen needless communications disasters in other sectors. These pitfalls and insights can be applied to countless other businesses. It just takes some time, patience, thoughtfulness and caring. And a bit of skill and practice. (If you lack any of these qualities, I'm here for you! Say Hi! today — I can help you out. 👍) Help & Resources You can also find some helpful goodies in the Resources Center. And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. What are your thoughts? What do you think of this coupon/advert — is it acceptable to you or falling short? What do you think about tying intent to the form and message? Do you have examples of what you think are advertising flops? What makes for a stellar promo communication?

  • Are You a Wix-er or WordPress-ian?

    The content below was originally posted as an answer to a question on Alignable. Wix or WordPress? — It's a great question because it's a hot potato. I've actually had a couple other discussions offline about this recently.... Anyway, I'm reposting my answer here because the topic is timely and relevant to many. TL;DR You need to assess your business's needs — what they are now and what you think they might be in 3 or 5 years — before determining the best website platform. Both WP and Wix have their place, with many pros and cons each. You just need to figure out which place your biz fits best.​​ ​Building Sites WordPress: Solid, well-established platform. People love it because it's got a ton of flexibility. There's a lot you can do yourself if you have some level of tech-savvy. You can use ready-made themes and plugins to create the look, feel and function that serve your business/site visitors. For things beyond your ken, there are gazillions of WP developers, designers, and user groups to help you out. And on that note, it's also worth mentioning that WP is an open-source platform and something like 2/3 of the Intranet is built on WP, meaning that it ain't going anywhere. There are eyeballs on the code, fixing and updating it all the time — it just isn't going to become deprecated anytime soon. Costs for building a WP site can vary widely. ​Wix: I'm now using Wix. It serves its purpose. You need absolutely zero tech-savvy to create a site. It's (or can be) quick, easy and free/cheap to build. (It has freemium-tiered plans and add-on apps/services.) There's a new wizard you can use that walks you through building a basic site very quickly, like in 10 minutes, if you want. I think the best part, though, for small businesses, though, is that Wix handles all the infrastructure and hosting tasks. This is a huge load off the shoulders of small biz owners or those that don't want to learn about/hassle with this stuff. But, as others have said, there are limitations and drawbacks to Wix. It isn't as flexible as WP. There aren't as many ready-to-use apps (aka plugins). You can't easily move the site to another platform down the road (like if your biz grows/evolves and you need a more bespoke or robust site), and there aren't as many developers/designers/etc. out there to provide expert assistance. I've heard that Wix isn't smiled upon by the SEO gods as much as WP sites.​ If you need help building a Wix site, give me a holler. ​Managing Sites WordPress: I've managed WP sites for several years and found the platform to be relatively straightforward to work with. It's relatively easy to learn how to do day-to-day tasks like adding/updating content to pages and posts, adding/removing users, managing content, etc. I think the tricky part for most people is managing the infrastructure and hosting side of things. For example, if you're a baker, do you really want to become an expert in site security? So you may find that you'll need to hire a service to help you manage the back-end stuff. Meaning ongoing costs of a WP site should be considered in your decisionmaking.​ Wix: My experience with Wix is that it's slower and more tedious to update and make minor enhancements (like add pages or tweak the color palette) than WP. BUT, it's VERY easy. If you can point-and-click — you're more than halfway there. You don't have to be tech-savvy at all. (Many businesses don't have too many everyday updates, so this might not be an issue.) And because Wix manages all the hosting and back-end gobbledygook, you don't have to. Life is good! Plus, Wix is improving its platform all the time and adding features/apps, so maybe it'll gain some ground on WP and SEO. These are the main reasons I like the option of Wix for small, non-tech least as a starter site. If you need help maintaining your Wix site, feel free to reach out. ​A Note on SEO When we talk about SEO, we're usually referring to it in the context of Google search results (uh, what's Bing or Yahoo?). Google's SEO algorithm is a secret sauce, the recipe for which has lots of ingredients. And the ingredients and amounts of each (and sometimes the steps, too) change over time. My point here is that you should not be relying solely on your website (an ingredient, or group of ingredients) to rank well in search results. You should have a comprehensive communications strategy to support your SEO goals. It should include other ingredients and complimentary cooking methods: email marketing, blogging, backlinking, social media presence, etc. ​Wrap Up WP and Wix often serve different needs. WP is a tried-and-true platform that's robust and highly customizable. Using WP may mean higher up-front/ongoing costs and require more tech know-how. Wix is a newer, ever-evolving player, but may be a less flexible platform. It's very quick and easy to build and manage sites, especially since you don't have to worry about any of the back-end stuff. Cost-wise it may be a winner, especially if you have a limited budget. Assess your business to figure out what's a good fit for you. As you think about this, consider not only where your biz is right now but what it's needs might be in the near-ish future (so you can build a site that works for you for hopefully at least three years). Help & Resources If you need help with your website project, give me a holler. Head to the Resources Center for some more goodies. And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges.

  • In Soviet Russia, Activity Blocks You

    Organize your schedule and work more efficiently. Task blocking's a proven way to optimize daily to-dos. OK, you have to be of a certain age to truly appreciate the title of this post. Or just like comedic references to Yakov Smirnoff. What isn't a laughing matter? Trying to squeeze into your day — and mental bandwidth — all the stuff you need to get done. Most people have very busy, multi-faceted lives. They are attempting to balance the demands of family, work, community and self. Not easy! That's why I'm always receptive to tips and tricks to help mitigate and streamline the to-do lists. And, fortunately, there are plenty of work/life hacks out there. Seriously, have you been on Pinterest or Google lately? Zillions of brilliant ideas and tools. Activity blocking is one of my faves. And research supports the power of this approach. What Is Activity Blocking? Pretty much what its name implies it is. Activity blocking is the practice of chunking up similar kinds of work to be done during a dedicated period of time. Sometimes it's referred to as Task Blocking — same thing. Alternately, you can think of it the other way around: It's chunking up time during which you'd do similar kinds of work. This is known as Time Blocking. Whatever works for you. I prefer thinking in terms of the activities, though. This is because I have lists of things to get done, not time slots to fill. My to-do list items are discrete tasks. And I like to cross them out when they're completed. My brain and ego like this. 😁 Anyway...the central premise is that by grouping like activities and allocating a finite but dedicated time to doing them, you'll be more efficient. How Does Activity Blocking Make You More Efficient? Logical question. By blocking your time/activities, you're accomplishing the following: You're "shifting gears" less. By doing similar tasks together, you're using the same tools, processes, skills, etc. to complete the work. It's like meal prepping for a whole week on a Sunday afternoon. It takes less time to make all the meals at once than to make one meal at a time, several times throughout the week. You're losing less time, effort and energy (for both you and your stove/oven) by transitioning from one thing to the next; and taking advantage of already having all the ingredients/pots/pans out. You're giving your mind the opportunity to get into the zone. When you stick with an activity for an amount of time, your mind naturally slips into a focused state. Literally, your brain starts waving at more optimal frequencies. It's an effect like meditation or hypnosis; and it takes at least five minutes to get to this peaked level. You're establishing routines. This lets you become familiar with the steps involved with the tasks at hand. With set patterns, you aren't floundering around wondering what's next. It makes it easier to plan around work as well. At some point, it gets to be more like the tedious or operational elements are done by autopilot; it's a lot less taxing on your mind. You're setting expectations. By this, I mean a couple of things. First, you're establishing your reputation. If you start including writing your blog posts late morning on Mondays, your followers will start to look for it at lunchtime. They count on this. If you miss a posting, they might start wondering what's up. Every moment they're wondering what's up — they aren't thinking about you/your product or service. Expectations are essential for communications, too. You're figuring out how long it takes to do things, which is critical if you need to communicate such things to clients and prospects. (Project proposals, timelines, etc?) As a bonus, if you create expectations, people will start proactively anticipating. This translates into time savings for you like this: If you always send purchase orders to your vendor on the first of the month, the vendor will learn this. You won't have to swap several emails regarding the timing of the PO. Imagine little recuperations of time/energy like this across all your tasks.... You're accommodating the various aspects of your life. Chunking out my to-dos helps me build variety into my schedule, all while making sure I get all the must-do things done in a timely manner. I block in the highest priority activities first. Then it's easy to see where other task blocks can fit in. Having things marked on my calendar helps me stay organized and coordinate with others. I get reminders and notifications; so I don't miss calls/meetings/block times. Sounds Good in Theory. What's it Look Like in Practice? If you're wondering this, you're on fire! You are serious about finding and incorporating changes to optimize your schedule and workflows. Awesomeness. 👍 The Blocks This is really going to be a personal thing. Your activity blocks are going to be based on the things you need to accomplish. After all, your day probably doesn't resemble mine — so it won't make sense for your blocks to be exactly like mine. I feel it's important to stress: You should have a variety of block types. Make sure that you're doing both right-brain and left-brain activities. And include sedentary and movement-based tasks within your day. You should have a variety of block types. Make sure that you're doing both right-brain and left-brain activities. And include sedentary and movement-based tasks within your day. This will help keep you fresher and sharper. Having an array of activities means you'll likely be engaging with a breadth of different kinds of people in a range of ways. This keeps you interesting, engaged, and ever-evolving. That said, here are some blocks (in alpha order) to consider. I'm presenting them as sort of generic categories so that they're adaptable to many people. Can you envision how these categories would fit for you? Admin - This includes things like answering emails, sending invoices, paying bills, opening mail, doing governmental filings, etc. You know, all that tedious, boring crud. Creativity - Anything artsy-fartsyish. This could be writing, doing graphic design, photo editing, etc. that you do as part of your work. Even if your job is a highly analytical, left-brainy one, find ways to include something Creative in your day. Play the guitar, make a quilt or attack that adult coloring book. Many studies have shown that those with well-rounded lifestyles have better problem-solving, collaboration and mental-processing capabilities. Learning - If you don't use it, you'll lose it. The brain is like a muscle. You have to regularly flex it to keep it in prime condition. I know of several entrepreneurs who allocate 30-60 minutes/day to learning. They do this by reading blogs/articles, watching videos, taking online and in-person courses, meeting with mentors, and so on. In this day and age, it's fairly easy to find ways to dovetail personal and professional development in. The takeaway here is to constantly be growing and expanding your horizons. Even if the learning you do is all geared towards topics of personal interest — that knowledge and the skill of acquiring it will reap benefits for you in a professional capacity. Movement - The body is designed to move. Actually many systems — like your lymph system — need you to be in motion for them to function. But movement is more than just a physiological necessity, your mind and spirit crave it, too. Getting some exercise (can be as simple as a walk around the block or taking the stairs down to the cafeteria) revives you from energy dips, destresses, gives you a change of scenery. It can reframe problems and challenges so that you can consider them from a different angle. Nourish - Don't get hangry! Or dehydrated. Regular food and beverage intake keeps your mind and body fueled to do what they need to do. Don't deny them at the precise times you're asking them to perform. Play - Like dessert, there's always room for this. There's scientific support for play improving every aspect of life. So go have some fun, and laugh and smile a lot! Rest - Relaxation is non-negotiable. You can't be "on" all the time. Sleep (and rest more broadly) must be part of your schedule. An extra cup of coffee or can of cola cannot counteract sleep deprivation — don't try it! When you're asleep, your body is crazy busy repairing itself at the cellular level. This helps you stay healthy and hearty. Self-Care - Maybe it's just me, but if I don't block in going to the eye doctor or getting a haircut, it just doesn't seem to happen. If my day is looking a bit chaotic, I might even schedule in time to wash my hair and do my nails. Work - Oh yeah. You gotta do whatever your "work work" is. This block is anything like client meetings, project work, etc. It's the stuff you're doing to pay the bills. The Schedule This is up to you. Only you know when and how you function best. Only you know all the other life components (family, community, school, etc.) that need to be factored in. But, here are some thoughts on scheduling. Use an app or some other visual schedule. This will help you stay organized and often looking at something re-enforces the information. Activity blocks can be any length and frequency that makes sense for you. Adjust them as needed. . Your blocks will probably evolve over time. This is natural. Activity blocking is infinitely flexible. Yes, it's a framework and yes, it has structure. But it's yours and it's intended to make your life better. So adapt it to work for you. Move blocks around, or omit or add some, if you need to. Not every week has to map out the same. Resources to Help You Activity Block Handy Worksheet I wouldn't toss you into the deep end without a lifeline! You can use this worksheet to start your activity blocking. Follow the steps and tips and you'll be well on your way. (It may be easier for you to recreate a similar type of grid in Excel or Google Sheets.) Remember, your tasks, blocks and schedule are your own — so customize this to meet your needs. To give you an example, I used this worksheet in two ways. I first jotted down tasks that I thought fit in each kind of activity block. Then, after scheduling the blocks into my calendar app, I kind of use this worksheet to keep me accountable. I mentally tick the intersections of activities and days when I've completed that block. Resources Page You can find more cool — and helpful! — stuff like this worksheet on the Resources page. BrainWrap Also check out the blog from time to time as I add new posts on a regular basis. Most of the subjects I write on are geared towards demystifying marcom or providing tools to facilitate marketing communications. Be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. Smooth to the Groove Need some tunes to help you wriggle into the zone? Here are a few of my favorite Spotify playlists for just that purpose. Productive Morning - This one is a mixed bag of mostly instrumental music. It's like a lively or invigorating ambient sound bath. I usually skip the few tracks that have words in them. Binaural Beats: Focus - If you aren't familiar with binaural beats, you're in for a treat. This playlist settles into the background and helps you just get on with your work. Relaxing Classical - This playlist has some lovely compositions. It's great for filling your workspace with legit music. It's also wonderful whenever you want to just chill out. I listen to this list a lot in the evenings as I'm trying to transition to bedtime (not because it's sleep-inducing, but because it's mellowing and brain de-cluttering). Personally Curated - Over time I've saved the songs I like from around Spotify to a playlist I created for myself. Give this a go for yourself. This is a great way to make sure everything entering your ears is pleasing to you. If you prefer cafe, urban or nature sounds, maybe try something like Noisli. It offers a ton of customization and is really a nice tool. Deeper Reading Want to learn more about Activity Blocking and related techniques? Check out these articles and sites. (And, yes, they can count towards your Learning activity block!) Time Blocking: a Productivity Power Tool [Workflow Guide] Reclaim Your Schedule with Time Blocking Master Your Time: 5 Daily Scheduling Methods to Bring More Focus to Your Day A Quick Guide to Time Blocking Do more and have fun with time management The Peanut Gallery Throwing this topic out to you. Do you use activity blocking? Why/why not? What are your experiences with it? How do you chunk out your time? What apps or tools do you use to help you manage your time and productivity? Feel free to share any other activity and efficiency tips. Thanks!

  • 11 Tips for Kick-@ss Webcopy

    Want to improve the written content on your website? Check out these suggestions that you can implement today—fast and easy! Hi there! I'm trying something new: a Monday Micropost. This will be a quick-hit resource for you to make progress on a very discrete challenge, task, skill, etc. What it lacks in depth and breadth, it surely makes up for with brevity and actionability. (And, of course, I'm trying to always maintain my content quality standards!) Writing Good Webcopy OK, let's dive in! You want awesome, impactful website copywriting. Perfect aspiration. Instead of a belabored definition or articulation of what is or makes GOOD and BAD copy, we'll go straight to The List. You should get the idea of strong vs. weak web writing from each item. 11 Tips for Effective Website Copywriting Write to your intended audience. Copy should be written to about the 8th-grade level for general audiences (and maybe a little higher grade level for professional or academic commercial content). Avoid jargon (e.g., legal or medical terms) and acronyms (e.g., ASCII or AIESEC) that might be unknown or confusing to your readers. Do not assume your readers know what the heck you're talking about. Also, be mindful if your audience is global (i.e., geographically dispersed, speaks multiple languages, has different cultural norms and references). 👪 Make sure your writing stays true to your brand and message. The words you're committing to paper (er, screen) should support your values, principles and priorities as an organization. They should re-enforce people's concept of who you are and what you're about. So, if you're writing for children, for example, you probably don't want to have swear words in your content. 💗 Keep your purpose central. Make sure what you're writing aligns to the whole purpose of creating the communication in the first place. Are you writing to inform, or to promote something you want someone to buy, or to organize an event? Your writing should guide the reader to the action you want them to take. You want to arm the reader with what they need (and what they came to your site for) and mobilize them to take the next steps. 🎯 Be mindful of the platform you're publishing on. What you post on Twitter isn't going to be what you say in that homepage intro video. Different media have different requirements and constraints, and speak to different kinds of audiences in different ways. Adjust your copy to fit each accordingly. 💻 Keep sentences short and punchy. You still need to provide some variation in sentence length and structure to keep the reader from getting bored, though. Brief sentences are easier to ready quickly. And they sort of force you to use simpler sentence structures. Also, try to only have one idea per sentence. 🩳 & 👊 Organize your text logically (from the reader's perspective). Use headers. Make paragraphs short. Include smooth transitions. Make sure you flow from idea to idea in a way that makes send to your audience. 🧠 Format text for scanability. People often don't read as much as they skim. To help them latch on to your takeaways, use—smartly—bolding, italics, blockquotes, bulleted and numbered lists, etc. Make sure you have an H1 header and some H2 headers on webpages. 👀 Use imagery. Yes, I'm including this even though this is a list about copywriting. Because it's THAT important. Your words are more likely to be read if your page/post contains pictures, photos, video, graphs, charts, tables, etc. Adding multi-media elements strengthens your content. It breaks up the monotony of text blocks. It also makes your content more accessible to visual learners. 🖼️ Spell check before you publish! And use great (free!) tools like Grammarly. If you have tons of spelling and grammar mistakes (that make what you've written confusing or detract from your message)—I'm not talking about stylistic freewheeling, but flat-out errors—you will look unprofessional. This can lead people to wonder if you know what the heck you're talking about. Personally, when I see sites that are so poorly written, I think the writer/business doesn't care about or respect themselves or those who are expected to consume the content. They're wasting our time. So, proofreading and catching those typos before "going to the presses" is key. ✔️ Make the most of what you've written. You have taken the time to create amazing content—don't let it just die in unread anonymity! Promote what you're writing on multiple pages on your website (cross-linking is your friend!). Tweak it and repurpose it or announce it) on social media. Merchandise your content wherever it makes sense and reaches your intended audience. 📣 Be consistent with your writing. Establish an editorial or communications calendar—and stick to it. This accomplished three key things. First, it keeps you and your team on task and on time. You'll always know what content you're publishing where and when. Very helpful if you're doing a campaign across web, social, email, and so on. Secondly, it sets expectations with your readers. If they see you post a blog post once a month, and you continue doing this, you come across as trustworthy and reliable. Third, regularly posting content on your website (and across the internet) builds your reputation score and expertise in the almighty eyes of the search engines (SEO anyone?). 📅 Make It Easier to Create Great Content To facilitate the tips above, I recommend creating the resources below: Communications strategy and plan Persona profiles for visitors, clients/customers, partners, etc. Journey roadmaps for visitors, clients/customers, partners, etc. Content schedule Copy style guide Branding style guide Creative brief for each communications program and/or project These resources are living documents (meaning they will evolve over time and will need to be reviewed/updated periodically). They're cool, though, because they make it much easier and quicker to create rocking web copy—especially if you have a team of people working on your marketing communications. Trust me: they are worth the time and effort! Know When to Seek Professional Help Of course, if you want help with any of this stuff—or to have it taken off your hands entirely!—call me. It's completely understandable that this might be outside your comfort zone or you don't have the time or mental bandwidth to dedicate to it. I'm here for you. 😉 Words of Wisdom, Crowd-Sourced Style What webcopy tips would you like to share? How are you honing your site content? Do you have any tricks that level-up your writing? Who do you think are icons of fantastic digital copywriting? Thanks!

  • Do You Like New Year's Resolutions or Do You Like Success?

    Why You Shouldn't Be a "New Year, New You" Kinda Person The start of a new year—a new decade even—might seem like the perfect time to start fresh with your wellness commitments. But, after the first blush of that thought fades, you may want to reconsider. Read on to see why you should consider not syncing your resolutions to the drop of the crystal ball. Ahhh! New Year’s Day, Time to Conquer the Resolutions! Or not. Maybe. There have been several studies on why New Year’s resolutions (NYR) fail. Most of the reasons nod to poor or non-existent planning, lack of commitment or readiness, or unrealistic or ill-conceived goals. Usually, it’s some combination of these factors. But, hey, we’re human. We’re fallible. BUT, we’re also capable of higher reasoning and making changes to beat our self-sabotaging imperfections. There’s a lot that’s in our control—we can create and maintain healthful habits that serve our well-being and honor ourselves. More on this below! When to Start Your Healthy New Behaviors So, if you’re not supposed to start your NYR on New Year’s Day, when should you? You might not like the answer: It depends. The key is having the right goals set for the right reasons, determining the proper habits to move you towards attaining your goals, and then establishing a solid roadmap. And this is going to be different for every single person. (Hence the “It depends.” Answer.) That person-to-person specificity and variability aside, one article I read suggested that it can take up to 8 weeks to get all this pre-work sorted out. That’s two whole months before you even hit that start date. I’m sure there are other schools of thought on how long it should take to prepare for your habit-changing endeavor—but I think the point is clear. You need to do some serious soul-searching and other prep before you pouncing on those new and improved behaviors. If you want to increase your chances for lasting and meaningful success.... Sound like you much? (If you're going to put in the effort—REALLY put in the effort—don't you want to reap the benefits?!) How to Make Healthy Habits Happen? Now that you have the concept of what needs to be done, and an idea of a timeline, you may be wanting some concrete info and approaches to put it all into ACTION. We're going to dive into details to help you create that strategic healthy habits plan and the tactical tasks to accomplish your goals. Bear in mind that, according to various sources, forming a new habit or routine can take anywhere between 3-10 weeks to become truly ingrained. The odds of you cruising through that transition period to the promised land go way up if you heed the tips below. 29 Tips for Getting Healthy Habits to Stick This listicle is compiled from things I found around the web, plus some of my own experience-/education-based insights. If some of them seem like something you've seen elsewhere—it's probably because you have! They're eternal nuggets of wisdom that get repeated because they are gold! Goal Setting & Habit Creation Create a theme. This gives you something to rally around. It makes it easier to express and focus on your goals and habits. It can facilitate making all the tangential lifestyle and environmental changes that help promote your goals. Keep it simple. The plainer and less complicated your goals and habits are, the better. Each goal or habit should be its own line item. One sentence for each unique idea. The simpler you make things, the easier it is to identify and adhere to the core function of the goal/habit. Heed your priorities and values. You're only going to keep habits that are truly aligned with who you are. Your goals and habits need to take your ethics and morals into consideration. For example, if you aren't a pill person, perhaps taking a diet aid to hit your weight loss targets isn't a new habit that's appropriate for you. You'll need to find new behaviors and routines that lead you to the same goalpost without the use of supplements. Habits that aren't authentic to your true self are not sustainable or will force you to compromise in ways that are detrimental to you in other aspects of your life. Be true to yourself. Period. Make sure your goals are SMART. Articulating what you want to do and how and how much and when is critical. You can't accomplish something you haven't thought about or defined! There are tons of resources that explain the ins and out of what SMART goals are and how to create them—use them! Chunk it out. Nothing is more daunting than being at the base of a mountain, looking to the summit and knowing you gotta climb way up there. Instead, try thinking about finding the trail head. When you get there, concentrate on getting to the next cairn. Along the way, enjoy your companions, the amazing scenery and your healthy homemade GORP. Dissecting your goals and habits into small bite-sized pieces makes them seem more doable. You'll feel like you can see progress quicker. And this can encourage you to keep on keepin' on. Set intention-based goals. Orient your goals around what you want to accomplish, what "success" means to you—not around something you "have to" do. The idea here is that you'll work towards something (your objectives) rather than reject something (rules or edicts). Create compound goals. What I mean by this is see if you can come up with some goals or habits that feed into one another such that when you accomplish both (or all), the result is even better than reaching each one on its own. This is the concept of synergy, or the total is greater than the sum of the parts. This kind of goals inherently spur you on and feel so amazing when you realize them. Enact positive behavior change. Some research indicates that people are more likely to stick with habits that are framed in the affirmative. So, instead of saying "I'd like to eat less junk food between meals.", you might say "I'd like to eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks." It's human nature to respond better to things we're "allowed" to do rather than "forbidden" to do. Forget sacrifice. The road to failure is paved with denial! This goes hand-in-hand with #8. If you never let yourself indulge in chocolate, all you'll ever want is chocolate...and one day you're gonna snap. You'll binge on chocolate—and probably the crappy kind—and end up feeling horrible. You'll feel like you failed and get sucked into a vicious, self-defeating cycle. Alternatively, if you have a really decadent bonbon once in a while, it won't feel like a treat or a taboo. You'll learn to fit it in to your life in a healthy, in-control kinda way that's sustainable and attuned to your goals for the long-run. Prepare for surprises. When you're creating your goals and habits, try to build in some flexibility and contingencies. See if you can insert creative ways to plan for the unexpected so it doesn't all devolve into chaos when the slightest thing goes awry. Implementation Document your plan. Writing down your goals cranks up your likelihood of crushing them, by something like 500%. There's something absolutely magical that happens when you put pen to paper.... It makes the plan seem more "real"; it gives you a tangible thing to reference along the way. There are tons of ways to document your goals and habits: journaling, vision boards, outlines and more. Find an approach that you can stick with and that resonates with you. Create positive triggers and reminders. Everyone can use little tricks and prompts to make it easier to stay on track. Stack the deck in your favor by establishing these cause-effect cues. For instance, let's say you love books-on-tape but only let yourself listen to them when you exercise, and your goal is to exercise more. A positive trigger in this scenario might be "When I finish my audiobook, I'll buy a new one." A positive reminder might be to leave a picture of the book you're listening to taped to your bathroom mirror or fridge. You just want to make sure you're promoting a good behavior in an affirmative way rather than demoting a bad habit in a negative way. Make it automatic. This one generally comes with time, and more so if you've drafted your goals and habits in with the other tips in this list. Wink wink, hint hint. The gist is to make it so you have no other choice but to submit to you new healthier habit. Like when you park as far away from the grocery store door and have to walk the extra distance. Or you stock you snack drawer with only organic-salmon safe-artisnal-non GMO-PETA approved-vegan-small batch-certified Fair Trade cucumber crisps and air-"fried" lupini beans. Don’t create false equations. People do this all the time, me included. This is easiest to illustrate with an example from my life: If my goal is to get to a healthy weight, a false equation would be thinking that if I exercise more I can eat more. It's like saying that because I did one thing I can do the other, event though this is an untrue and unhelpful premise. Really the two habits (exercise and eating) are separate, and impact my goal (healthy weight) differently. Once I disassociated the two habits, I found SO MUCH MORE success, with both habits! Variety is the spice of life. Boredom works against you. Create opportunities for you to include diversity in your routines so that you don't fall out of healthy habits from sheer ennui. How? If your goal is to eat a more whole foods plant-base diet, consider learning a dozen vegan recipes that you and your spouse will salivate over. Rotate through that WFPB roster and you'll be dining on something different every night for almost two weeks! Reduce barriers and increase facilitators. Set yourself up for success by creating a goal-/habit-friendly environment. This means, for example, if you want to eat healthier and you know you have no willpower—don't keep cookies, candy and chips in your home or workplace. If you want to start exercising in the morning—make sure you have your workout clothes and gym bag ready to go the night before. If you want to improve your sleep hygiene, hang some blackout curtains and get rid of that crazy-bright clock. Find a support network. People are social beings. With a support group or other network of folks to help lift you up, you're better positioned to be faithful to you goals and habits. This support can come in many forms: online or in person, affinity groups (e.g., WW workshops worked well for me) or family and friends, even a dog! Put your $ where your goals are. Essentially, don't spend money on stuff and experiences that run counter to achieving your goals. If you want six-pack abs, buy a gym membership not a case of beer. Get some hobbies. Hobbies are essential. They provide distraction, so you get a break from trying so hard not to think about food/being a couch potato/smoking/insert other unhealthy habit here. They shift your focus to activities that are constructive or productive. You're engaged in learning, doing, socializing, creating. Your mind/body is firing on all cylinders! Go outside. One study I looked at found a correlation between time spent in nature and staying power of healthy habits. It has something to do with the calming effects and one-with-the-Earthness of escaping the confines of four walls. Plus, you're less distracted by screens and other tech—so you can focus more/better on engaging in the healthful activities that propel you towards your wellness goals. Go with the flow. Accept that we don't control everything. We can't anticipate and prepare for everything. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. And that's ok. It DOES NOT mean you have to chuck your plans into the toilet and revert to your sub-optimal old ways. It means you do what you can in the now and re-commit to your new healthy goals and habits asap. Check in periodically. On a regular basis you should assess how you're doing in terms of meeting your goals and adhering to your healthy habits. What’s working? What's not working? How do you feel about yourself and your life with the changes/progress you've made thus far? How could you improve? Are there areas you need to relax on? Evaluating your sitch and giving yourself feedback are essential for success. Otherwise, you'll have no idea how far you've come—or even if you're heading in the right direction!. It gives you a solid place from which to address any issues and make necessary tweaks to your plan. Celebrate accomplishments! Never let hitting milestones go unnoticed. Reward yourself for a job well done. This is great for self-esteem and positive re-enforcement of good behaviors. Just make sure your "prize" isn't counterproductive to your goals. (i.e., Don't treat yourself to a donut for losing that last 5 pounds! Get a manicure or new swimsuit instead.) Take advantage of available resources. There are infinite books, blogs, videos and people out there to help you on your wellness journey! You are so lucky to live in this day and age of info and expertise at your fingertips. Go claim it and use it to your advantage. Do web searches, check your library, ask friends and your doctor/trainer/coach/counselor for referrals, scan social media. You are bound to find checklists and worksheets galore to help you with all aspects of goal and habit making. Mindset Remember it's a journey, not a destination. As they say, the struggle is real. Wellness is a lifelong adventure. Your new habits help you get to the next mile post along the route. And as time goes on, you may have detours or different destinations. That's totally normal and ok. Just stick with it and take a few moments here and there to appreciate the trip. There's no need to race. Because it's a lifelong journey, there's no finish line or time record to beat. Take your time and make sure you're setting the right goals and habits for yourself. If you slow down a bit, you're more likely to embark on your lifestyle changes more thoughtfully and with greater self-care. You'll provide yourself the opportunity to periodically take stock of how you're doing and adjust course as needed. Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone is unique. We all have different things impacting our lives and health. So it doesn't make sense to use the same metrics to assess or success. What's good and works for me might be terrible and harmful to you. If you must make comparisons, opt for comparing yourself now to yourself then. Stay connected to your Purpose. Keep your "why" in mind. If this is at the forefront of your thoughts, your actions might come more readily. For example, it may be easier to stick with your plan to eat better to lower your A1C so you don't get diabetes because you want to be around to see your son graduate college. Your Purpose is to be healthier so you can enjoy your family. Some people treat their Purpose like a personal mantra, something they say out loud or write/rewrite in a journal daily. It's an incredibly powerful tactic. Anticipate the learning curve. A couple things here. One, you can't unlearn old/bad behaviors. All you can do is replace them with new/good behaviors. Two, all habit formation has a natural arc. You'll go through stages of initiating, learning, stabilizing (or forming-storming-norming-performing). This will be followed by revision if you're doing those recommended check-ins. Some More Reading on Habits & New Year’s Resolutions Should you want to do a deeper dive into the topic, here are some articles and studies to get you started. I referred to many of these when creating this post. You can also do a simple web search or see what’s available on Google Scholar or one of the governmental health agencies’ websites (e.g., the NIH). 10 Tips for Setting Successful Resolutions That Stick 3 Common Reasons So Many People's New Year's Resolutions End In Failure Changing Your Habits for Better Health Creating Healthy Habits: Make Better Choices Easier Green Mind Theory: How Brain-Body-Behaviour Links into Natural & Social Environments for Healthy Habits How Psychological Science Can Create & Maintain Healthy Habits Healthy Habits, Healthy Families Making Health Habitual: The Psychology of ‘Habit-Formation’ & General Practice Making New Year's Resolutions that Stick: Exploring How Superordinate & Subordinate Goals Motivate Goal Pursuit New Year's Resolutions Don't Last. Do This Instead. Why New Year's Resolutions Fail Why You Should Start Your New Year’s Resolutions on March 4 Cheers & Auld Lang Syne Wishing you and your family, friends, colleagues—and anyone else who matters to you! 🥰—a very healthy, wealthy, wise and HAPPY new year and beyond. Making lifestyle changes and creating enduring healthy habits isn’t easy; so remember to be kind and gentle to. Feel free to share the love and support in the Comments section below. Or let us know what your goals, healthy habits, strategies and tips for 2020 (and beyond!) are. The Crowd always has good stuff to say!

  • Your Website is Your Baby

    Like a little child, your site needs loads of TLC for it to stay healthy and be productive. Your website is a living document, with a full and exciting life arc. It's born, has a constructive existence full of changes and then goes on to the next astral plane. Hmmm...maybe a bit too woo-woo with this analogy.... Anyway, as a living document, your site needs good inputs to work well and provide the information visitors are looking for. It requires time and attention—and frequently some patience!—on a periodic basis to stay on track. But, thankfully, most website mamas and papas gain skills over time, so it gets easier and feels more natural. Feed, Clothe, Shelter Yup, these are the fundamental requirements. They're in that base tier of Maslow's Hierarchy. They apply to your sweet online wunderkind, too. (If your site reaches Self-Actualization, the Robots are taking over and the rest of this post probably doesn't matter anymore. 🤣) So, to flourish, your website needs high-quality inputs. What are the things that go into nourishing and nurturing your webfant? Here are some ideas: Webcopy Imagery Scripts and code Information architecture Branding And love...can't forget about the love. 🍼 What good stuff do you feed your website? As for "clothing and shelter", well, that refers to having the proper hardware and environment for your website. Robust infrastructure, reputable hosting and current security measures are all critical in protecting your site. And you definitely want to keep this babe safe and healthy, especially if you're handling any personally identifying information (PII) or conducting any kind of e-commerce. 🛡️ How do you protect your site? Bathe & Diaper Change How can you change the stinking nappy on a non-physical bunch of 0s and 1s that isn't even sporting Pampers? What I mean by this is that you have to actively clean things up once in a while. Don't let your site be a forever wasteland of cybercrap. (There is no magic powder or ointment for this!) Leaving junk on your site is terrible practice for so many reasons. For example, here are some biggies: Customers can get incorrect product details. Like old prices that you're still advertising—are you still liable for honoring bad pricing that's posted? Or false product specifications that cause confusion or missed sales opportunities.... You lose track of what content you have. Your site starts having lots of messy orphaned pages. This can result in your domain becoming unwieldy over time. Search engines are still crawling and indexing this stuff. It doesn't lend to your business's professionalism or credibility if wrong info can still surface on web searches. You'll look stupid or inept. I mean, if you can't keep your online house in order, what's going on behind the scenes? Would you want to do business with someone who doesn't present him/herself well? 💡 Can you think of other reasons why you should detox your website? Here are some ideas for how to make your web-baby sparkle: Clear the cache. This is like gunk that mucks up your gears. Cached data can sometimes make your site behave badly, i.e., some functionality won't work properly or the site performance will be off or it'll load s..l..o..w..l..y.... Actively manage content. Periodically audit content and delete obsolete stuff, making sure to remove links on your site that point to that outgoing item. Any time you add a new version of something—like a datasheet—consider deleting prior versions. You get the idea. Replace outdated page copy. If the date/time/venue for a posted event changes, you better update it on your site! If the campaign you ran last month is over, you better get it off the homepage! Catch this drift? Archive old press releases, events, posts, articles, etc. Often anything more than a year old isn't too useful. You can still have these available for folks, but maybe have them roll off the landing page so they aren't front and center. Uninstall plugins/widgets that are no longer needed. These are just dead weight. Worse actually because they can open your site up to security risks and just bog it down so it doesn't load efficiently. Opt for less content. Honestly, if you can't commit to maintaining what's on your site—just don't put it out there. Only post what you're sure you can handle reviewing on the regular. This is one of those "less is more" scenarios: Less content equals less to update, less to have become stale or erroneous, less to break. Use static content in lieu of dynamic content. Post content that doesn't change often and that you're unlikely to have to touch for ages. The basics are frequently in this category—think address, phone number, management team, company profile, and so on. Simplify your site. Think about ways to reduce the number of pages, streamline how content is organized on pages and how you have the navigation structured. Perhaps there are places you can use videos, images, bulleted/numbered lists or automated feeds instead of large blocks of text. Leverage processes and workflows. No need to reinvent the wheel each time! Develop (and document) a routine that suits your site and resources. A framework facilitates things and helps ensure you don't forget about your site's needs or miss any vital aspects. Build a team. Sharing the responsibility of upkeep reduces the burden for each person, provides back-up coverage and ensures continuity as team members come and go. It also allows members to play their strengths—your wordsy colleagues can handle the copy and the tech talent can deal with infrastructure, for example. 🧹 Can you think of other ways to clean things up? Play, Grow, Learn Your baby is going to go from being a newborn to an infant to a regular old "baby" to a pre-toddler. Like a human child, your site needs to play and explore and experiment to learn and grow. Are you still with me? We don't operate in a vacuum. So not only is your website aging, the environment in which it exists is evolving. You have to make sure your web-kiddo is with the tide. The rate of scientific and technological advancement is staggering. But this is an exciting opportunity to help your site morph into its next-gen self. Along the way—like progressing from bassinet to crib—your website will probably go from one platform to another. Like your child going from bottle to spoon-feeding—your site will take on new bells and whistles and discard the ones that no longer serve it. There's a lot of trial and error in discovering and evaluating new technologies and how they might be useful. Pay attention to trends in software, hardware and user experience. Keep your eye on the prize, though: adding benefit for your users. Don't adopt the newest and greatest for the sake of doing so—do it because you have to or because it adds real value to your business and/or site visitors. ⭐ What are your favorite website upgrades and enhancements? Child Care Like a kid, your website should be monitored. This means regular check-ups as well as the moment-to-moment watching. Doing so will help you become a domain expert, which makes everything easier and more efficient. It also increases the likelihood that you'll discover snafus earlier, when they're less severe or have caused less damage. In the event that an issue does arise, you need to take action! If it's a booboo, bandage it and give it a lollipop (aka fix the prob yourself). If it's a catastrophic illness, see the doctor (aka seek professional help). If security is the concern, hire a fence and alarm system expert. You have to be on this like the she-wolf or he-bear you know you are. 💂‍♂️ What are you doing to watch over your site? The Toddler Years & Beyond Ok, so maybe this isn't the perfect metaphor. But it works...up to a point...right? You'll eventually need to upgrade or replace your website entirely as technologies, trends and standards change. (Hopefully, when your child is no longer useful, you won't replace it with a newer model. 😜) However, while you have a website—no matter if it's website 1.0, 2.0 or whatever.0—you will need to care for it. It, and your business, cannot thrive indefinitely if you don't tend to your primary web presence. 💗 How do you show your website love? Remember, though: Be kind and forgiving to yourself and your site. There are always growing pains and occasional aches and pains. Some things won't work or don't make sense for your site, business or team. But as you move forward, beyond the overwhelm, your baby will do its thing just fine. And your team will build skills, expertise and confidence. So it's all good. And don't forget—you don't have to rear this webbaby solo. There's no need to grapple around in the dark. I'm here for you! You can reach out any time you need re-enforcement. It Takes a Village Unless you're a hermit or part of a remote, secluded tribe or something, your baby (website) has needed your parental supervision. 📣 Chime in. Share.... How do you keep your site going? What are your best practices? What are your "Whys" for being strict with maintenance? Do you have tools, tips, tricks, routines, processes, etc. that can help others that are still in Website Parenting 101?

  • I 💓 Artichoke Hearts!

    Fave Healthy Food Hack: Artichoke Hearts Why Artichokes? Is it too punny to say they should be called heartachokes because I love them so much? These armored little veggies are near and dear to me because I associate them with wonderful childhood memories. (Awwww!) Plus, they are fun to eat and taste yummy. As a kid—and even now, when I have time—my family steamed whole artichokes and made a few different dipping sauces. It was a delightful meal event to gather à table and peel and eat the leaves. It took a while to develop good bract-scraping technique, to maximize the amount of goodness you got with each petal...but I was a champ. (Practice makes perfect!) Eventually, we'd get to the fuzzy choke, which my dad would scoop out with a teaspoon. My mom and I eagerly awaited our share of the heart. Now, though, I don't have time for slow procurement of my artichokes, or they aren't in season. So, I love that one can go to the local supermarket or online grocery store and find fresh, frozen, canned or jarred artichokes. And they come in so many different and wonderful preparations—pickled, marinated, grilled, etc.—as well as lovely plain morsels. In the spirit of trying to streamline my food choices, I prefer artichoke hearts that are either frozen with nothing on them or packed in water. And nine times out of ten, my go-to is the canned variety. Which is great because it means I can handily keep them in my cupboard year-round. Anyway, it's precisely this convenience-factor that induced me to start using artichoke hearts as a hack in my overhauled food routine. I was staring at a can of these guys one day when inspiration struck—serendipity! Why Hack Food? Let's take a quick half-step back. Why was I re-engineering my diet? Why would one want to hack their food? Everyone's looking for ways to boost their health and wellness, myself included. It's said that food can be your pharmacy (both preventative and curative) and that 70% of weight loss is tied to diet. I was hoping to lose weight, improve some of my health markers and just generally enhance my overall well-being. However, it's really hard to make changes, especially if you perceive that you're losing something you love (like foods that make your taste buds swoon) in the exchange. When you feel like you're being deprived, it's harder to hold fast to your new, better-for-you path. I am no stranger to this struggle! Anyone else feeling this, too? So it's a total life-changer when you come across a food hack that is a win-win. Your brain gets the sensory warm fuzzies it craves while your body is getting all the TLC it needs to thrive. Even better is when that food hack is a powerhouse like artichoke hearts: one that's cheap, seamless to integrate, versatile, tasty and healthy! Benefits of Artichokes Artichokes are an awesome and versatile vegetable. A member of the thistle family, they are widely available. Artichokes are incredibly nutritious while being low in fat. They can have positive impacts on cholesterol, liver and digestive function, blood pressure and blood sugar. It's even thought that some of the compounds in artichokes might inhibit certain. There are tons of resources out there that delve into how and why artichokes are good for you—I invite you to go down that rabbit hole sometime. It's interesting what one can learn! Suggested Uses Artichoke hearts are in regular rotation in my house. Here are some ways I integrate them: Add to Mediterranean stir-fries, salads and pasta dishes. Puree and use in place of cream in soups, sauces, dips and dressings. Dice into tuna, chicken or egg salad. Quarter and roast with fingerling potatoes. Top your pizza or flatbread. Add to sandwiches and wraps. Snack on them straight out of the container! You know that scene in Forrest Gump—the one in which Bubba is enumerating all the things you can do with shrimp? Of course you do.... Basically, substitute "artichokes" for "shrimp" and there you have it. It's quick and easy to find ways to incorporate artichokes into your regimen. And you don't have to be brilliantly creative, a master chef or drowning in free time. Recipe: Carmel Valley Pasta Sauce Ok, so this is somewhat more an exercise in guided inspiration than a bona fide recipe. This is one of those things I cook without a true scientific-like formula and process. So definitely feel free to finesse the ingredients and process—co-opt it so it's your own! The point is: make it tasty and packed with nutrition without any bad stuff or guilt. At any rate, the star (artichoke hearts) and supporting cast (sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and olive oil) of this recipe recall a trip I once took to Carmel Valley in California. It was springtime and there was a gorgeous artichoke farm next to our hotel. (The cook could literally open the window in the kitchen and grab an artichoke off the stalk if he wanted to!) Imagine something totally idyllic and that's what my nostalgic mind's eye is conjuring up, too.... Hopefully, you'll love this sauce and feel slightly, temporarily transported to a warm agro-heaven as well. Ingredients 1 can Artichoke Hearts (packed in water, NOT oil), drained 💚 1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, rough chopped 🍅 1 small Onion, rough chopped 🧅 3-5 cloves Garlic 🧄 1/4 Roasted Red Pepper Spread or 1 whole Roasted Red Pepper 🌶️ Parmesan Cheese (optional) 🧀 Pine Nuts or Sliced Almonds, preferably toasted (optional) 1/4 cup Water, Broth or Unsweetened Almond Milk 🌊 1 tablespoon Olive Oil 🏺 1 tablespoon Dried Parsley 🌿 Salt/Pepper, to taste 🧂 Process Gently squeeze the excess liquid out of the Artichoke Hearts. In a high-speed blender, add the Artichoke Hearts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Roasted Red Pepper. Add in the Parmesan Cheese and/or Almonds/Pine Nuts if you're opting those in. Blend until pureed. If you have trouble getting it to blend, slowly add a bit of liquid (i.e., the Water, Broth or Unsweetened Almond Milk), perhaps a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is able to blend. You don't want to add too much liquid as you want a nice thick sauce with a highly concentrated flavor and that's going to stick to your pasta. In a large skillet on medium heat, add the Olive Oil. When the Olive Oil is hot and shiny, add the blender mixture to the pan. Stir in the Parsley, Salt and Pepper—and any other seasonings you'd like. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring periodically for even heating and to prevent any sticking to the skillet. The goal of this step is threefold: caramelize the raw onion and garlic a tad so they're a little tamer, thicken the sauce as needed and heat it up (duh!). Enjoy! I add this sauce to grilled chicken strips and penne pasta, and serve with steamed broccoli (and occasionally a glass of wine!). It's a winner all around. You could combine this sauce with a pound of lean ground turkey for a delicious meat sauce. Or mix it in with your ratatouille. Or use it as a sandwich spread. Get creative! Have some fun with this zingy sauce that will evoke daydreams of a relaxing afternoon in the sunny California countryside. Community Table Why do you love artichokes? What are some ways you incorporate artichoke hearts into your diet? How will you use this sauce, or make it your own? More broadly, what are your favorite healthy food hacks? Why do you hack your food? What benefits have you realized as a result of creatively, thoughtfully and healthfully tweaking your diet? Serve up your ideas family style so we can all eat up the benefits. Thanks!

  • 3 Steps to Picking the Perfect-for-You Yoga Teacher Training

    How to Evaluate YTT Programs You think you want to become a yoga instructor, huh? Awesome! As soon as you start looking into training programs, you'll soon discover there are about a ga-zillion options. So how do you weed through it all to figure out what's the best fit for YOU? I was recently in this position myself, and happily share my process and learnings—to save you from having to reinvent this wheel. First, though, a bit of background.... My Yoga Journey Frequency I took my first yoga class during summer session at my university something like 20 years ago. (Where has the time gone!?!) Since then, I've practiced on and off—and mostly "on" for much of the last 15. In the last few years, I’ve ratcheted up my practice, going to two to three classes each week. Now that I’ve decided to pursue yoga teacher training (YTT), I’m trying to go three to four times weekly so I’ll build up my stamina and start tuning in to how my instructors teach. (No more rest days for a while I guess….) Variety During my tenure as a yogi, I've tried all sorts of yoga disciplines at many studios with a wealth of teachers. Seriously, everything from your basic Hatha mat class in the California Bay Area to Afro-Flow yoga with live drummers on the Esplanade in Boston to self-practice while traveling abroad. I have yet to try aerial yoga and paddleboard yoga—and I’m vehemently against any animal-accompanied yoga. My point is that, while I’ve explored a host of yogic experiences, there are infinite possibilities to continue my growth and development and enjoyment. Sweet! This invigorates me; I know there will always be a fresh and challenging new way to practice if I want it. It’s also a major source of my inspiration to become a teacher. Purpose Originally, I got into yoga just to see what it was about. I knew nothing and had no expectations. Possibly I had some preconceived notions that it was still a hippy-ish recreation, but that was so dang long ago…who knows…. Very quickly, though, I discovered amazing benefits. In that very first course I took, I found that yoga calmed me down and enabled me to relax (OK, raise your hand if you’ve ever fallen, snoringly, asleep during savasana. ✋ Don’t leave me hanging!) and constructively manage my tendency towards anxiety. Since then, yoga has become a staple in my wellness routine—and for good reason. It can be a terrific exercise regimen all on its own. But for me, wow! I have it in the mix with spin and TRX, and mindful whole-foods nutrition and other self-care (e.g., massage, hydration, regular healthcare, taking time to relax and enjoy creative and social hobbies, etc.) This is truly a power combo for me, proven out by significant improvements in my health markers (e.g., weight, skin quality, etc.). I feel better; I look better. I AM BETTER! And a better “me” means I can be better for those with whom my life intersects. (You are familiar with those old saying like “You gotta take care of #1” and “You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of those you love.”? There’s a reason those adages have had stickiness for the ages—there’s truth to them!) Progression I’ve had such great exposure to and benefits from yoga. Naturally, I began thinking: What’s next? Where do I want to take this? From studying martial arts and achieving my black belt, I knew that a logical and meaningful next step might be to become a teacher. Regardless of whether or not I want to teach. Becoming a teacher is a fantastic way to deepen my practice. It necessitates me learning all the details of yoga poses and philosophy, anatomy, lesson planning and teaching, and so on. But it also means sheer repetition of movements and meditations. (Regardless of whether or not the theory that 10,000 hours or repetitions enables you to master a skill is in doubt, I think it can apply here to me.) I mean, I’ll be inculcating some serious mental and physical muscle memory. By the end of a teacher training program, it stands to reason that I'll be able to get into postures more deeply, attempt more advanced poses, understand how to design an effective vinyasa for my needs and goals. Cool—I'm totally on board with this. Assuming teaching in some way, shape or form is part of my grand plan? My understanding is that to be a yoga instructor at most gyms and studios you need to have completed a 200-hour YTT program from a certified YTT school. It’s very often the minimum bar. On a more practical skew, though, I wouldn’t feel comfortable teaching without formal education on how to do so. I wouldn’t be confident that I could safely (paramount and non-negotiable!) and effectively guide others. Becoming a certified YTT lays the groundwork for a lot of possibilities…. And this brings me to my hunt for a program that fits my needs.…. Finding a Santosha-Inducing Yoga Teacher Training Program Timeline Based on my search, many YTTs are seasonal, meaning that there’s one beginning at the start of January/February, September/October, etc. I mention this because you’ll want to give yourself adequate time to conduct your search. I didn’t know this when I started looking at programs, but lucked out—everything fell into place. Score! Yoga Alliance Seal of Approval It quickly became apparent that I needed to find a YTT that is certified by the Yoga Alliance. The Yoga Alliance is a major industry professional organization. It strives to bring quality, vital knowledge and consistency to YTT programs across the board. And, as I mentioned before, many studios and gyms require you to have graduated from a Yoga Alliance-blessed YTT. So, I started my search on the Yoga Alliance website. In addition to absolutely indispensable information on what elements your YTT curriculum should include, it has a handy searchable database of member schools that have qualified YTT programs. This helped winnow down the sea of potential programs a bit, but it also made it obvious that I had a lot more to consider…. Step 1: Determine Search Criteria There are so many kinds of schools and programs. Before you start evaluating them—do yourself a favor and ask yourself these questions. Your answers will mercifully guide your search. The questions below reflect the search/filter options you’ll find on the Yoga Alliance website. They will cut out the noise of the more than 7,500 registered yoga schools to a much more manageable list. Designations: Do you want to do a 200-, 300- or 500-hour YTT? Location/Radius: Where do you want to do your YTT? In the US or abroad? How far do you want to travel to get to your YTT? Training Formats: Do you want to do a full-time or part-time YTT? Are you available during the week or only on weekends? What time(s) of the year are you able to dedicate to a YTT program? Types Taught: What kind of yoga do you want to learn to teach? For me, I knew I wanted to do a part-time 200-hour YTT starting in early 2020. I loathe being stuck in traffic (a side effect to being a home-based remote worker I suppose…), so my YTT needed to be close to home. Having tried a variety of styles, I knew I wanted to learn how to teach flow, fitness, heated and/or alignment-oriented yoga. Based on my criteria, I was able to narrow the field to just five potential schools. It’s a lot easier to research five schools than 7,500+…. Am I right? (I ended up selecting one of these five schools. But, if all had been a bust, I could have easily changed or broadened my search/filter criteria to come up with more options.) Step 2: Refine the List Go through the schools in your search results. Make a shortlist of the ones that are offering YTTs at a time that works for you. Many schools teach more than one YTT throughout the year, so hopefully, you’ll see multiple schools with program timings that will work for you. I also noticed that many schools don’t list any program dates. I’m not sure if this is because they haven’t added them to the Yoga Alliance website yet, or because they don’t have any slated for the foreseeable future. My suggestion is to look at the school’s website, which should have info about their YTT. For each program that piques your interest*: Gauge the school/program. How does it present itself? What does it focus on? Does it seem professional? Read the instructor bios. How do they present themselves? What credentials do they have? Explore the program curriculum. How is the course broken out? What level and quality of detail is provided for each section? How is time allocated? How many hours are direct contact vs not? How many hours are with the Lead Instructor? Read the reviews. What are past students saying about the school, program and instructor? * Look for this info on the Yoga Alliance school profile page, the school’s website and via general web research (e.g., Google or Yelp reviews, other yoga sites and blogs, etc.) Weigh these factors against your needs and priorities for a YTT program. You’ll likely feel in your gut that some programs are better for you than others. This is a great thing! You’re making progress. Woohoo! A reasonable goal at this stage would be to further shrink your shortlist to two to five contenders. These you’ll delve into more thoroughly. Too many will make deep-diving way too overwhelming. Step 3: Ask MORE Questions YTT is a major investment of your time, money and spirit—make sure it’s worth it to you and the program you opt for is the right one. Also, remember that you are your best advocate. So ask questions, think about the answers, then ask more questions and chew on those answers. You’re bound to be happier and more confident in your decisions if you do this. Having never picked a YTT program before, I figured my best bet was to go to trusted experts. I asked several of my yoga instructors how they would evaluate a YTT program, what questions they would ask, and compiled the listicle below. Some questions are self-reflection and additional “filter” criteria (that the Yoga Alliance doesn’t let you apply). Others are course design details that will impact your learning experience, and thus your choice of YTT program. These are critical data points! What’s your budget for a YTT? Can you pay upfront or will you need to pay in installments? My research showed 200-hour YTTs range in price from $1,500-$3,000 nationally, but of the programs I was considering they ran around $2,800-$3,100. They all offered early-bird and payment-in-full discounts. Find a program that is financially viable for you. What aspects of yoga do you want to emphasize (e.g., anatomy or philosophy)? Of the two programs I was seriously looking into, one focused more on philosophy and one focused more on anatomy. I’m more interested in the physicality of yoga and its application to ensure safe, effective fitness. Suffice it to say, on this particular dimension, one of the YTTs is more suited to me. Why do you want to take a YTT? What’s your end goal? It’s easier to evaluate a YTT if you know what you want to get out of it. Figure out (or at least think about) if you want to teach regular classes, do workshops and events, make videos, open a studio, get involved with corporate or community wellness, or simply deepen your practice. It’s all good. You just need to know what’s making you tick, what’s going to mobilize your bod out of bed for study and practice. Take a yoga class with the instructor. Ok, I know this isn’t a question. But, experiencing the teacher in the wild will enable you to pose and answer these important questions: Do you like his teaching style? Did she instill confidence in you (e.g., does she seem to know her stuff)? Extrapolate—can you see this person being a good YTT instructor and delivering the knowledge you need in a way that speaks to you? How are the facilities? Are you comfortable? Do you have any environmental requirements? You will be spending long hours in the studio/classroom. You must be at ease. For example, many studios use essential oils or incense (hello allergens much?), may not have great HVAC or lack someplace to store/eat lunch on those full-day classes, etc. I decided that I couldn’t handle sitting on the floor for entire weekends and opted for a YTT that has a separate room with sofas for the discussion portions of the program. What kind of reputation does the school/teacher have? Yoga communities are pretty small. So ask your trusted teachers if they know the school/instructors for the YTT. If you can find past students of the instructor/YTT, get their input. Only go somewhere that’s in good standing. Is there rapport? If you can, meet the instructor(s) in person before choosing a YTT. Most schools have info sessions or will schedule consultations with prospective students. Info sessions are nice opportunities to meet other prospective students as well as the teachers. Get a feel for how the instructors relate to one another (if there are multiple teachers) and to students. See if you get good vibes from your potential cohorts. The instructor I chose let me sit in on a day of her current YTT training cycle; so I got to see firsthand how she related to students. You’ll be spending a substantial amount of time together, so it’s key that there’s connection. How many teachers? How many students? It’s really important to know the teacher/student ratio. Lots of students and few teachers means you probably won’t get a lot of 1:1 attention. Large groups also can affect the pacing and direction of the course. Having more than one instructor can expose you to multiple approaches to teaching, which can benefit you greatly. It’s really about settling on what plugs in to your learning style. How are classes structured? I would not survive a program that had nine hours straight sitting around memorizing muscle groups and the Sanskrit names of poses. So, I found one that alternates between sitting “bookwork”, movement and mat work, reflective or creative work and breaks/meals. It leverages multimedia resources and experiential learning. Think about your learning style and how you like your days organized. Try to go with a YTT that jives. Continue to Flow Make a Decision Decision time! Give yourself a hearty pat on the back. You’ve done tons of work—a fairly rigorous self-inventory and thorough investigation of YTT options—to get to this step. You’ve armed yourself with the knowledge necessary to determine your next move. The first decision you need to make is: Are you going to commit to doing a YTT? If the answer is “No”…that’s so cool. It takes gumption to assess everything and decide it’s not the path for you. Especially after investing all the time and effort to learn about yourself, schools, programs and teachers. Think about it—you saved yourself from going in an inauthentic direction and now you’re free to find your passion elsewhere. And you can always return to YTT at some other moment if it feels right. But, if the answer is “Yes”…yay! Good for you! You passed the first stage-gate: You are definitely going to do a YTT. Now you just need to get cozy with all the information you’ve gathered and the signals your intuition is blasting out. Weigh the pros and cons of the programs you explored. And then…DECIDE! Action Plan A decision is nothing without actions to bring it to fruition. Make your plan—complete with the steps you need to take, deadlines, etc. Hold yourself accountable for completing each task. Before you can utter “Om shanti shanti shanti” you’ll be nose deep in your Bhagavad Gita and flying your Pigeon like a guru! Is All This Really Necessary? Do you already have a YTT in mind, and this process feels unnecessary or redundant? I still recommend looking up your school and program on Yoga Alliance’s website. And searching/filtering to find competitor programs. This will either re-enforce your decision that your desired school/program is the ideal fit, or it will give you others to consider. Also, it will confirm that your chosen school/program is Yoga Alliance certified. I was originally considering a particular program, but after my research on Yoga Alliance’s site and meeting the instructors/attending info sessions, I went with a different one. Both programs are of high quality—it’s just that one is more perfect for my needs. Wrapping It Up Finding a yoga teacher training program is a very personal thing. What differentiates a YTT and makes it “good” is unique to you. It takes time and care to research, evaluate and decide upon a school, instructor and curriculum that meets your specific needs and equips you for success. Here's a cheat sheet to facilitate your search. I wish you happiness and fulfillment in your endeavors. Namaste. Opening It Up Please share your experiences. What questions would you ask? How would you evaluate YTTs? What tipped you in one direction or another when choosing a program? Thanks!

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