Finding your slow

When is the last time you did nothing?

Sitting and checking your Facebook updates or reading email is not nothing.

Today we are all so wired and connected that we forget to slow down. If we don’t slow down, though, we don’t recharge, which keeps us from being at our best.

Here are a few suggestions for slowing down:

Feed the birds. In “Mary Poppins” an old lady sits on the steps of St. Paul’s and sings, “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.” It’s good advice. I have several bird feeders and I sit and watch the birds come to eat. It’s fun to identify them and watch how they interact with each other. I often sit for 20 minutes or longer simply watching. I don’t think about anything.

Unplan your vacation. Yes, you need a destination and you should know something about where you are going and where you will stay. But after that, don’t plan anything. Wake up each morning and then decide. Better yet, walk out the door of your hotel and start walking. We did that once in London and came upon the premiere of one of the Star Wars movies. Outside the theater were Storm Troopers so we had our photo taken. I think that day we had planned to go to the Tower of London. It’s been there since 1078, but how often do you get to hang out with Storm Troopers?

Eat at a table. This does not mean your desk. Take time to eat lunch. In the evenings, even if you pick-up your dinner, sit down at the table and eat it, preferably with no television. If you ordered carry out, take the food out of the plastic and Styrofoam and put it on a plate. Enjoy the taste, the sight and the smell of your food. In other words, slow down and savor the meal.

Adult coloring books are a great way to slow down (photo by Cynthia Price).

Adult coloring books are a great way to slow down (photo by Cynthia Price).

Connect with nature. This can be anything from walking in a park to planting a small garden. If you don’t have room for a garden join a community garden. The idea is to play in the dirt, feel the grass beneath your feet and look up at the sun and clouds.

Color. The latest trend is coloring books for adults. I’ve been coloring my entire life. I have always find it relaxing. I guess I was just a head of the trend. I often purchase a child’s coloring book from the dollar store, but now there is an entire line of coloring books for adults. I just bought “Splendid Cities: Color Your Way to Calm” by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick (artists). Not only does it relax me it lets me daydream about my next travel destination.

How do you find your slow?

Future of blogging

Capture2014Most people find my blog not by visiting it, but by reading it on a variety of social media sites. That’s part of the future of blogging, which is really the here and now.

Other things to consider with a blog include:

Video and image focused Visuals are powerful when used to communicate an appropriate message. According to MDGAdvertising articles with images get 94 percent more total views.

Mobile focused This is one I don’t have to worry about because my blog is hosted by WordPress, which is mobile optimized. However, if you built your own site, you need to be sure you are mobile optimized. Global Web Index found that 80 percent of internet users own a smartphone. And The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, found that mobile devices in use, including phones and tables, will grow from more than 9.5 billion in 2015 to more than 14.8 billion by 2019

Varied content Variety is the spice of life, and that maxim holds true with blogging. I switch up my content. Sometimes I’ll summarize a workshop I attended and share key take-aways. Other times, I’ll offer a how-to guide. Sometimes, I try to be a bit more creative while still sharing communications or leadership tips.

Attention grabbing headlines I recently won a first-place award for headline writing so I must be doing something right. I try to write headlines that let you know what the topic will truly be about. Sometimes, though, my uber-creative side comes out and wants to make the reader guess as to the real subject matter. When that happens, I usually rewrite the headline. After all, the blog is for you the reader; not for me.

As for the future of this blog, I’m continuing with it. I’m also pulling together previously published posts for a book. I’ve developed a plan, and now I just need to work the plan.

Driving traffic to your blog

Field of Dreams“If you build it, they will come” works in the movie Field of Dreams, but it doesn’t work when you write a blog.

That was the advice Jeff Wilson of PadillaCRT shared with a group of PR practitioners recently.

He’s right. You can’t write a blog, post it and expect that people will find it, let alone visit it.  Recent studies show that more than 60 percent of companies have a blog. A study by IBM notes that 80 percent of companies with blogs have five posts or less. Five posts do not make a blog, nor does it entice one to come back.

I’ve written about the care and feeding of a blog. Today, I wanted to share how I go about driving traffic to my blog so that people will come to it. Heck, maybe Kevin Costner will visit my blog!

Post regularly. I’ve been writing my blog for six years, consistently posting each week. I achieve this by creating a content calendar. I go through the calendar and identify possible topics and upcoming workshops I will attend, which could provide fodder. I also schedule time to research, write and edit. I also spend time finding artwork – usually by taking photos – to illustrate the blog.

Share automatically. I have my blog set up to automatically post to my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. If anyone comments on the blog on one of those sites, I respond. I am able to do this quickly because I have notifications turned on. Forbes reported that social media is now the number one driver of all website referral traffic based on a study by Shareaholic.

Tweet often. One advice I was given was to write five to 10 tweets for each blog post I write. My blogs are intentionally short. If I followed this advice my tweets could conceivably be longer than the original post! I do try to write three to five tweets for each post. It’s part of the writing process, and I schedule the tweets for the immediate weeks after the post has published. These tweets help me reach others who currently are not reading my blog.

Feature your blog on your website You want your readers to easily find your blog. If you are a company, the blog should feed into the main website. For me, my blog is my website, so I have enhanced the blog with additional pages that I want to share with my readers. This is important as I continue to build my coaching business.

Just do something

I meet bi-weekly with my accountability partner. We are supporting and holding each other accountable as we both create something that is important to us. She is writing a book (I read a sample chapter and loved it!), and I am establishing myself as a life coach.

We discuss our plans and provide feedback. At our last meeting, though, neither one of us had accomplished anything since the last meeting. We didn’t beat ourselves up, but rather acknowledged we had each had a crazy few weeks.

As we were wrapping our meeting, I wondered what our goals would be for the next meeting. Liz said, “Just do something.”

It was sage advice. As long as we each are doing something related to our goal, we are moving forward.

My friend Adriana Trigiani, who has written numerous bestsellers and has a movie coming out Oct. 9, has told me and other would-be writer friends the same thing, “Just write.”

We can all find ways to avoid writing. I’ll take another class to improve my writing. I’ll learn about marketing my book (what book?!). I’ll talk about my book with others. At the end of the day, though, if I want to publish a book, I need to sit down and write it.

And if I want to establish myself as a life coach, I need to just do something. I realized that I had made an extensive list of things I need to do – from taking classes to building a website. What I failed to do was to manage how I would complete these tasks.

My “just do something” became “create a business plan” with tasks and due dates.  I’m looking forward to sharing it at my next accountability meeting.

Summer reading list tradition continues

My summer reading awaits. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

My summer reading awaits. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

One of my favorite ways to unwind throughout summer is to sit poolside with a good mystery and a stack of magazines.

But I can’t quite escape the idea of summer reading lists. I always had one in high school and so each summer I make a list of books I should read – and want to read. It forces me to read outside my favorite genre.

Here is my list for the summer –

All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doer’s novel has been on The New York Times bestseller list for a year. It’s about the lives of a blind French girl and a gadget-obsessed Germ boy before and during World War II. I’ve been on the waiting list at my library for a few months. I’m now 34th on the list. At one point I was 117 so I am making progress.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The book is “a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and the very scary part we all play in it.” I read a review of it and was intriqued by it. I don’t know if I will read it in its entirety, but I’m definitely going to heavily skim it.

The World Between Two Covers A beguiling exploration of the joys of reading across boundaries, inspired by the author’s year-long journey through a book from every country. Ann Morgan writes in the opening, “I glanced up at my bookshelves… The awful truth dawned. I was a literary xenophobe.” The book “welcomes us into the global community of stories,” and I’m looking forward to exploring from my armchair.

You will notice it’s shorter than in past years. It’s summertime, and I don’t want to be overly ambitious. Plus, too many of my favorite mystery writers have new books. I’ll see you at the pool.

And if you have a suggestion for a book, please post it as a comment or share it with me on Twitter @PriceCynthia.

Create your own recombobulation area

One of the challenging parts of airport security is making sure you keep track of your personal items. You have to take off your shoes and jacket and place them in a bin. Your laptop needs to come out of the suitcase and into a bin. Your keys can’t be in your pocket. Your mobile goes into a bin, too.

Once you clear the checkpoint, you have to put it all back together. It leaves one feeling discombobulated.

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The Milwaukee airport features a Recombobulation Area (Photo by Cynthia Price).

At the Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, just past security, is an area that solves the problem. It’s the “recombobulation area.”

The sign hangs above the checkpoint. I saw it on a recent trip, and realized that I could use such a space at home and work.

Soon after the trip, I created the spaces, which enable me to put order back into my life. At home I’ve designated a spot for my keys and work bag. Anything that needs to go to work, goes in the bag, which sits beside a foyer table. The table has room on top to set the mail that needs to be posted and the library books that need to be returned. A small bowl collects my keys. Everything in its place. I am now recombobulated and ready for work.

The same holds true at work, where I have set aside a corner of my desk for work that needs to come home or articles I want to read at home. At day’s end, I know exactly what to grab.

Often travel is hectic. But when a recombobulation area exists, suddenly travel – and life – seems less harried.

5 tips to promote yourself as an author

The mystery writers group to which I belong (Sisters in Crime, Central Virginia chapter) received some great marketing advice from Rachel Thompson. She has 17 years of marketing experience and four books on Amazon. You can find her on Twitter @BadRedheadMedia.

A lament of everyone on the call was that the marketing effort we put forward has to be effective because an author’s time needs to be spent writing.

Here are five tips –

  1. If you are on Twitter, use the appropriate hashtag. Choose one that is a term that people are likely to search on. For example, in our group, it would be #mystery.
  2. Often on social sharing sites, as authors we reach out to other authors. That’s fine, but Thompson said, “Really, we want to connect with readers and book bloggers.” In other words, we need to reach those who are going to read our books.
  3. Passively sell your books. To do this, change the header of your website or any of your social sites to show your books. You can take it a step further and include a link to where your books are sold.
  4. Create a schedule so you stay on top of sharing content. “In order to sell books, there has to be a consistent presence,” Thompson said.
  5. Brand the author, not the book. You will write many books, so it’s important to focus on you as an author and not on your latest book.

“We want to connect with readers and book bloggers.”