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The Simplest Way to Write a Unique First Draft

This guest post is by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy

Do you have 45 minutes to work on your blog?

If so, I can show you how to write the first draft of your next blog post.

First drafts are messy. This blog post originated from five unrelated words on five separate lines, double-spaced, in a Microsoft Word document. That might not sound like a draft, but without that foundation I would have never created the article that you’re currently reading.

Each lonely word just needed friends to complete my thoughts.

Drafts help you express information that can be crafted later. Writing isn’t a linear process—it’s normal to not know how the finished draft will look. Think of writing as constructing a building. You can’t build the structure in a day. You have to first acquire the proper machinery, excavate the land, install a supportive skeleton, etc.

If you don’t write because you think everything comes out wrong, or you can’t get enough done, that’s like saying building construction isn’t worth the effort because you won’t have a completed product by sundown.

You don’t have to perfectly communicate your intentions right away. That’s not necessarily how a great writer creates words that move you. Writing only becomes natural when you practice. To start, you can train yourself to work in short periods of time.

Here are four simple construction tools to help you write your first draft.

Set the timer

Press the start button on a timer set for 45 minutes. Once the clock is ticking, ignore everything but your draft.

I like this time frame because it takes a bit to get into a writing groove. When I give myself 45 minutes, I actually write for about 30 minutes.

Now, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Who’s your reader?

Write down your ideal reader’s characteristics.

Is your reader busy? Does he need fast, short tips or detailed, lengthy research? What’s bothering him?

Once you answer this question, write every sentence of your blog post for that person. You may not put any part of your answer in your final draft, but when you clearly define your audience, you get a better sense of what you want to write and why you’re writing.

Frequently reference the answer to this question throughout the writing process. If your ideal reader would not understand certain information, rewrite or eliminate it.

2. What’s the point?

Write your main message in 25 words or less. You can extract a succinct headline from this statement.

Does your headline describe a specific topic? Does it contain appropriate keywords? What will the reader learn if she reads your post? You will need to spend time fine-tuning your headline during future writing sessions, but you should still begin with a precise focus.

Your headline doesn’t just grab a reader’s attention; it helps you summarize your blog post.

3. How can you help?

Write the information that the reader wants to know.

How does your content solve a problem? Don’t waste sentences alluding to answers to a reader’s questions. State them. You don’t have to use complete sentences with eloquent transitions yet, but your ideas should provide immense value.

Share details that support your blog post’s headline. Thoughtful responses to these three questions shape your intentions.

If you write broad answers, you’ll produce a generic blog post that is similar to writing on other websites.

But if you answer specifically, you’ll write the first draft of useful content that gets shared because there’s nothing else like it.

What’s your process for writing first drafts of posts? Is it anything like this? Share your secrets in the comments.

Stefanie Flaxman created Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services with your editing needs in mind. Follow @RevisionFairy to keep up with Stefanie’s philosophy for writing and editing your life.

Say Bye-bye to Blogger Body, and Hello to Better Health

This guest post is by Tania Dakka of TaniaDakka.com.

Awesome! You just finished that killer project you’ve been working so hard on all day! Congratulations!

But then you get up.

Ouch.

Your back’s killing you. Your body’s stiff. And you feel the pangs of a headache kicking in. That puffed chest is starting to deflate a little, isn’t it?

That’s Blogger Body.

Not managing the Achievement Addict disease that causes Blogger Body will eventually affect your production levels and quality. You’re wired to push yourself, so you push hard. Harder than you would push anyone else, because you think that’s the only way you can achieve your best.

That thinking isn’t flawed—it just needs a little tweaking.

You’re not alone

As bloggers, we love to get things done. We’re experts at hyper-focusing. And it feels good—really good—when we write master content we know rocks our readers’ worlds—even if it means hours on hours in the chair bent over our keyboards, drinking pots of coffee, and eating whatever we can get our hands on.

But, you’re bound to hit the wall sooner or later. The aching in your back that’s screaming louder than your three-year-old will become a relentless signal that can’t be ignored.

You have to take care of yourself—or your content will suffer.

You can do it

You can take breaks, and take care of yourself, and still produce great content—as a matter of fact, you’ll actually produce more of it! (Hey, look at that! A way to make more and greater stuff! Didn’t you just get goosebumps?)

Don’t think, “I can’t stop until I’ve finished.” Think, “These breaks are going to make this piece rock!”

A healthy body is your foundation for a clear and powerful mind that produces and creates. Here’s the deal. If you want them to give you more, you’ve got to give them more.

And with the right foods and an easy workout plan, you’ll be the unstoppable blogger you’ve always strived to be, writing posts that everyone wants to read.

5 Steps to your a better body and blog

1. Get back to nature

The optimal diet for a blogger’s brain/body boost is one rich in natural foods. What’s on the blogger’s “Yes” Foods List? Anything from the ground, or that has a mama—or any combo thereof.

Action: Start by adding in whole foods to each meal. The more you add, the less room you’ll have for “No” Foods.

2. Hydrate often

Waiting until you’re thirsty means your brain is already suffering. And, bloggers, what can a dry brain do for you? The rule used to be eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but it’s not enough. Guys: You need 13 cups a day. And girls: You need at least nine.

Action: Put a rubber band around your glass every time you finish a glass of water, to keep track of how much you’ve had to drink (um, this only works if you use the same glass all day). Strive to collect between nine and 13 rubber bands before bed.

3. Limit focus time to an hour and a half

Sitting for hours with no break leaves your eye glassy and thoughts befuddled. The maximum chunk of time you should lend to a project is an hour and a half. Then, take a five- to 15-minute break. You’ll refresh your mind and reinvigorate your drive.

Action: Set your timer and force yourself up when it goes off. If you’re worried about losing focus, write down your thoughts at the time of the bell and come back after step 4 to pick up exactly where you left off. This downloadable worksheet should help.

4. Work out

Yes, I said it. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be done.

Action: When the timer rings, stand up and do ten to 15 Burpees. They’re a great whole-body move that, when done right, will pick up that heart rate. But if you find them too difficult, do the easier versions of the pushups for a while. When you can do the 15 of them (with correct form) in under two minutes, switch the challenge up and do three minutes of them at the end of each focus session.

Proper Burpee execution: From a standing position, drop into a push up position (don’t let your midsection droop when you go down—keep your back straight). Then, do your pushup and spring back to a standing position. End it with a jump with your hands raised overhead. Then, drop back into your next Burpee. Here’s a great video by Zuzana Light to show you visual learners how to Burpee the right way:

5. Sleep

This is so hard when you’re gears are turning 24/7 about your next big post, but without rest, you won’t power up so you can push through your blogging and your blog training. Spend five minutes doing a proper wind down before trying to sleep. Meditation or focused breathing are great relaxers for a blogger’s ever-running mind.

Action: Lying on your back in bed, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths. Inhale for a count of four and hold for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Do this until you feel the last of the stress of the day exhale with your breath. Then, let your mind drift off to dream.

Use these five steps to prime your body and mind to create the content your readers beg for and will want to share.

If you can’t do Burpees, what other exercise would you replace them with to get your heart pumping on your break?

Tania Dakka, Fit Freelancer, is dedicated to providing clients with copy that converts and writers the tools they need to survive (and even thrive) where life, fitness, and productivity collide. Sign up and get the help you need at TaniaDakka.com.

What Blog Tasks are You Embarrassed to Admit You’ve Overlooked?

Over the last few days we’ve been talking about taking your blog to the often-elusive “next level.”

We’ve seen tips for developing your voice and message, creating stronger calls to action, and increasing traffic.

If you’re already working on those aspects of your blog, and are happy with your approach, you’ll probably be hungry for other ideas, looking to the future, and trying to predict what will be most successful tactics for you.

I know I do this myself—I’ll get an idea like the QLD blogging challenge and throw myself into making it happen.

That’s great—one of the best things about blogging is that it lets us pursue our passions!—but I have noticed a tendency to let things drop off my To Do list as these new ideas pop up. An example was pointed out by Ed Boyhan on my Google + post. He wrote:

“Seems kinda odd: here you are providing some useful info on how some use G+, but nowhere on this page is there a “+1″ button to let me share with a circle I have for future reference. Makes me doubt your involvement in the G+ community.”

This is a valuable comment for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder of something I need to do, which dropped off my list. Whoops! Second, it explains what the implications of that oversight are—how that looks to my readers, which gives me motivation not just to get that task back on the To Do list, but also to actually act upon it and make that change to my blog.

But I know I’m not the only one who hesitates or overlooks small blogging tasks that, logically, I have no excuse not to have done!

Take a look at the comments on Kelly Crawford’s recent post, If Your Email Newsletter Isn’t Generating Cash You’re Doing Something Wrong.

Many of the people who responded to that post admitted that they hadn’t tried out some of the most common, and proven, newsletter marketing techniques for one reason or another, even though they knew they should, and wanted to.

All this makes me wonder if we wouldn’t see some big advances on our blogs if we just got through some of those little, should-have-done-it-ages-ago tasks that we keep pushing aside (even if we have good reason for doing so).

What if each of us put a day aside in the next week to knock as many of those little tasks off our To Do lists for good? What difference would that make to our blogs over the longer term? If nothing else, it would probably give each of us a much more solid platform from which to try to climb to the “next level.”

At the very least, let’s start by admitting some of the things that have slipped off our To Do lists. Don’t be embarrassed—I bet the things you’ve neglected aren’t as basic as my G+ sharing oversight!

What do you know you’re not doing, that you should be doing? Admit it in the comments. (You might even help remind the rest of us of other things we’ve forgotten we should be doing…) Even getting a small task off your list could be a big step in the right direction for your blog.

A Legendary Copywriter’s Secret to an Unending Stream of Ideas

This guest post is by Josh Sarz of Sagoyism.com.

I’m in love with blogging.

If you’re like me, you marvel that you have your own website. It may not be huge for a lot of people who’ve been in the blogging biz for years, but it’s huge for me.

My first few months of blogging flew by so fast, it seemed like only yesterday when I started writing online.

My first blog was about everything under the sun. Tech, Social Media, Health, Entertainment and turtles were just a few of the topics my first blog covered. I was prolific. Writing two or three blog posts per day was normal for me. I had so much to talk about.

Then came the scourge that a lot of people call writer’s block. I started fearing the blank page. I couldn’t think of anything else to write about. Social Media? I’ve written about it a lot. Entertainment? It was getting really boring really fast. I ran out of ideas.

Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who has experienced this before. Coming up to your blog, facing a blank page and wondering for hours on what to write about. I’m also sure that a lot of people will be experiencing this in the future.

That’s why I’ll be telling you about the secret I learned to getting an unending stream of knowledge and ideas. With this in your creative arsenal, you won’t even have to worry about what to write today, tomorrow and the day after that.

The secret is incubation

This isn’t my idea, by the way. I read about it in a book by legendary copywriter Joseph Sugarman. If you don’t know him, then you should. I’ve learned a massive amount of knowledge from his book. I know you will as well.

Joe talked about how he gets creative ideas for his copy. Want to know one of his secrets? He got off his butt and did something else.

“What’s this ‘incubation’ that you speak of?”, you might ask.

It’s the process of getting your mind out of your work, and giving it time to rest. To make it even more simple, it means you get out of you chair and do something else. Don’t even think about what to write for your blog.

“How am I supposed to know what to write if I don’t think about it?”

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. It really does. The logic behind it is that your mind is always at work. No matter what you do, whether you’re brewing your favorite coffee, or watching Disney’s Up, or even when you’re out partying, you’re brain is constantly absorbing everything that you see, hear, feel, taste and smell.

So don’t worry if you’re not burying your face in your computer. You’re still working. Trust me.

I’ll tell you the reason as to how this will work for you later. But first, let’s talk about the two kinds of knowledge.

  1. General knowledge: This is simply the basic kind of knowledge that you get from experiencing everything in your life. When you’re watching the Discovery Channel, or seeing how your mom cooked dinner back when you were a kid, or the time when you were learning how to draw your favorite superhero … all this would account to growing your general knowledge.
  2. Specific knowledge: This type of knowledge is what is also called ‘niche’ knowledge. This is the knowledge that you get from studying how to write great copy, or how to perform open-heart surgery, or the specific temperature that cooks the perfect fried chicken.

The difference between the two is: general knowledge comes as you experience the world and what it has to offer, while specific knowledge, on the other hand, is something you learn when you have to study or do a certain amount of research.

Have you guessed what kind of knowledge the incubation process can give you?

The power of general knowledge

This is the backbone of your creativity. While specific knowledge will give you the info you need to be an expert on a topic, general knowledge gives you the ability to be flexible with just about anything.

This is also the driving force behind an unending stream of knowledge and ideas. Growing your experience with a variety of things outside your blog will add up to your creative arsenal.

Never again will you have to worry about what to write. Never again will you worry about how you want to portray your next big idea. Never again will you have to fear the blank page.

Now I’ll tell you how you can use your general knowledge to your advantage.

Putting it all together

We know how important taking time off from your blog is. We also talked about general knowledge, and what it can do for your creativity.

Now let’s put it all together and get those creative juices overflowing. This is another tactic that I’ve learned from Joseph Sugarman’s book. It’s not his idea this time, but it’s brilliant nonetheless.

We’re now going to apply what we’ve learned through our everyday experiences to think of unique ways to write your next post. If you think that you don’t have enough general knowledge to work with, think again.

You know more than you think you do. A lot more. So don’t worry.

The technique that I’m talking about is called Lateral Thinking. It’s a process of solving problems using indirect and creative means, usually with ideas that seem totally unrelated to the main topic.

Joe talked about how Edward de Bono’s device, the “Think Tank”, can help you with your creativity. You pick three random words out of a huge pile, and relate them to your topic.

Now let’s apply this to your blog post. This is where it gets interesting.

You have to write you next post while incorporating those three random words. What a challenge! And a fun one at that. This will force your brain to search your vault of general knowledge. You don’t have to be an expert at these random words, you just need to know how to tie them all in to your topic.

Why is it fun? What does it do to help with my blogging?

  • Your blog post won’t sound dry, so your readers will have a better experience reading your posts.
  • It’s going to attract another type of reader aside from the usual ones, growing your audience in the process.
  • The exercise trains your brain to be more creative, so you’ll get better and better every day, and won’t have to even worry about what to write about.
  • The entire post will generally sound better with a story. People love reading a story. It captures their attention, and if done right, would compel your readers to read your entire post. Not bad.

But wait, isn’t using three unrelated words a bit too had?

I admit, it’s a little shocking to do at first, but it gets easier in time. Don’t worry, because you don’t have to go “by the book” and use three words. You can choose to go use the Easy mode, and just pick out one unrelated word. As you get used to applying this technique when you’re brainstorming, you can move on to Normal mode (two or three words) and then finally to Hard mode.

I used the same technique to brainstorm a topic to write this guest post on Problogger. I only picked two random words (I chickened out of using three), which were “love” and “sleep.”

You don’t need to have your own Think Tank device to do this. Being the lazy guy that I am, I just searched on Google and found a site where I could generate up to eight random words.

Get those ideas flowing like crazy

It’s going to be so easy, I promise. And fun, too. You now know that in order to get an unlimited amount of ideas, all you have to do is stop working and do something else. Go watch some TV, read a book, train your dog how to sniff out firecrackers, go swimming, hang out with your family—do just about anything.

You’ve also learned how to apply lateral thinking when brainstorming ideas for your next blog post. I’ve given you a link to a page where you can get up to eight random words. You now know how to get creative and search the vault in your brain for ideas.

The best thing about this is: it’s totally free, and you can start doing it right this instant. So get out there and do something else. Forget about your blog for a while. When you come back, so fresh and revived, you’ll be ready to take on that blank page.

This is what I’ve learned to do, and it has helped me tons.  I hope it will help you tremendously, as well. But this is just one idea, and there are lots more out there. What do you do to battle the  blank page? Has it worked for you? What else can you add to this topic?

Josh Sarz is a freelance copywriter and the founder of Sagoyism.com where he talks about Copywriting and Content Marketing for the Digital Entrepreneur. Click through to grab the ‘Lowdown on Content Marketing‘ free report right now.

Optimize Your Health for Better Blogging

This guest post is by Joey and Chris of versatilehealth.com.

So you want to be a blogger? Or maybe you’re already an established authority in your niche, with a great following and a nicely designed website—congrats! Your contribution to the wonderful world of sharing knowledge and information is much appreciated.

There is no doubt that the blogosphere is a giant place that’s loaded with some very awesome people, but let’s face it: us bloggers have a huge downfall, and very few of us actually realize what’s going on here. The simple truth is that a lot of bloggers do not take care of their bodies the way they should.

What many people don’t realize about blogging and running a legitimate website is the constant toll it can take on one’s body. Coding, typing, sitting, posting, responding, marketing, designing, being stagnant for long periods of time … sometimes, it’s all just too much to deal with! But we’re a passionate bunch of people, and we love what we do, right?

The trick here is to optimize everything (body, mind, and environment) so we can keep on doing what we do, to the best of our abilities. Let me explain…

A blogger’s beginning

We’re all very eager to get our blogs up and running, and performing at their peaks, as soon as possible. However, before pressing forward, it’s important that you know and fully understand the journey that you’re about to take.

Now I’m definitely not trying to discourage anybody here (quite the opposite)—I’m simply preparing you for what is to come.

Maybe you already have a normal nine-to-five job and blogging is just a pastime for the moment. Awesome! But maybe you’re trying to make some real money online, and you actually see the potential that running a website possesses—even better! Whatever the case may be, I have some expert health advice that has helped me to create a successful blog myself. So sit back and take some notes, because I’m about to let you in on some insider secrets.

A common entrepreneur’s downfall

Time and time again, I see entrepreneurs (bloggers, online marketers, and others) fueling their bodies incorrectly. Even at some of these top-notch online marketing conventions that are hosted throughout the country, I meet people who are very successful, but are also leading extremely unhealthy lives. It’s sad to say, but I see this all the time.

I need you to think about this for a second. Lots of online entrepreneurs are tremendously prosperous, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re doing everything correctly. In many cases, online professionals are not living up to their full potential. They could be reaching even greater success if they were in tune with their overall health!

Think of it as fine-tuning the body for maximum output. See where I’m going with this? It’s like taking something that works decently and supercharging it to the fullest! Those whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at these conferences are doing great things; yet, they’re limiting their true abilities.

Why is this so important to realize?

Think how much more these people could be doing for their respective businesses if they took their health to an entirely different (and better) place. Let’s face it—a blogger’s mind and body are his or her main weapons for success. Without them in check, the blogger will find—and possibly even create—more obstacles to overcome than they might otherwise.

Many online entrepreneurs I come across are loaded with stress, fatigue, weight issues, heart problems, depression, and other debilitating ailments. In other words, they’re sacrificing their health for money. Does this seem like a fair exchange? I wouldn’t say so! When has it become acceptable to go about business in this fashion? I personally can remember (from a very early age) how my father used to emphasize the importance of health in order to make money and be successful, and it truly does make sense. This is something that has stuck with me through my entire life.

With that said, I hope you can find that proper balance that’s required for maximum output so you can take your business to the next level. That balance is different for each person, but right now, I want to dive into some foods I recommend avoiding if you are to achieve this equilibrium.

Foods to avoid for optimal blogging

To clarify from the start, I have loads more foods on my don’t-eat list, but I’m not going to cover all of them today. Rather, I’ll be going over a few that I feel it’s imperative for you to avoid if overall health is a goal of yours.

Sugar and energy drinks

Let’s start off by saying you have to toss these sugar-laden energy drinks! I know it sounds different than what you may have been told in the past, but please trust me when I say that they’re not safe (or smart) to consume in any amount.

Here’s why. Most of the drinks you see advertised for energy are overloaded with sugar, which can cause a whole bunch of nasty issues to take place.

Studies show that sugar has the power to influence some really debilitating health issues if levels are not watched and/or regulated adequately.

Let me ask you something: do you think running a company/website will be achievable, or come easily if one has these draining issues bogging them down every day? I don’t think so. What I’m getting at here is how harmful substances (like sugar) can be to your body—the studies listed above reflect this.

It’s time that you start assessing your daily sugar intake—the more you monitor it, the better you’ll feel. I guarantee that this is a great tactic in improving overall health.

Why the zero-calorie substitute is no substitute

The zero-calorie issue isn’t widely discussed, but it should be! I call drinks that carry these fake sweeteners “the cancer creators,” because that’s exactly what they do! A lot of the studies I’ve come across have been able to shed some much-needed light on this topic.

Because these drinks are so controversial in nature, I strongly advise you not to take any chances with them. I speak of this subject for a very specific reason: most, if not all bloggers and online tycoons I’ve met over the years consume this stuff on a daily basis. Many associate these zero-calorie energy drinks with productivity and efficiency, while others simply enjoy the temporary high that they may experience while using them. Whatever the case may be, these foods should be avoided at all costs, and here’s why:

Scary stuff right?! What I find troubling is how this information is not widely distributed; rather, it is, in a sense, swept under the rug for few to uncover. But I’m trying to change all that. It has become a goal of mine to inform as many as I can about these dangers.

Get rid of grains

I know, I know, this sounds even scarier! But I wouldn’t recommend it if it weren’t the truth. Grains (wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice) are loaded with no-nos. Let’s take a quick look at why grains can be so bad:

Wow. That’s a whole lot of bad, if you ask me! And the worst part about all of that is how it’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to grain consumption. The truth is that I had a bunch of health issues going on in the past. I was feeling very tired and unmotivated all the time, but once I cut the sugars and grains from my diet, I started feeling a lot better. It’s really amazing how this works—I strongly encourage you to try it out.

It doesn’t take a genius to thoroughly understand that if our health is heavily impacted (as demonstrated by the studies listed above) by what we eat, we won’t be as productive. Being physically fit and well is a main component for long-term success.

Understanding the Credit System

What is the Credit System? To put it simply, you must look at what you put in your body as a charge—like on a credit card. Some people are stacking up charges because of the horrid choices they’re making. In other words, those who take less care in their daily choices (foods, products, drugs) will be paying the price sooner than those who keep their balances low or on more manageable levels.

By looking at lifestyle choices in this manner, a person can start to accurately assess their daily decisions more efficiently.

This system (one which I have used on many clients) allows people to see the obvious threats that are presented by living a conventional existence. The message is obvious: the more purely one lives, the better they’ll feel. It’s as simple as that!

Cut out all of which is hindering your body, and you’ll perform better. This is so important for bloggers (or future bloggers) to realize. If you’re truly striving to run a website and be successful, you must take all of this into account. It has helped me build my business, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

The goal here is to get the body in a balanced state so it can be productive. In other words, if you can do this, your body will be in-tune to make all the right moves. And if you’re making the right moves, you’ll make money! Sounds good, right?

Have you noticed how the foods you eat impact your ability to perform as a blogger? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Versatile Health is all about delivering hidden health and wellness information to the masses, with a message of simplicity, fun, and overall awareness. In a nutshell, we’re two guys with a story to tell. Our past health issues have pushed us to discover new ways of healing outside of traditional medicine – this is what we share with our following. You can download your free copy of our ebook here: 100 Ways To Wellness.


How Writing Confidently, Quickly, and Effectively Saved my Blog

This guest post is by Kraig Stewardson of IT Manager HQ.

My blog was failing.

My subscribers were nonexistent.

My posts were disjointed.

My writing was awful.

My confidence was shot.

Honestly, I felt like giving up. I knew that I needed to make a change. I knew that I couldn’t continue this way.

Sound familiar? That was me a little over month ago, before I took some drastic steps to turn things around.

How bad was it?

They say that most blogs are never even read, and mine fell into that category. I still remember the day when I got my first spam comment. I was elated. A bot found my blog—no one else did—but hey, a spam bot did! Then as the months went on, even the spammers lost interest.

I noticed that no one, not even my family, read my blog. But I still wrote. When life got busy, I didn’t post as regularly as I knew I needed to. Inspiration to keep going that used come from all sorts of places faded. The “this band is a 20-year overnight success” or “blogger writes for two years straight then finds an audience” stories that can only take you so far. I knew a change need to happen, so it was time to take a class and get schooled on what I should be doing.

Starting to turn it around

So I look at my blog, and how bad it looked. I read my blog—every cringe-worthy post. Great, now even I couldn’t stand reading my own blog. This was going to be a challenge, that was for sure.

I started with a few questions:

  • Why did I create the blog in the first place? This blog is all of the things I wish I knew right before and within the first year of being an IT Manager. When I became an IT Manager, it was based on my abilities as an IT professional. No one taught me there is an art to managing highly skilled people.
  • What makes my blog different, and why should anyone read it? In the IT Management space, there is very little information about how to lead and manage people. My competition with other IT Management blogs is mostly about new technologies and security threats.
  • How am I going to market my blog? I struggled with this question. To gain an audience in a competitive field requires a plan. My plan is to write great content and to guest post where I can.
  • After doing this for a little while, do I still want to? Yes. I have found there is something cathartic about writing to help people.
  • Am I secretly afraid to succeed? Also, the answer here is yes. Even though I am very proud of this blog I have, I haven’t told absolutely everyone, yet. If I am not telling the people who know me, how can I tell the people who don’t?

Finding help

For some reason, every few months, about ten courses open up to help you fix various aspects of your website. Courses on AdSense websites, affiliate marketing, gaining traffic, YouTube videos, writing posts, finding a better job—you name it, there is a course for it.

There are so many to choose from, and so many of them seem worthwhile. I am a practical person, so I wanted one that would help me in an aspect of my life that goes beyond websites.

As for the question, “Should I pay for a class or find a free class?”, I chose to take a paid class. There is a built-in accountability for having plunked down your hard earned money, and that doesn’t exist if the product is free. I knew in needing to grow in areas that I am not always comfortable with, I’d need that accountability.

The class I chose, was a shot in the arm to continue my blog. It came in the form of a new class, a writing course from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. It was time to confront my arch nemesis from high school: writing. This ended up being a great choice, since effective writing can be used beyond a blog post, in all aspects of your blogging, and your life.

What did I learn?

While things are still a struggle, they are much better. I am more efficient and effective in my writing. With a full-time job, a growing blog, and a one-month old baby at home, any area where I can be even slightly more efficient is very valuable.

Structuring a blog post for me used to be a four- to five-day event, which would take about an hour a day, and even so I struggled to eke out 500 words.

Before taking the class, my approach to posting looked like this:

  • Day 1: Type blindly for ten to 15 minutes, not caring about spelling, grammar, or even if I wrote actual words.
  • Day 2, 3, 4: Edit and try to turn my random key strokes into something that didn’t sound like I was drunk when I wrote it.
  • Day 5: Re-read and publish post.

One of the greatest things Danny helped me realize is that I needed to outline my posts before I wrote them. Write it down; don’t dream it up on the commute to work, then try to remember it when you get home and can start typing. Think of the key points you want to make, organize them, and then fill in the blanks. This was a classic forehead-smacking moment for me.

After taking the class, my writing approach looks like this:

  • Step 1: Come up with a title and theme for the post. A great title is the difference between thousands of readers to an article and only a handful. Here are two headlines for basically the same article “How companies learn your secrets” and “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father”. Which would you rather read?
  • Step 2: Create outline (ten minutes, tops). The outline is the key to the whole post. What issue are you trying to solve, or what are you trying to get the reader to do? Create an abbreviated version of the outline:
    • Set the scene and get their attention
    • Detail the problem
    • What is your solution?
    • How do you implement it?
  • Step 3: Fill in blanks in the outline by writing the article. Since you have an outline, and you had to think about what you wanted to say, this part is as simple as write what comes naturally to you.
  • Step 4: Wait at least a half-day, then re-read, fix grammar, and publish. When you come back and re-read the stuff you wrote previously, you’ll likely realize that what you wrote doesn’t make as much sense as you initially thought. As a side benefit, you will catch grammar issues and typos.

The training program expanded on this and went into great detail as to how and why this is incredibly effective.

How much time did I spend on my first post using the new way? About 45 minutes total. Oh, and it was 1100 words long.

Gaining confidence

As the old cliché goes, nothing breeds success like success. As I see my posts getting better, the writing coming more easily, and my traffic increasing, my desire to post more has also returned with a vengeance. In the first week following the course, my list of post ideas has tripled and I now look forward to writing posts on my own blog.

  • My writing has improved.
  • My traffic has increased dramatically.
  • I am starting to get some key guest posting opportunities.
  • Most importantly, I feel energized to post more.

What areas of blogging have you been lacking in where some accountability and maybe a class will give you the extra boost to succeed? Share them with us in the comments.

Kraig Stewardson blogs to help new and aspiring managers in the IT field. He is a proud alumni of the Write Like Freddy class from Firepole Marketing.

How to Overcome the “I Wish” Mentality and Start a Blog

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of Conversionchamp.

I wish I started my blog a long time back when there was a lot less competition.

I wish I was able to write great content from the start.

I wish I had the money to purchase hosting and set up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

How many of us have wished for something like this in the past? Or, worse yet, is still wishing for things to happen just like that?

I know I have. And I bet a lot of you have wished for something similar as well.

The problem with the “I wish” mentality

Do you know what’s stopping you from becoming the most sought after blogger in your niche?

You!

Yeah, you heard me right. The biggest obstacle to your blogging success is none other than you.

I know this for a fact, because I have been in the same position. I started many blogs, built many successful ones … and then let them die. Yeah, just like that.

There wasn’t enough motivation for me to keep going. So in effect, I was my own bottleneck.

Right now I am determined to change all that. Today, I want to share what I have learned from the past five years of blogging with you so that you realize:

  • there’s no reason why you can’t be a success today, even if you feel you should have started a blog long time back
  • consuming more information may be counterproductive for you
  • there is no reason why you should have a self-hosted WordPress blog either (I do believe that having one is best for business, though).

3 Rules for overcoming the “I wish” mentality

Rule #1: Stop wishing

First of all, you need to realize that wishing is not going to make things any better.

Sure, you could wish you started blogging five years back. But five years down the line, you’d be surprised to find that you’d still be thinking the same. You’ll think then, “I wish five years back I wasn’t dumb enough to not start a blog because I thought I was too late.”

If you keep on wishing, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll never realize your dreams, and others will get ahead of you.

So rule #1 for overcoming the “I wish” mentality is to stop wishing. If you want to wish, wish for world peace. If at all your wish comes true, you’d be satisfied that you contributed to a greater good.

Rule #2: Stop consuming too much information

When I started out, I believed that reading all the information I could get my hands on was the best way to learn and grow. How wrong I was!

Information is always good. But once it becomes too much, it’s going to negatively affect your growth.

At one point I was on a buying spree, and spent more than $2000 on information products and courses. Guess what I did with all that information? Nothing! Really, those courses and ebooks are sitting in my computer collecting digital dust. I haven’t even consumed 5% of everything I bought. Talk about a waste of money.

“I wish” I could go back in time and stop myself from buying so many info products and save some cash. But there’s no use wishing. The damage is already done.

I want you to stop investing your time and money into learning as much as you can. You’ll end up wishing for more information. So stop buying things you don’t actually need. Instead, act on what you already know.

Rule #3: Stop thinking about being a pro all the time

We all want to be pros, right? You can either be a “somebody” in blogging or be a “nobody” in blogging. Which would you chose? I’d rather choose the “somebody” over “nobody” any day.

And what’s the first pro tip we all read about blogging? That you need to have a self-hosted blog. If you run a business, there is no doubt that it’s true. But if you are starting out, there is no reason for having a self-hosted blog.

People think that they need to appear professional in order to get acceptance, and they wait for the perfect time to start so they have enough money for hosting and a domain name, getting a unique theme coded for their blog, and even learning coding to customize the blog themselves.

Do you see a problem here? You are just adding complexity to what is, at heart, a rather simple thing.

Most people never get around to getting everything done, so they don’t start a blog at all. So just start a free blog on WordPress or Blogger if you don’t have the money right now to go the self-hosted route. Having a blog is better than not having a blog.

Over to you

Are you still stuck with the “I wish” mentality, or have you experienced it? How did you overcome it? Let us know in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger and advices small and medium business on effective content marketing strategies. You can read more on the topic of content marketing by following Adarsh @conversionchamp.

Tips from the Trenches: Best Blogger Productivity Tools

When we put together Blog Wise, I thought I would be the only blogger who didn’t use many (okay—any!) of the productivity apps I downloaded. As it turned out, very few of the pro bloggers we spoke to relied on any apps or tools other than Gmail, Google Calendar, and Evernote.

So I decided to ask some of my connections on social media what kinds of tools they use, and I got a great response. Here I’ve compiled the list so that, if you’re interested, you can try some of these tools for yourself. Of course, if you have other time-savers you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.

Software

WordPress plugins

Blogging software

Other services

Hardware

Don’t forget to give us your recommendations for productivity-boosting tools and tips in the comments!

Overwhelmed? Put Some Boundaries on Your Blogging

This week we’ve been looking at some of the numerous issues that bloggers have to deal with on a daily basis—particularly those who are just starting out.

It’s little wonder that so many bloggers wind up their blogs so quickly after they start. It’s easy to run out of steam when you’re trying to work on so many challenges at once. Even experienced bloggers tend to focus upon certain aspects of blogging, to the detriment of others—I know I do.

Over the years, we’ve dealt with issues like blogger burnout, or “blogger’s malaise” several times, and looked at burnout in terms of specific issues, like social media.

The one thing I’ve found really helpful as my blog has grown, and required more and more (and more!) of my time, has been to put boundaries around what I do. I explained some of those boundaries in the post How to Be a Ruthless Blogger and Become More Productive and Focussed, so I won’t go over them again here.

What I do believe is that if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things your blog requires of you—all the things you “need” to do, a good place to start digging yourself out of that hole is to set some boundaries. Today. Right now.

You can’t do everything

Accepting that you can’t do everything is the first step toward overcoming that sense of being overwhelmed. The next is to realise that there is no “best” way to do anything in blogging. Don’t worry about what you “should” be doing, and instead look at where you’d like your blog to go in the short- to medium-term.

Then, of all the things you could do to work toward that goal, choose one or two to focus on today, and tomorrow, and perhaps for the week or month. If you keep at those tasks, and track the results you achieve over the week (or month), you’ll probably learn something that you can apply to improve those results next month.

Perhaps one of the tasks you choose to focus on won’t work well at all. That’s fine: if something doesn’t work after you’ve put in a decent effort over a reasonable period of time, cross it off your list and try something else. Forget about that tactic that didn’t work—at least for the moment. You may find that it’s something you come back to down the track. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut your losses where you can, and focus on what works for you and your blog.

By doing this you’ll free up more time to dedicate yourself to particular tactics, and give them the energy they deserve. You’ll also be less likely to spread yourself and your efforts too thin.

Starting points for longer term solutions

While putting boundaries on what you need to do—and what you expect of yourself—today can help you move past those feelings of being overwhelmed right now, as you continue blogging you might find yourself facing other challenges around getting things done.

The Productivity Problem Solver that we put together to accompany our latest ebook, Blog Wise, was designed specifically to address those challenges. It has specific questions around motivation, making time, keeping track of ideas and goals, blogger’s block, and so on, and it provides solutions that our panel of 9 pro bloggers use themselves, to overcome those issues.

The thinking behind that tool is simply that I found that it’s good to have a repertoire of solutions to the most common types of blogging fatigue. If you have a grab-bag of solutions to blogger’s block, for example, you don’t have to waste time worrying about how you’ll solve that productivity problem: you can just reach into the bag and pull out a solution.

Whether or not you pick up a copy of the ebook, I definitely encourage you to develop your own repertoire of solutions to productivity problems, starting today, with solutions for feeling overwhelmed. If you have a trick you use to get past feelings of being bogged down by all you have to do on your blog, please add it in the comments, and help others in the same situation.