January 30, 2014

People, Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend

My mom and I used to really love to watch The Courtship of Eddie's Father. The song was the best. Somehow that song popped into my head recently, and it's making me face the reality that I did lose my best friend. My mom died November 15, 2013 and I'm still trying to process that.

I realized that part of the reason my mom was so thrilled about my son was not just because she genuinely enjoyed him as a person. It was also because his birth made me a mother. Because she would get to see me experience the joys of motherhood. I think about that when I make my son breakfast in the morning and pack his lunch. I think about how she used to draw a little Momma cartoon on my lunch bag each day.

I know my mom was so happy for me when I got pregnant. She realized that this person, my son, was probably going to become my best friend. She was right.

I lost my best friend, and I have a new best friend now.

January 23, 2014

X Ways to Verb Your Noun

Watching a blogging class from HubSpot. It's packed with great information, so I have to admit I was a little surprised to see them embrace the tired convention of creating a headline with a number in it. Sure, these are meant to assure the reader that they will get a finite number of digestible tips to achieve their goal. But they are so commonplace now, and so many inferior articles have been written using that type of headline, that it's almost embarrassing to rely on that construction.

Another piece of advice offered was:
Q. How often should you blog? 
A. As often as you want people to pay attention to you.
 Here's a novel thought:
Q. How often should you blog? 
A. As often as you actually have some useful information to convey.
I agree with the advice in the class that coming up with a really good title is important. There was even a slide in the presentation devoted to the quote from Dharmesh Shah, "spend half your time writing content, half writing the title." Sometimes, though, a title just comes to you, like the one for this post, and you have to roll with it, even if you don't have all that much to say.  It was either that one or: One Way to Title Your Blog Post.

January 08, 2014

Think Like a Customer, Not Like a Marketer

Woman buying clothing in store from clerk
Yesterday I was taking a look at some of the Google ads we are running, including one that had originally been drafted by someone on the marketing team. Not to call anyone out specifically or anything, because I see this all over the place, but I noticed he had used the word "products" in the ad heading. I also noticed that the ads headed "MyPlate Education" that I had been experimenting with
were performing better than those headed, "MyPlate Products." And this was my thought:

Marketers: Please do not use the word products in your marketing materials. When I head to the store, I don't think, "Oh, I can't wait to go buy some products." People don't buy products. The don't buy services. They buy the thing they need. I need a massage. I need some cold medicine. I need a poster for my classroom about MyPlate. To market effectively, we need to describe to people exactly what we have available, and to leave the marketing jargon in the office.

So, I think I am going to include some even more narrowly targeted ads: MyPlate Posters, MyPlate Stickers. Because the customer is always right.

January 07, 2014

Instant Analytics Feedback is Addictive

When I wear my social media hat, I get addicted to real time analytics. Whether it's bit.ly or Facebook, the data absolutely shapes my behavior and helps me do my job better - instantly! I actually think Facebook made a big mistake by taking the little graph off of the pages main view. Now they give you some general up or down data, but I always thought the graph was very motivating.

Now I'm switching gears and relishing AdWords feedback. But it is *much* more complicated. What's it all mean, Mr. Natural? I'm having a great time figuring it out. Trying to balance my instinct to tinker with the need to not introduce too many  new variables -- otherwise I won't know how to assess the new data.


January 06, 2014

Habit Fails and Successes

So ... as predicted ... since I was so super busy this weekend and forgot to think about cues for my new habits, I failed on some of them:

  • Grabbing lunch of leftovers - Didn't do ... but it wasn't exactly a fail as I still have last week's lunch because I ended up going out to eat Friday.
  • Kegels - Totally spaced. Car radio being on is not a good cue because I just leave it on! Cue has to be an action.
  • Planning Today's Work - same as last week - my desktop holds the undone. But I am thinking more intentionally about the order of the day. Still, maybe that should be re-thought and be something I do at the *end* of each day to be ready for the next one.
  • No Sugar in my Coffee - OK, the cue is simply getting the coffee. Almost mindlessly added sugar today, but I stopped myself.
  • Newly added habit of blogging: AOK!

Tripping through my Facebook feed (or was it Friendfeed?), could have sworn I saw an article about a habit app that appeared to be based on BJ Fogg's work. But now I can't find it. UPDATE: Found it! It's called LittleBit. There does seem to be a lot of buzz about habit apps these days. I am not much of a smartphone user - being tethered to my desktop all day, I *try* to stay away from devices during my downtime (emphasis on *try*, more emphasis on *not succeeding*).  I predict 2014 will be the year I succumb to smartphone land.

January 03, 2014

Day Two of Habit Patrol

What I didn't do: sit down and create a chart and determine what the cue and reward will be for each of the habits I spontaneously started yesterday.

What I did do:

  • Grabbed a lunch - this is going to become harder next week when school starts for Wade. May need to change the habit to: make lunch the night before. What's my reward for this? Getting to eat a tangerine and some dates for breakfast at my desk.
  • Kegels - I think the cue for this was just the car radio being on. Not sure if that is a strong enough cue. It worked today. Reward? Ummm, going to get my coffee when I get to work? Might have to change that to getting a latte ...
  • Planning the day's work structure - did not do in car. Sitting at my desk this one is looking like: do the stuff I didn't finish yesterday. I think the planning habit is not what needs work - the follow through is the issue. Reward: learning about my own work habits.
  • No sugar in my coffee - I think this habit is working. The cue is pouring the coffee. The reward is consuming less calories. Yeah, I know, it's not supposed to be a reward like that, it's supposed to be something more tangible and immediate. Anybody have any ideas for rewards?

By the way, although the book The Power of Habit is getting a lot of the press on covering these issues, my interest in effective ways to create good habits has to do with a chance re-encounter with B. J. Fogg, who I originally heard about when I worked at Interval Research many, many moons ago. He ran an experiment called Tiny Habits back in December, 2011 that I participated in. He's a pretty smart guy.

January 02, 2014

New Year, New Habits

I didn't really make any resolutions. On Friendfeed, where my online posse hangs out, I tested out some vague hopes: "Be present. Be more social with potential/close friends. Make hard decisions and do stuff."

But today, after rising, I found myself trying on many new habits:

  • I grabbed some leftovers and fruit for lunch so I would save money and eat healthy
  • I did kegels on the way to work (yeah, TMI, sorry)
  • On my way to work I thought about how I would structure my day: Facebook and Twitter for work accounts, a pressing HR matter, finish off something I had promised to do *before* Christmas, then tackle AdWord reporting plan, spend one hour cleaning out old project files
  • At work, I did not put any sugar in my coffee
  • I sat down to write this post

Small things, all, but things I plan to continue. I've been reading the recent research on "the science of habit change" that boils down to: start small, have a cue, reward yourself. So, I'll need to ponder how those three things apply to each habit above. I hadn't even thought of rewards yet, just very pleased that some sort of motivation is driving me.