Peppy Podcasts for a Winter’s Day

In 2013, I started spending a lot of time walking. Many of you know I got a new puppy in February of last year. As soon as Moose came home, I started spending a solid hour (sometimes more) each day walking him around my neighborhood, getting out all of his infectious puppy energy.

So what does an entrepreneur do with all that walking time? Fall in love with podcasts, of course!

Before I got Moose, I was a very occasional podcast listener. I would grab an episode of This American Life if I missed one, but I wasn’t seriously invested.

But now that I’m logging all this leash time, I’ve figured out how to subscribe to podcast using iTunes and how to search for the best business podcasts online. Now I never take Moose out without a podcaster’s voice in my ear, and I’ve gotten some killer business advice from my favorite shows.

Want to know how to get started with listening to podcasts in iTunes? Check out this excellent FAQ podcast page from Apple to get you started.

If you’d like to know who I’ve got in my ear this winter, here are a few of my absolute favorites:

Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any favorite business shows that you particularly love (and would recommend?) And when do you listen to podcasts (during a commute, at the gym, or somewhere else)? Tell me your podcast stories in the comments below.

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What I Learned About Content Marketing From Buying Snow Tires

Snowy Road - What My Snow Tires Taught Me About Content Marketing

I have lived in Colorado for thirteen years. And every year for the past twelve winters, I have hated driving in the snow. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, where the Department of Transportation dutifully brings out the snow plows when the white stuff starts falling. In PA, the roads are consistently and quickly cleared. I never learned to love driving in the snow in Pennsylvania, but I tolerated it. I trusted that the plows would be there for me and make the roads safer and that I could get from point to point without putting my neck on the line.

When I moved to Colorado, I was completely shocked when I experienced my first major Boulder snowfall (we often get 6-12 inches of snow at a time.) During that first snowstorm, nary a snow plow could found on the roads of Boulder and the surrounding areas. And because no one was out clearing or treating the roads, the driving conditions were horrendous – huge slushy snow piles, slick ice patches, cars sliding all over the place. It was terrifying. I was also completely confused.

I asked a friend why Colorado cities don’t plow, and she told me that the Colorado snow melts so fast that it doesn’t make financial sense to clear it – if you just wait a day, it’s gone anyway! So why bother to pay for plows?

“But people have to drive in it while the snow is on the roads!” I argued. “What about the people who have to get around on the day of a big storm, and can’t just wait until the snow melts to get where they need to go?”

My friend shrugged. “Drive an SUV,” she said. “Or get snow tires.”

I privately rebelled. Studded snow tires cost an average of $400 for a small car, even more for larger vehicles. I wasn’t paying that much for tires just to compensate for Boulder and the Colorado Department of Transportation shirking their responsibilities. I would tough it out in my little car with good all-weather tires, and hope for the best. Colorado snow be damned.

I suffered through twelve – count ‘em, TWELVE – Colorado winters, stubbornly refusing to invest in snow tires and cursing CDOT (and the weather gods) every time it snowed.

I started to suffer from terrible anxiety every time I had to drive in the snow. I would avoid it at all costs, and when I did have to drive during a storm, my hands would shake. I would curse and cry and freeze up and generally fall apart (note: not the best state of mind when trying to drive on icy roads.)

The Final Straw

In December 2011, I had made a plan to drive up to a mountain town to meet a friend. When I was halfway up the mountain, the forecasted snow flurries changed to several inches of icy snow, creating slick and dangerous road conditions. I got stuck four times, my car completely unable to get traction on the snow. I finally turned around, realizing I just had to give up on reaching my destination that night.

The next day, I complaining to a friend about my horrible night getting stuck in the snow, and she confronted me about my snow tire avoidance. She told me having snow tires wasn’t a luxury in Colorado – it was a necessity. “Listening to you complain about getting stuck in the snow when you don’t have good snow tires is like hearing you complain that you’re cold in a sub-zero day when you’re not wearing a coat. Enough is enough. Get yourself some snow tires.

With gritted teeth, I did so, the next day. I paid a ridiculous amount for top-of-the-line studded snow tires. I was mad, but finally willing to just bite the bullet and do it.

The next time it snowed, I started my engine with suspicion in my heart. “How can these tires possibly be worth it? They won’t make that much of a difference,” I said to myself. “I wasted my money.”

I wasn’t even five minutes away from my house when I realized that my snow tires had changed my life.

With my new tires, I didn’t slide or skid. I didn’t fishtail around corners. I didn’t need to worry that I couldn’t stop at the bottom of a hill or start again after stopping at a red light. I could just….drive. My anxiety disappeared completely, and my entire relationship with snow (and Colorado) transformed. I actually LIKED the snow and could recognize how beautiful and peaceful it was. It was incredible.

What I Learned from My Snow Tires

What’s the lesson in this? What do snow tires have to do with content marketing?

Whatever it is that you are resisting – starting a blog, beginning your Facebook business page, starting an email list, buying a new tool for your business – ask yourself WHY you are resisting. Are you scared? Stubborn? Unconvinced? Resisting just for the sake of resisting? All of the above?

There are content marketing strategies and tools that can completely transform your business. If you are dragging your feet about using them, investing in them, or putting them into practice, do whatever you need to do to get past your resistance.

Start that blog. Put up that Facebook Page. Buy that new software that will save you hours and hours of wasted time. Sign up with a business coach.

Get past your pattern of denying yourself something that can make a huge different in your business and your life.

Once you get started, you’ll likely love the result and ask yourself why you waited so long. I know I did.

So take it from me – survivor of many a Colorado winter. Not doing something – when you are resisting just for the sake of resisting – causes far more suffering than just biting the bullet and doing it. Because once you get started, it will be like sledding down a steep hill – exhilarating, enjoyable, and totally worth it.

Thoughts on this article? Stories about getting past resistance that you’d love to share? Leave your comments below!

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How to Use Pinterest

I have a confession to make. I’m totally hooked on Pinterest.

Pinterest (rhymes with “interest”) is a social tool that allows users to create online vision boards (those cool collages you make from cut-up newspaper images and put up on your walls for inspiration) and share your collages with other Pinterest users.

Here’s how to use Pinterest:

  • Go to Pinterest.com and request an invitation by clicking on “Request an Invite” at the top of the page.
  • When you get your invitation, create your free account (be mindful of your username – other people are going to see it!)
  • Fill out your account with some basic details about you, and decide whether or not you want to link your Facebook account to your Pinterest account – I recommend that you do.
  • Check out other people’s boards and look at what they’ve pinned to get a ideas about what people are doing with Pinterest. Rebecca Self was my inspiration when I started.
  • Most pinned images are clickable and lead back to the original web page where they were found, so you can read more about the image.
  • When you find an image you love that someone else has pinned, you can “repin” it onto one of your boards by clicking “repin.”
  • Organize your images in different categories, or “boards.” You can name the boards anything you want. Usually the names are based on the themes of the images on that board.
  • Connect with other Pinterest users and follow them so you can see what they pin every day. Your Pinterest home page works a lot like your Facebook home page – it’s a running feed of all your friend’s activity from the last couple of days.
  • You can get this cool little widget that lets you pin other stuff around the web. It lets you put a “Pin it” button at the top of your browser, so you can go crazy pinning all kinds of stuff!

Here’s what Pinterest is about, quoted from the Pinterest About page:

“Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

…Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.”

Sounds pretty great, right?

Plus, it’s pretty. :)

I like using Pinterest because it’s beautiful and positive. People post stuff that makes them happy. Or they pin pictures of beautiful rooms and furniture they’d like to buy for their houses. Or they post images of fashion that they love.

It’s GORGEOUS. And it’s a marvelous way to spend time on the Internet and connect with people.

You rarely see a Pinterest pin that says “My day sucks. My dog ran away and I totaled my car, and then my kids threw a temper tantrum.” There’s no bitching on Pinterest. It’s all just lovely images, positive thoughts, beautiful images, and love and kindness and heart.

That’s why I love it. How about you?

You can follow me on Pinterest at @bethhayden.

Note: Let me know in the comment if you’re on Pinterest, and I’ll follow you! And if you need an invitation, I can hook you up! Just leave a comment with the email address you want me to send it to, and I’ll get it in your hot little hands. :)

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Why Email Is Not on Its Deathbed

I found this really intriguing infographic that features some worldwide email statistics. Email marketing is one of the reasons that my business is successful, and when I embraced reaching my customers via email, I experienced a HUGE jump in business revenue, so I know I feel strongly that email is an incredibly important part of building an online marketing strategy.

Granted, we need to consider the source of this infographic – this project was put together by Visible Gains, an email marketing company that has everything to gain by claiming that email is alive and kicking. Nonetheless, it’s some compelling data.

The most interesting statistic to me was the number of email message sent every day, worldwide – 188 BILLION. That’s a whole lotta email!

What do you guys think – do you below email is less important than it used to be? Has email marketing been useful for you, or not? Give me your opinion in the comments below.

(click on the image below for a larger version)

Visiblegains Infographic - Email is Dead?

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How a Tomato Changed My Life

For months, I had struggled with getting stuff done. I tried task lists, different systems for organizing my inbox, playing soothing music while I worked, and reading various books on productivity.

But the to-do list kept getting bigger and my desire to complete anything on the list kept getting smaller.

Then I discovered a little productivity tool that changed my life. It’s a little timer in the shape of a tomato.

I originally heard about working with the tomato timer by reading a post on the awesome travel blog Married with Luggage, written by Betsy and Warren Talbot. The post is called On Kitchen Timers, Writing, and Discipline. In her post, Betsy talks about how she started using a simple productivity solution called the Pomodoro Technique, and how this simple idea was helping her stay focused on her writing.

After doing a little reading on what this Pomodoro business was all about, I was curious to try it. Here are the basics:

1. Get yourself a kitchen timer. The man who originally coined the term “Pomodoro Technique” used a cool timer shaped like a tomato (thus the name – “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato.) You can use any ordinary kitchen timer.

2. Pick one task on your to-do list. Best items to pick are the ones you’ve been putting off for a while.

3. Set the timer for 25 minutes.

4. Work on the task – and ONLY that task – until the timer goes off. If the phone rings, ignore it. If your cell phone dings with a new text message, don’t deviate from your work. Work until the timer goes off, no exceptions.

5. When the timer dings, take a short break (about 5 minutes) to do something else. Dance around the room, grab a drink, read a quick article.

6. After you complete four Pomodoros, take a longer break.

That’s it! The Pomodoro technique is a no-excuses way to plow through your to-do list and get a ton of work done. There’s something freeing about knowing that you only need to focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes. We can do anything for 25 minutes, right?

I’ve used this technique for:

  • Household chores
  • Writing blog posts
  • Processing my inbox
  • Internet research
  • Limiting (and maximizing) my social media time
  • Paying bills
  • Brainstorming of all kinds (guest blog post ideas, new products, presentations)

Apparently there’s a lot more to the technique if you really want to dive into it further. You can check out the Pomodoro technique website for more information. If you’d like to buy an adorable timer shaped like a tomato, you can get one from Amazon.

If you’re having trouble getting things done, and find yourself distracted by all the bells, whistles, ringing and alerts of our technological world, try a little tomato timer. It might just change your life.

Update: Don’t forget to check out the description of Betsy and Warren’s upcoming book, Dream.Save.Do! And thanks to Betsy for giving us a link to a cool online Pomodoro timer (see her comment below for link!)

This post is part of the October Word Carnival on productivity. Check it out for more great advice on being productive!

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Fantastic New Tool for Writers

Have you ever had a hard time writing a blog post? Do you find yourself distracted by everything else that’s open on your desktop, or pulled away from your writing by that dreaded “You have new mail” symbol in Apple Mail or Outlook? It happens to me ALL the time.

That’s why I am so delighted to discover OmmWriter,  a super-simple application for writing that essentially cuts out all the noise on your computer and lets you focus 100% on getting your thoughts on the page. It also comes with a soothing soundtrack (they give you several choices) or you can write in silence if you like.

You can download a version for free, or pay a little and get the beefed-up version. There’s a great little video on their home page that lets you see how simple and lovely this tool is.

I’m going to be recommending this to all my blogging clients now!

Happy New Year from Blogging with Beth! And happy writing!

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Beth’s Amazing Things Report – May 28, 2010

Balloons CelebrationWhat new and exciting things have YOU discovered this week, either online or off?

I believe one of the main characteristics of a good blogger – or a good writer of any kind – is a high level of curiousity and enthusiasm for the world.  A person who moves through her life saying “WOW! Amazing!” is going to find a whole LOT of things to write about, whereas someone who’s always complaining about how terrible things are – not so much.

Here are the highlights for me, for the week of May 24th, 2010:

1. Dave Navarro, TheLaunchCoach.com. Dave is my hero in so many ways. I think he’s brilliant, and every freebie/giveaway, purchased product or email I get from him is brimming with useful information. No fluff. No patronizing, skeevy Internet Marketing language. Just good stuff that makes you feel like maybe – just maybe – you actually could make a go of this web business of yours. And that’s pretty outstanding. So do yourself a favor now – sign up to get on his mailing list, and you’ll get access to the best free gifts I’ve ever seen anyone give away on their website.  If you’re feeling really spunky today and want to buy one of his products, go for his “Creating Products That Sell” and “Building a Responsive List” workshops. You can buy them separately or save a little dough and buy them together. Be prepared to have your mind blown with all the ideas Dave will spark in your entrepreneurial brain!

2. Will Young, British Pop Star.  No, this has nothing to do with the Internet, other than the fact that I’m really enjoying watching Will’s videos on YouTube. :) Will Young was apparently the very first winner of “Pop Idol” (the UK version of our “America Idol”) and he’s a HUGE star over in Europe. I had never heard of him, and I’ll bet most of the other people watching him perform on the American Idol finale this week had never heard of him, either. If you can ignore the sappy Idol montage footage happening in this video, and just focus on Will’s performance, I think you’ll really like him, too.

Note: I had embedded a video in this spot, but unfortunately YouTube yanked it down for some reason, so you should go and find Will Young videos on your own – you won’t be sorry!

Yes, I realize I just outed myself as someone who watches American Idol. I may pay for that in the comments on this post, but it’s worth it to be able to post this Will Young video here.

3. My new ScanSnap scanner, used in conjunction with DropBox online storage and file sharing. I’ve been using DropBox for a few months now – to share files between multiple computers and with my subcontractors – and I LOVE LOVE Dropbox LogoLOVE it. Basically, DropBox is set up so that when you save a document on your computer, it will also appear in a little “box” on your colleague or subcontractor’s computer…whoever you’d like to save that document with.  It saves SO much time now that I don’t have to email files to myself and to other people. I can just say “It’s in Dropbox” and we’re done.

And as of tonight –  I can use Dropbox with my newest all-time-favorite-EVER gadget, the ScanSnap mobile scanner, and I’m well on my way to eliminating my paper problem. And for those who know me well, you know I’ve ALWAYS had a paper problem – I’m drowning in it all the time. This nifty scanner lets me load up my document (even multi-page docs), hit ONE big  button on the top of the scanner console, and it zips the page through and turns it into a clean, readable PDF file in about 30 seconds. You can even create searchable PDFs, so that everything you scan is searchable and findable whenever you need to look for it. It even does BUSINESS CARDS in about 15 seconds each.

The whole scanner is also about half of the size of a shoebox, so I can chuck it in my backpack and use it at a coffee shop if I want to.

Yes, this little baby is pricey, but I’ve only been using it for 3 hours and I already consider it a piece of equipment I cannot live without.

That’s it for Beth’s Amazing Things for this week – next week, you can look forward to a review of ODesk, the best outsourcing resource no one’s every heard of.

In the meantime, please share your Amazing Things in the comments here!

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Why Bloggers Should Use Feedburner

Feedburner is a free online service that allows you to send you email updates from your blog. Anyone who is reading your blog can enter her email address (using an opt-in form on your blog), and once they’ve confirmed their sign-up, Feedburner will automatically email her your new posts every time you publish one.  Feedburner allow you not only to track how many email subscribers you’ve got, but it also tracks how many people subscribe to your blog using an RSS feed reader.

For an explanation of RSS feeds and why they’re important for bloggers, please download my special report – “7 Ways RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Can Help You as a Blogger”, as well as some other cool freebies from my library.

Why set up Feedburner?  Here’s a few reasons:

1.  Using Feedburner will assure that more readers consistently read your posts. If a reader signs up for email update, they are much more likely to read a post if it comes into her inbox than if they have to return to your blog to check for new posts. That increases your readership and gets you new fans.

2.  It’s a free, low-hassle way to get your mailing list started. You can use the email addresses of people who have signed up for your Feedburner list in other ways, including emailing them about promotions, new product announcements and events.  And when you’re ready to move to a more robust email marketing tool (my favorite is Aweber), you can easily import your Feedburner subscribers into that tool, too.

3.  Feedburner helps you track your readership. Use your Feedburner statistics in conjunction with another traffic tracker (Google Analytics is a great one) to find out how many people read your blog. Set goals for yourself – how about 1000 subscribers by the end of this year?? You can do it!

4.  It’s an automatic way for you to advertise every time you’ve put up a new post. I’m a fan of linking your blog to other email and social media tools, using these feed-based services. That way you don’t have to run all over the Internet yelling “New post! New post!” each time your publish something new. Feedburner sends out new posts automatically to all your email subscribers, so all you have to do is write and publish. Cool!

Ready to get started? Go to Feedburner, set up a username and password (or use a Google login if you already have one – Feedburner is now owned by the all-powerful world of Google). Then “burn” your new feed by entering the URL or the feed of your blog. You’ll want to visit the “Publicize” tab in FB after your intial burn…..that way you can turn on email subscription capability and grab the code for your new opt-in for so you can add it to your blog.

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An New SEO Tool for WordPress

I’ve just discovered an amazing new Search Engine Optimization tool for WordPress. It’s called Scribe, and in my opinion it’s a game-changer when it comes to optimizing your blog posts for search engines.

To use Scribe, right now you need to be using self-hosted WordPress, but I understand they are developing another version, including a very-soon-to-be-released web-based version that you can use with any blogging tool.

If you’d like to try it right now and you’re using WordPress, here’s how it works –

1.  Sign up for an account with Scribe (they have a free trial), then install the Scribe plug-in on your WordPress blog.  Don’t forget to activate it in the plug-ins area in your WordPress dashboard.

2. Pick a blog post (or static page) that you think could use a little SEO help.

3. Write a page title and descriptions for your post, using the All-in-One SEO Pack WordPress plug-in.  Don’t have it? Get it here.

4. In the upper right corner of your post’s Compose screen, you’ll see a little box that looks like the image on the right. Click on the blue Analyze button and get ready for some magic.

Scribe will take a few minutes to analyze your page content, page title and page description.  Once it’s finished its analysis, you’ll see a pop-up box that gives you a ton of information on how to maximize the search engine results for that post.

5. This pop-up box gives you specific recommendations for how to change you content, add hyperlinks, modify tags, and maximize keyword usage.  It even gives you a rating on how you did – 100% if you a fantastic job, lower percentages if you’ve got some work to do. Take the recommendations and implement them! This advice does you no good if you don’t put it to use!

6. Repeat this process for more posts and pages – you get a certain number of Scribe evaluations with each level of service, so you can buy the level that’s right for you.

Click here to find out more about Scribe.

NOTE – You may not be ready for Scribe right now.  Or you may not be a WordPress user right now. Either way, if you need a more general description of how to tackle the Search Engine Optimization world, I highly recommend Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz.  She’s got a great product called Ninja SEO School that I think it an excellent introduction to SEO. It’s not overwhelming, she’s a great teacher, and she’s funny, to boot.

Full disclosure – I am an affiliate for both of these products, but I truly would recommend them both even if I wasn’t! I know everyone says that, honest to goodness, it’s true. :)

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New Look for 2010!

Hi everyone!  You may have noticed that I’ve got a brand new look!  I imported my blog from Typepad to WordPress tonight.  Whew!  I’m so glad that’s done!  And it went a lot more smoothly than I thought it would!

Wordress has a terrific import process that makes it pretty straightforward to move all of your posts, images, comments, etc. over to a new hosted WordPress blog.  This is possible from any of the other popular blogging tools – Typepad, Blogger, Drupal and WordPress.com.  It took me about five minutes to export my blog from Typepad and import it into WordPress.  Slick!

I’m still working on cleaning up some little things (including my RSS feed), so bear with me for a few days while I get the house in order.  And let me know your thoughts on the new look!

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