Sunday, January 11, 2015

How to Stick to New Year’s Resolutions -- Two Tips that Work for Me

A couple of weeks into the New Year, if you’re still going strong on your New Year’s Resolutions, then you already outlasted me during most years. But what happens next month, next season, the next time work or life throws you that all-consuming project that makes you forget about everything else?

I made two changes to how I set resolutions that finally caused them to stick. 1) I turned resolutions into year-long measurable objectives. 2) I created a visual daily reminder of why I'm making them in the first place.

Year-Long Measurable Objectives
That phrase couldn't sound less inspirational, but it helped me stick to my plan for two years. Two years ago, I told myself that I would exercise 4 to 5 times a week on average over the whole year. It didn't matter how long I exercised. (15 minutes counts.) It didn't matter what I was doing. (Gentle yoga counts.) I just had to do it, and do it with that frequency – on average. If I fell off the plan one month, then it wasn't a failure of the whole resolution. It just meant that next month would have to be particularly butt-kicking to maintain the average.

It worked. Sure, I had weeks where I succeeded in my average goal and weeks where I didn't. I just diligently and honestly wrote everything down in a fitness diary without judgment. And at each month's end, when I calculated my results, I re-motivated myself.

The Visual Diary
I love the ocean. I love to dive. I love to hike coastal trails. And I love to travel. So for years, I have ordered this 365 Days of Islands Wall Calendar. I put it somewhere where it can inspire me every day – my bathroom. I decided to turn this Wall Calendar into my fitness diary. I wrote down my workouts and other health-related information that I wanted to track over time such as sweets eaten. And if I didn't exercise, I marked the day as “Rest.” Something about seeing too many “Rest” days piling up triggers my passion (OK, guilt) into reversing the trend.

There are two reasons why this works for me. First, I see this visual cue to work out every day. I can’t forget. Second, the calendar reminds me why I want to work out – to be fit enough to do the things I love to do -- to dive better, travel more, and enjoy that fruity cocktail without guilt. The calendar reminds me that the resolution I made is not about the resolution itself, it’s about what the resolution will do for my quality of life. And that’s a motivator even in the most harried of times.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Best 404 Error Pages -- From Digiday

I love a website that carries its voice right down to its 404 Error page. Here are 11 good ones, courtesy of Digiday.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

How Tattoos Show the Limitations of Google Search

Tattoo search on Pinterest
A few months ago, I read this Ad Age article on how search is starting to shift from Google to specialized mobile apps such as Yelp. Recently, I had an experience that personalized the trend. I was looking for a tattoo artist for a tattoo with a coral reef theme.

While I started searches using Google image search -- I  spent more time doing deeper searches and getting information on other sites and apps such as  Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, Yelp and art sites.

On Google Web and Image search, searches for "marine tattoo" and "ocean tattoo" yielded a lot of results (including tattoos on U.S. Marines). It was a great place to start, but Google lacked to tools and community to help me go deeper. What artists specialize in certain styles? What other artists are tattoo enthusiasts checking out?  How good is the artist? Who are related artists?

Those questions were best answered and explored on specialized platforms where artists can better show off their work and the community can categorize and recommend them. I used Pinterest the most. On Pinterest, I combed the boards of other tattoo enthusiasts, bookmarked relevant images and shared them with the artist I eventually found. Pinterest's smartphone app is easy to use. They've added search filters to help you narrow down your search.

Once I found a few artists I liked, I found their work on Flickr, devientART, Tumblr or Instagram. On Yelp, I found location and reviews -- although I didn't put much stock in the ratings.

The benefit of these specialized sites is that they had search + something else: search + location, search + reviews, search + portfolios, search + tags to lead to more searches. Google, while still the mother of all search, is still mostly search and it yields such a high volume of results, it's hard to filter down to what you really want.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reasons Why Rest Is Important

I was recently in a situation where I had to rest for two weeks straight -- like no emails, no conference calls, no calendar planning and (at least at first) no TV. You would think that would be easy. Who doesn't like to rest?


I tried to read my work email, you know, just to get stay on top of things. I wasn't allowed to log in. I tried to read some case studies that I had stacked up. I got an instant headache. I started to panic. Here was all this free time that seemed like sacrilege to waste. Shouldn't I be learning Spanish or something?

Nope. I needed to rest. Which I did, and I'm so glad.

Because 1) I feel better and 2)I walked back into the office with a calm and groundedness that I hadn't experienced in a while. So I'm going to leave you with a few articles on the importance of rest.

New York Times (August 2014)
Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

Fitbit Blog (February 2014)
6 Reasons Why Rest Days Are Important Featuring Dean Karnazes

Forbes (July 2014)
The Importance of Doing Nothing

CNN (January 2013)
The Importance of a "Stop Day"

Scientific America (October 2013)
Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Mobile Social Multi-Screen #WorldCup

I need a nap after World Cup 2014. This past month of soccer was exciting, well-played, and with me nearly everywhere I could find a screen or an Internet connection -- which turns out is nearly everywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Like sports writer Jason Gay advised in his hilarious article on watching the World Cup on a workday, it's more fun to watch the games with other people. But "with" is so much harder to define these days. Sometimes we were with each other in the old-school sense of 60 of us seated at close quarters watching the Germany vs. Argentina final on a giant theater at Haight street's Second Act.

Sometimes we were with each other in silent solidarity, with no interaction other than the knowing nod of earbuds when someone threw their hands up and screamed, accidentally forgetting he or she was actually on a morning commute train.  I watched many of the first round games this way, plugged into the Univision Desportes mobile app, which streamed the games for free up to the quarterfinals.

Sometimes we were one formless, conversational mass -- like Star Trek's Borg Collective but much less evil (most of us anyway) on the starship Twitter. We communicated and commiserated in real-time using the game hashtags. Our words and memes, so meaningful in the moment, were completely dated 15 minutes later. According to The Guardian, 672 million Tweets were sent during the World Cup, with 35.6 million tweets sent about the fateful Germany (7) vs. Brazil (1) game. Let's not talk about that.

And for those games that I couldn't watch (darn workday), I got the recap on Google wrapped up in a nice pretty Doodle. Google created a Doodle (search page graphic) nearly each day of the World Cup to celebrate that day's matches. Clicking on the Doodle yields ESPN's mountain of scores, stats, lineups and replays.Very handy.

It was a great month of soccer, played by every country. True, the U.S. team lost against Belgium, but they won in so many bigger ways than that. I'll be back watching in four years.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

I Reclaimed My Name @narasu on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter, please follow @narasu now. I moved the account name @narasu from my personal account to my main account, which until today was called @serenityblog. SerenityBlog used to be the name of this blog when it supported my former content business and yoga teaching.

While Twitter doesn't allow you to merge the posts and followers from multiple accounts, it was pretty easy and quick to take the account name from the less-used account and move it to the account I use most. I followed this advice on My Pretty Pennies and Mashable.

Why did I make this change? First, I stopped teaching yoga. I had fun doing it, and I'm still a committed yoga practitioner, but teaching wasn't really for me, so I lost the need to post content solely focused on "serenity."

Second, and most importantly, I stopped distinguishing from personal and professional interests. It was an artificial split. There's one me, with a diverse set of interests. Plus, managing two sets of social media accounts takes too long. Am I supposed to do the same on Pinterest, Instagram and whatever else comes along?

This move to use one digital property for diverse content topics is not consistent with what I advise as a digital marketer for brands. The more focused the message and content that a brand puts out there, the easier to build SEO rankings, bid on SEM keywords, and otherwise build effective digital channels.

So why am I doing this?

Because I've decided that I'm not a brand. I've read a lot of good articles on building your personal brand and how to manage your digital presence as a brand. I've gleaned some good advice from them, but the analogy is too simple. A person is more diverse than a brand, and while you might crave consistency from a brand, I would hope that you crave more than sameness from me.

That's why I've reclaimed @narasu for all my Tweeting and turned this blog into a more experimental platform. I've tried to be clear about the range of things I'll cover, but I will prioritize stories that are interesting over stories that are simply consistent. I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Back to the 80s: the Interactive Rubik's Cube

I'm no gamer anymore, but I can still feel the tactile satisfaction of clearing 5 rows at a time in Tetris and getting two sides matched up on a Rubik's Cube. (Sadly, I never got more than three sides.) And while I've found a mobile Tetris app to take me back to the 80s, I hadn't found any candy for Rubik's Cube cravings until now. 

I read on that yesterday's Google's Doodle to celebrate the game's anniversary was an interactive Rubik's Cube. Maybe 20 years later, I'll beat my personal best. Enjoy.