Category Archives: blogging

Taking mnml for a Test Drive

It has been an adventure keeping up with the work of John Saddington aka 8Bit (and formerly Tent Blogger). Yes, I’ve known John for many many years. He’s inspired me from a publishing perspective on many different fronts. John is all about blogging. He’s been doing it every day for over 15 years. Today I want to tell you about his latest project, mnml. MNML is a macOS app that is specifically for posting on John sent me a demo version so that I could review the app. While he sent me this product for free, I would not endorse it if I could not fully get behind it. I love mnml! It reminds me a lot of Desk, the macOS app for publishing to WordPress. Software can be a funny thing. I enjoy keeping up with certain developers and trends but not everyone is like me. So that’s why this review is here. I believe writing is essential to a personal pursuit of a healthy life. I also believe leaders (at all levels) benefit from publishing their words to the world – whether it’s on a blog, though an email newsletter, on Facebook, or even on Twitter (micro-blogging). Medium is still new to me (I’ve started a new publication called Tech Trainer) but it has so much potential. It’s very fun to see the great headlines about writing, productivity, and life-hacking. If you post on Medium or want to start this summer, pick up mnml so that the tech gets out of the way and you can focus on the words, not the details of publishing.

teaching technology

For the past two years I developed a plant health care program at H&H Arborists. It has a certain level of complexity and organization to it (what good programs don’t!). Additionally it increases our efficiency while minimizing mistakes in the field. This week I trained a co-worker on my workflow for the plant health care program. Josh picked it up right away and was not only eager to learn but also went looking for ways to improve it. He immediately recognized why I used apps and the workflows that I did. Earlier this week I presented a new social media strategy at Pinnacle Health + Fitness. It was easy for me, was well received, and we’re seeing progress already. Yesterday one manager had already drafted his first few blog posts. This morning the owner took steps to implement his department into the strategy. 

I love coaching. I’ve become the resident expert in both of these situations and it’s easy to apply my skills and ideas to improve our business. Technology is often the common thread in my workflows. I spend a lot of time in tech and when I can apply it to business, it hardly feels like work. I’m constantly asking the question “how can we do this most efficiently.” With the plant health care, I had to think ahead to when I wouldn’t be with the company anymore. Could I put together a system that an average non-tech person could take it over? Could I create a system that minimized mistakes even with multiple employees involved? Could I create a system that would scale from $40,000 in sales or $400,000 in sales? 

Each time I build a product, strategy or even a simple workflow I gain experience for the next project that will end up on my desk. Sometimes I have to sacrifice time on the front end just to gain experience to get the project out the door. I learn from what went well and what could improve so that I’m more versatile when the next problem presents itself.

Gathering the tools

I am part of a book study through the mens ministry at church. We are reading a book called Simplify by Bill Hybels and this week was about identifying your life verse from the Bible. At first this seemed like kind of a cheesy thing to do, then I started to embrace the idea. But each guy in our discussion at Barriques concluded the same thing: one single life verse would be hard to identify; a verse for this “season” seems more applicable.

Along that same vein, I believe true professionals are constantly adjusting the tools they need for certain seasons, certain projects. I wear many hats throughout the week. Mostly I’m training clients. But I’m also writing, reading, conducting interviews, leading and attending meetings, creating marketing materials, and cranking through email. I am fascinated with how people work, especially the creative and successful ones. And while I could write about how I personally get all these things done, today I want to write about what tools I use for professional development, specifically reading.Turning Pro

I hoard books. My Kindle (app) is loaded with many books I haven’t read yet, but they’re on my list. I sort through tens of blogs each week. I have extensive Twitter lists that keep me in the loop with my areas of interest. All these things help me grow professionally, but every once in awhile a new book comes across my desk that is different. Last week, my friend John was quoting Steven Pressfield from his popular book, Turning Pro. This book has been on my wish list for years. I didn’t purchase it because of the afore mentioned hoarding of books. I convinced myself that I needed to finish a few more books before purchasing another to sit on my Kindle. But something clicked with one of John’s blog posts. I realized the work I was doing at Pinnacle was setting me up to dive into Turning Pro. I read further on John’s blog and learned that he was starting a digital book club around Turning Pro. And I was hooked.

Last week I purchased the book and I’ve had two nights to dig into it this week – it’s fantastic. It will be difficult for a handful of reasons, but I know this is a tool I need for this season of my life. I’m continually amazed when things in life are put on hold only until the “time is right” and things fall into place. I’m so excited to learn from this book and to “go Pro.”

How about you? Are you picking up some tools for this season of life?

10daysbetterblog 08 Goals

I have had goals for my blog for a long time. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. But this time I’m working through the same process I take my clients through for their exercise and fitness goals, namely the SMART methodology. My SMART goal is to write one great blog post each week through the month of March. This meets all the criteria for this methodology. 

A couple notes. First, I’ve created a calendar item to get this writing done, including time to do any relevant research. Thursday mornings are where I will get this work done. Second, when I get this writing and work done, it will be great. Unlike my NoWriMo project, I won’t settle for posts that just got the thing posted; it needs to be something I’m proud of. 

First post goes live tomorrow. 

10daysbetterblog 07 Analytics

Gotta know your reader. I know this to be true, but when I look at my analytics I see that I’m telling a different story. It’s a good one. It’s me. But it’s not where I want to go (right now), or at least it’s not the primary shotry I want to tell.

Today’s assignment for #10daysbetterblog is to look at the analytics of our blog and reflect. Here’s a quote from the assignment:

“You see, when you know who your reader is (and what they are interested in) you can begin to tailor content to their specific tastes and needs. You are beginning to create a consistent audience which is a powerful mechanism in today’s digital economy.”

I am humbled by the page views, but there are other posts that I want to rise to the top of this list. I want to talk about goals, fitness, wellness, struggles in the fight to stay fit, and people’s stories of success as they pursue their health. My most popular blog posts have a special place in my heart. I’m using this feeling as motivation to write better in 2015 for the story I want to tell. Quick post today to get this assignment done. It’s late on Friday and I have to get to the family. I’ll have some time this weekend to flesh this out and create a plan.

Analytics: boy, proof in the pudding. Lots of work to do.

10daysbetterblog 06 About Page

Ah yes, the About page. Vitally important yet highly ignored. Day 06 of #10daysbetterblog continues the pruning practice from day 05. This static page on a blog needs to be clear but it also needs to be accurate, up-to-date. When I navigated to my about page, I was pleased to notice mine was fairly current. I don’t like the font size or the size of the pic at the bottom. And I need to add some more of my best writing and some easier calls to action. But this should be kind of fun and easy to do. 

When I reflect on my page and compare it to others’, it’s clear to me how important experience is for this page.

  • What have I done?
    * How can I paint a picture of what I do and what I can offer you or your company to pursue your health?
    * Am I putting a good (great!) foot forward?
    * Am I viewed as an expert?
    * Am I perceived as capable of helping you pursue your goals?

As John says, this should be one of your most viewed pages. It deserves frequent time and attention. Updates should be fairly regular, and reinvention should be considered every six to twelve months. And with that, I’m happy with the adjustments I made – font, a better pic, and some links to my favorite articles.

10daysbetterblog 04

On day 4 of my blogging workshop, the instructions are simply to reflect. Kind of interesting because as I opened John’s post for the day, I was looking at my Desk app and the three blog posts I logged. They have the same name with different numbers (of course) at the end, so they looked bigger to me. They looked organized, part of a series, a project, a story. I had a feeling of purpose and direction which is a primary motivator for me as I take blogging to the next level. I need this consistency. I need challenge and this confidence.

Then interstingly enough as I sat in my chair for the fourth night in a row to write this blog, I thought about yesterday’s post and the importance of the physical space. I won’t always blog like this, but the idea that “it’s about 8:30pm, work is done and I need to check in with the workshop. I’ve got my glass of water and I’m ready to write…” That was kind of a cool feeling. Great writers show up to write, pretty much on a daily basis. It doens’t mean it will all get published. But the act of writing is a discipline. Boy, is it ever. I haven’t refined my discipline here yet. But that’s why I’m reflecting. 

In this short closing reflection, I conclude that no matter what the rest of the workshop topics may be, I will write my tenth post having established a game plan for the year. I will have a direction, storyline, and monthly goals. I have goals for family, fitness, faith. I need to have goals for my writing. Reflection done.


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10daysbetterblog 03

This is day 3 of a blogging workshop I’m doing with my friend John Saddington.

My optimal writing environment is a coffee shop. I have a local one (coffee mugs are pictured in the sidebar) two blocks away from my day job as a personal trainer. During sections of my day I scoot over there for my writing. I love window seats, but when I’m writing I usually need to bury myself a little deeper into the cafe so I don’t stare out the window. My drink of choice is either a red-eye or a half-full Americano.

After I get my drink and my table, I need a few minutes to clear my mind. A quick check of Twitter, a quick glance of my notebook of items to do for the day so that I can try to keep those things from creeping in as distractions to my writing. Headphones are a must. I love the buzz and chatter of a coffee shop but (depending on the topic) I typically need music where I don’t know the words, often instrumental music to zone into my writing.

As far as the content, I am pushing myself lately to produce an outline first rather than just writing on the fly. I go on tangents. I lose my direction. I confuse even myself, the writer. Not good. This sounds much more professional here than what usually happens. I’m working on a better workflow. I do light editing while I write but I have certainly found that if I can get a draft done, walk away for a few hours or even upwards of a day, then come back to it, I can edit a lot more and get the piece in a better place to publish. I guess this is all part of the deal of becoming a better writer.

As I said yesterday, I have all the tools to blog. I could write on any computer, I could write in TextEdit, Evernote, or the web version of WordPress. But thankfully my writing process is enhanced with my 2011 MacBook Air and Desk. My Mac is an absolute dream to pull out of my bag and open up. Desk is clean and fully functional for my workflow as a blogger. I appreciate how opening Desk is exactly what writers should be doing – sitting at their desk. For decades, writers have pulled a chair up to a physical desk, pulled out paper, a typewriter, then a computer to do their writing. Today we write in apps. And when I open my digital Desk, I’m a writer.

10daysbetterblog 02

I’m on day two of a writing workshop, technically a blogging workshop. Day one was about my goal for 2015. Today the question is this: Why do you write?

I write to collect and publish my thoughts

Well, first I write because it helps me collect my thoughts. I’m a writer, it just doesn’t always go public. I process life when I write it down, analyze it a bit, and try to make adjustments to my game plan moving forward. And adding to waht I talked about yesterday, it also helps me feel like I’m moving things forward; I’m contributing to society, not just consuming everybody else’s stuff. Writing helps me learn, grow, and (hopefully) help people. And that second part, helping people, is really the second part of why I write.

I write because people are dying

This will sound harsh: I write because I don’t want people to die. Strong words. Let me explain. I was having dinner with my friend Jon Swanson last winter when he and his wife were driving through Madison. We started talking about me growing my health and fitness business and he asked the “why” question. “Why are you starting this business?” My answer didn’t satisfy him. He offered this: “You don’t want people to die.” He’s right. 

People are dying for many reasons, but heart disease is the leading cause in the United States. As an exercise specialist, this is a huge opportunity to help. I won’t save anyone by writing a blog post and getting a few hundred people to read it. But if I can cast the vision for a healthy lifestyle and provide tips, support, and challenges for people to pursue that lifestyle, now I can start saving lives. Keeping people from dying is a negative spin on why I write. There’s a positive, too.

I write because health is something everyone wants

There is a story around health and fitness. If it were a pill, everyone would take it. But there isn’t a pill. It takes work. And this work is made easier (a) with some science to tell us what to do, and (b) a team to join us in the game. People can relate to fitness. Either they had a good or a bad experience. Either way, they want it and I can walk them down the road. I write because I want to bring people to an undertanding of the importance of their health and then I want to empower them to take ownership it.

I’m glad I wrote this out. I think about it all the time but I’ve never put it into words. Thanks for the challenge, John. And thank you, kind readers, for another few minutes of your day.

10daysbetterblog 01

As an exercise specialist, the new year is a big time for us. Resolutions are on many people’s minds. I don’t like resolutions. Personally, I don’t think resolutions work. In fact, Merlin Mann would suggest that you’re “building the habit of unrealistic expectations.” But goals? Goals have power. That’s where great things begin: with a goal. When I talk to my clients about goals, we get very concrete and we the conversation gets serious. I won’t let a client set a “weight goal” or even get away with “I want to lose 5-8 pounds.” No, you need to give me something more defined than that. I want a SMART goal. I resonate with goals in my own life and I work hard to develop the same habit with my clients. So you can imagine how refreshing it was when I met with Judy last week and before I could start the goals conversation, she asked me what my goals were for 2015. 

My answer: write more.

I have soaked up enough knowledge and experience to write a few books. No, that’s not a pat on the back. It’s an admission that I’m a really good collector and a really poor creator. When the words “write more” flowed out of my mouth, I didn’t even hestitate. It’s deep in me. I know that I need to write more, both for the good of my soul and for the good of my business.

I have all the tools. I love writing on my MacBook Air using Desk. While I’m at work (or at a coffee shop in “minimalist mode”) I love writing on my iPad with Editorial. I have plenty of expertise in wellness. I’ve been a certified trainer for almost a decade, coaching longer than that. I have a masters degree in kinesiology; in exercise science I’m well read. What’s next?


– John Saddinton

My writing coach says I need to publish. John probably isn’t the first one to coach writers and bloggers with this powerful word, but his promptings always reach me in very personal ways. And he’s right. I need to sit at my desk for about 30 minutes each day and write. So I’m committing to his 10 Days to a Better Blog writing workshop. One down, nine to go.

Thanks for reading. I’d love for you to join my team for the next ten days. Send me a message and ask me what I’m writing about. Leave a comment. Or jump in and join the challenge. I’d love to hear from you. But either way, thanks for lending me a few minutes of your day.