Writing Workouts

This habit is all about becoming a better and more consistent writer. As I have researched different ways to accomplish this goal I keep seeing the same tip over and over again: Write! In an effort to write at least 300 words a day I have come up with some different ways to meet that goal.


I am a great in class learner so I signed up for a Coursera class, Journalism Skills for Engaged Citizens. There are writing exercises we will be working on throughout the course. The word count varies by assignment, but it is a good way to get writing. I also picked my second book for this habit, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between, because there are writing exercises peppered throughout.


I follow /r/WritingPrompts on Reddit, NaNoWriMo on Facebook, and some of my favorite authors on various social media sites. Great writing prompts can come from these sources. I don’t do them on a regular basis, but if I’m dealing with writer’s block the prompts can get me out of my rut. I will search for prompts that fire a spark of inspiration, and then write as much as I can on that topic. It’s a useful distraction!


I have always been a consistent journal-er, but this blogging habit is a stretch for me. This blog has been my primary writing outlet, along with my corresponding notebook. I use the notebook daily to reflect on all the ways I am trying to cultivate my habit. Those notes lead directly to my blog posts.

I also have a private LiveJournal account and a small journal that I keep on my nightstand. When I find it hard to sleep or am particularly stressed out I use those journals just to get things out of my head! I find I am better able to relax once I get everything down on paper.

Business Writing

As a consulting project manager I have the opportunity to write a lot throughout the day. I send countless emails, create reference documents, and give a lot of presentations. I do not count the words I type during the work day, but I am reinforcing the skills that I am learning from my blogging habit.

Now, when I proofread my emails I ensure I have the “newsiest” pieces at the top with a great introduction. When I write my project management plans, I try to power through my shitty first drafts. Building this habit has given me a new appreciation for all the writing I already do on a daily basis.

Writing 300 words a day is not as simple as I thought it would be. Having a couple of different “writing workouts” like the assignments and prompts help me to keep building my writing chops. It also a great way to ensure I meet my goal of working on this blog for at least 1 hour every day.

Do you have any tips on how you meet a daily word count? Please share in the comments below!

Inspiration and Implementation: Meditation


My friends are sharing some great meditation resources with me, and my own research is turning up a number of great books, sites, videos, and imagery. I have created a Pinterest account dedicated to my new habits that will house all of the various media I am collecting so that I don’t lose track of anything. Listed below are the Top 5 Meditation Resources I have found so far.

  1. The Honest Guys

I have been following the Honest Guys for a few years now and they consistently produce high quality guided meditations. I really enjoy the guided meditations that have a purpose like Deep Relaxation or Breathing Exercise. However, their crowning achievement is their Middle Earth Meditation series. 10 guided meditations that transport you to the Shire! It really helped me to get into meditation last year because it was a unique experience, and I still felt relaxed and refreshed afterwards.

2.  Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

This presentation really helps to demystify meditation, and his juggling analogy is wonderfully accessible. A friend from work sent me this link, and after I watched it I realized I had seen it before. It was even better the second time around.

3.  Fulfillment Daily

I am cultivating this habit for the practical benefits to my overall health and well-being. When I was researching different studies that objectively analyzed the benefits of meditation I found an article written by Emma Seppala who is the founder of Fulfillment Daily. The site was created “to inspire you with tools for a fulfilling life through science-backed news you can trust.” This is exactly the type of information I was searching for, and I have really enjoyed browsing through their posts.

4.  Insight Timer

This is the meditation app that Glenna, from the open meditation session I attended, shared with me. I have used this app almost daily for my meditation practice. The paid version of the app is well worth the $3 I spent. The bells are a great way to recenter, and I have started to dabble in the guided meditation section as well. Another neat feature allows you to see all the other people using the app around the world. Currently, there are 496 people meditating worldwide with Insight Timer.

5.  Let That Shit Go

This is a fun print that I found on Pinterest that really captures my goal for my meditation practice. I will be adding the shirt version to my incentive and plan to buy it after I hit the 66 day mark!

I hope you have found these resources as useful as I have! I will be sure to keep adding to my Meditation Monday board as I find new and interesting tools for my practice so be sure to follow along!

Lessons Learned: Planning a Give Away

Pro tip: Test out your brilliant blog ideas before you share them with the world.

So a funny thing happened to me on my way to the Stats page today. My Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life post has garnered 32 views and 21 shares on Facebook. That surpassed all of my expectations, so I was excited to start compiling my list of people for the drawing. I am fairly tech savvy, but I couldn’t figure out how to see the names of the people that shared the post on Facebook. Imagine my horror when I googled “people who shared my wordpress blog,” and found out 30 seconds later that you cannot, in fact, get to that information.

As I skimmed through the forums I realized I’m not the first person to make this assumption, and I probably won’t be the last. Some of the tips said to just pick someone at random without acknowledging the error, but this blog is all about personal growth and learning so I think it’s important to share my failures too.

Apology time for all the people who have already taken the time to share my blog post with their friends. Sorry! I really appreciate your time and effort, and I am sure you are excited for a chance to win the book. I am going to amend my previous post and ask that anyone who has shared it to please leave their name in the comments. This seems like the best way to make sure I can still do a drawing.

If you have a problem with this alternate method of selection, please leave a comment below and you will still be entered into the drawing. 🙂 The winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Hopefully, we’ve all learned something from this. The next time I try to give something, I will be sure to test out my method of award.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
L.M. Montgomery

Book Breakdown: Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life was on every list I read with book suggestions for becoming a better writer. After finishing this bestselling book, I can see why.

This book is broken into 5 parts, and modeled after the writing class Lamott taught at UC Davis. Lamott gives us a candid view of what her day to day writing experience is like, as well as a variety of material from authors who have inspired her. Each part has practical advice on the writing process, but the real appeal is in the anecdotes peppered throughout. It’s not everyday you read something categorized as reference that makes you laugh and tear up in equal measure. There is a beautiful story included in this book about a baby named Brice that made cry me and want to be a writer. A real one.

The practical tips are geared toward writing better fiction, but Lamott provided plenty of information that will improve non-fiction writing skills as well. I found the chapters Getting Started, Shitty First Drafts, Calling Around, and Someone to Read Your Drafts (thanks, Clayton!) particularly helpful. I am going to refine my blogging habit to include writing at least 300 words a day as Lamott suggests. I have been struggling to keep my posting schedule, and adding this writing goal will hopefully help me to stay on track.

I would recommend Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life to anyone who has aspirations related to writing. This book can inspire you to get started or give you the motivation to keep going. At 237 pages I think anyone could fit this into their reading list. I know I am glad I did!

Would you like the chance to win your very own copy of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott?! Share this post via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ using the links below and you will be entered into the drawing. The more you share the more chances you have to win! The winner will be announced in my next Writing Wednesday post.

EDIT: If you do share this post please leave a quick comment as well, so I know who to enter in the drawing.

Crash Course on Meditation

I found 3 meditation centers in my area that offer free instruction and open meditation. My prefered method of learning is in the classroom so I thought these classes would be a great foundation for my meditation practice. I have reviewed each class in this post and listed them in order of personal preference.

Dharma FieldDharma Field – Meditation (Zazen) Instruction

  • Twice monthly class on poses and etiquette
  • Formal class
  • Recommended for beginners
  • Donations welcome, but no suggested amount listed for this class
  • Open meditation offered Wednesday evenings

Paul was my instructor and he taught me proper etiquette for entering and exiting the Zendo; standing, sitting, and kneeling postures; and different meditation techniques like swaying, controlled breathing, and walking meditation. I was the only student to attend this class so I got a lot of personalized instruction. For example, Paul noticed that I am fairly inflexible and showed me modified techniques for the equipment so I would be comfortable for extended periods of kneeling.

Dharma Field is a Zen Buddhism center, but they have pared it down to the bare bones of the teachings. There is also a large library in the lobby filled with books on meditation and Buddhism which is a win for me! I will definitely be attending their open meditation on Wednesday nights to meditate in a shared space full of like minded people.

I would recommend this class to anyone looking for formal meditation instruction because they take so much time to focus on the forms as well as different tips to keep your awareness and focus during your sit (period of meditation). We did a short breathing exercise where you count to 1 on your inhale and 1 on your exhale, then 1 on your inhale and 2 on your exhale, continuing the pattern to 10. This is exactly the type of instruction I was looking for.

Bhakti Wellness Center open meditation.

Bhakti Wellness CenterOpen Mediation at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community Center

  • Tuesday evenings
  • Informal group meeting
  • Recommended for beginners
  • Suggested donation: $5

Their website indicated that the session would be led by a meditation instructor but the responsibility is shared among a group of regular attendees, and each week a different person will lead the open meditation discussion. They break the hour into 4 parts:

  1. 10 minute discussion on meditation
  2. 1st 20 minute sit
  3. 10 minute rest and reflection
  4. 2nd 20 minute sit

There were 3 other participants, who were very welcoming, and I was the only new person. In the first 10 minutes we discussed our motivations for incorporating meditation into our daily lives, various tips, and general guidelines. We did not discuss any specific forms or alternate meditative techniques. They just recommended sitting in a comfortable position, focusing on your breath, and noticing your thoughts but not getting carried away by them. Glenna, the leader for the evening, also showed me the meditation app, Insight Timer, that she used to time our sits. The paid version has a variety of bells you can set at intervals during your sit to help keep your focus. It is infinitely better than the stopwatch on my clock app.

I thought my second sit went much better than the first, even though I was concerned about staying focused for 40 minutes. The break seemed to really help because it made the first sit seem like a warm up. I will start incorporating breaks in my daily meditation as I work up to meditating for longer periods of time.

I would recommend this group meeting to anyone new to meditation who is looking for some general tips given in a very laid back atmosphere. You will not get much in the way of specific instruction, but it is a pleasant space with well intended people.

Minnesota Zen CenterMinnesota Zen Meditation CenterZen Forms & Etiquette

    • Monthly class on poses and etiquette
    • Formal class
      • Recommended for beginners
    • Suggested donation: $10
    • Open meditation offered Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings

This class is designed to help prepare people for the retreats offered by the center. Bussho, a priest at the center, was our instructor and there were 12 people in attendance. The vibe was a little off-putting as I tried unsuccessfully to engage others in conversation and found this center to be much more focused on the sacred.

We learned various standing and kneeling poses; etiquette for entering and exiting the Zendo and Buddha Hall; and etiquette for interacting non-verbally with others in the center. There were a lot of rules to try to absorb, but the focus of the class was to try and make people feel as comfortable as possible when attending their meditation sessions. I did not gain a lot of insight on how to improve my meditation practice, but more on how to flourish as a member of this center.

I would recommend this class to anyone looking to join a community with a focus on tradition and Buddhist philosophy. Learning more about Buddhism is not one of my goals in developing this habit, so I will not be attending their open meditation.

Attending these classes provided excellent insights into how other people in my area practice meditation. I came away with 6 interesting new acquaintances, 1 cool new tool, and a plethora of advice to continue to cultivate my daily habit.

Follow my 66 day meditation photo journal on Instagram and please share your own meditative photos!

Asked & Answered: Insights on Blogging

Tara Mortenson is the Marketing Coordinator at sdg,where we both work, and one of the driving forces behind our blog. She is also the first person I added to my relationship action plan when I was setting my goals for this blog. Tara was gracious enough to sit down with me for an hour and let me fire off questions, and here are the highlights of our conversation.

“Set a goal and stick to it.”

In 2011, sdg wanted to re-brand and launch a new website. They decided to create a blog at the same time to help increase traffic and interaction on the new site. The goals for the blog are:

  • Give potential clients and candidates a good sense of the sdg culture.
  • Create another opportunity for employees to get involved.
  • Provide credible answers to questions from their audience.
  • Consistently increase blog views and followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Glassdoor.

To accomplish these goals they came up with the following action plan:

  • Post 2-4 times a month (hopefully weekly).
  • Have a variety of employees contribute to the blog (they have about 30 different contributors a year).
  • Review blog progress every 6 months.

It was great to have Tara share so much information with me on their process. It helped to validate the work I have already done and gave me some great ideas for how to proceed. I will definitely implement the 6 month review. It is a good timeline for reflection, brainstorming new ideas, and creating a schedule for upcoming posts.


Tara and I discussed some of the common problems that people run into when they try to start blogging. It seems like many struggle with getting their ideas down on paper. Taking your great idea and translating it into a logical and readable post can be difficult, so it’s helpful to have someone edit your work. Tara edits all of the posts that are submitted for the sdg blog. She corrects grammatical errors and can help to improve the structure of the piece. For the more technical posts there are other editors who will review for accuracy. Getting another set of eyes to read you work can be invaluable.

I don’t always have someone readily available to review my work so I usually take a break after I finish writing. I get all of my ideas down and then come back to it a few hours later. A little distance makes it easier to remove or rearrange sections.

“It’s not as scary as you think.”

Tara’s #1 blogging tip was don’t be intimidate by the act of sharing your writing publicly. This really resonated with me because putting myself out there by sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world is hard. She summed it up nicely by saying, “you don’t have to be a ‘writer’ to create something people want to read.”


  • Make sure your audience can quickly determine what your post is about.
  • Proofread your work but don’t try to be perfect.
  • Create your own content because you need permission to use other people’s pictures and videos.
  • Lists can be very effective!
  • Be consistent.
  • Have a backlog of posts ready to publish for when you get swamped.

My conversation with Tara reinforced the importance of goal setting and editing. She also gave me a lot of confidence in moving forward with this blogging endeavor. Our conversation has inspired me to keep reaching out to experienced people in my network as I dive into these new habits.

What questions do you have for an experienced blogger? Please share them in the comments so I can ask them in my next interview!

Meditation Monday – The Start

In the fall of 2013 my husband, Clayton, and I did the 8 Weeks to Wellness program through our chiropractor’s office. While our results were not as spectacular as his, I did come away with a lot of healthy habits. It was also my first foray into meditation and I would love to make the habit stick this time around.

Habit: Meditate for 10-30 minutes everyday for 66 days.

Start Date: Sunday, 08/09/2015

Projected End Date: Tuesday, 10/13/2015

Action Plan:

  • Keep a daily photo journal of the various locations where I meditate.
  • Read two books related to meditation.
  • Reach out to two people who can provide insights about meditating.
  • Attend two meditation classes.
  • Experiment with different meditation techniques (walking meditation, candle staring, etc.).
  • Post weekly progress updates on Mondays about developing my meditation habit.

Incentive: When I meet my goal of meditating everyday for 66 days, my reward will be a half to full day meditation retreat!

Lofty Goal: Attaining enlightenment & being healthy!

It is becoming generally accepted that meditation can have many health benefits. I can certainly spare 10-30 minutes a day to help improve my concentration and lower my stress levels. Also becoming centered and finding inner peace seems like a great place to start when trying to become more enlightened.

Do you have any great tips on meditation? Please share your experience in the comments!

Writing Wednesday – The Start

After reading The Happiness Advantage two years ago I was turned on to the idea of journaling. I kept a daily journal for almost a year, but recently have fallen out of the habit. When I decided start cultivating better habits, it made sense to start here.

Habit: Work on this blog for at least 1 hour everyday for 66 days.

Start Date: Sunday, 08/02/2015

Projected End Date: Tuesday, 10/06/2015

Action Plan:

  • Read two books related to writing or blogging that will help me focus my efforts.
  • Reach out to two people who can provide insights about blogging.
  • Take a Coursera course related to writing.
  • Post weekly progress updates on Wednesdays about developing my blogging habit.

Incentive: When I meet my goal of working on the blog everyday for 66 days, my reward will be an upgrade to my blog!

Lofty Goal: Finding my passion

Blogging about cultivating better habits will allow me to reflect on the progress I make. I also hope that by taking the time to analyze each habit I will discover my true motivation behind it. By trying to only cultivate habits that speak to my lofty goals I can hone in on what really drives me.

If you’ve dabbled with blogging and have some great tips on getting started please share in the comments!