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“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.” – Anonymous

How often do you tell yourself: if only I could get that sales page or article written, I’d have more customers by now? Or, when you finally squeeze in some computer time for writing, does email and other Internet distractions drain your resolve to stay focused?

Fight Fire with Fire: Self-tracking Software to the Rescue
I recently discovered RescueTime, a new breed of software that has helped curb my tendency to click away from a hot project and get lost in the wilds of the web. Part of a new tech wave called auto-analytics, RescueTime arms you against digital intruders so you can get more done.

Just as Google Analytics gives you feedback on how your website is performing, an auto-analytics program like RescueTime shows you how you’re performing. Which means how productively you spend your screen time.

“People are signing on in droves to this new technology,” H. James Wilson reports in his recent Wall Street Journal article. “Software like RescueTime measures things like how long you spend on an open window, how long you’re idle and how often you switch from one window to another.”

“The software turns all those measurements into charts so you can see where you’re spending your time, he adds. The result? Wilson says that tracking your online activities can lead to “big improvements in performance, satisfaction and possibly even well-being.”

A Healthy Addiction to Getting Things Done
I say Wilson is right. After installing RescueTime just a few weeks ago, I found my new fascination with tracking my computer time quickly paid off in increased productivity. I can also vouch for these immediate benefits:

1. Shuts out Internet noise so you can hear yourself think. RescueTime Pro has a Get-Focused feature that blocks distracting websites and cocoons you in a concentration zone where serious progress becomes possible.

2. Reveals your real habits. Numbers don’t lie. If your early stats, like mine, chart a path of online meandering, those hard facts may be just the medicine you need to cure fractured attention.

3. Gives you an incentive to beat your last day’s stats. Wanting to outshine your last performance can push you to steamroll past online obstacles on your way to meatier accomplishments.

Best of all, using RescueTime boosts your morale. There’s nothing more motivating than turning your writing intentions into finished work — and more business.

Try RescueTime Pro For Free
During November, RescueTime is offering a free trial for instant download. Although originally launched for NaNoWriMo, an annual novel-writing marathon, you don’t have to be a budding novelist to enroll. Business writers are also welcome.

So, are you game to get more writing done this month? To sign up, click here. For tips on getting the most out of RescueTime Pro, check here for details on how to block distracting websites, set up a writing schedule and create productivity alerts.

© Copyright 2012 MaryLu Stefan. All rights reserved.



Last year a friend of mine was devastated when her 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Her family has been on my mind a lot ever since as they grapple with their new health challenge.

Then, last week I stumbled across a Facebook link to a Harvard University study that will test the tuberculosis vaccine as a potential cure for Type 1 diabetics. I immediately thought of my friend and called to tell her about it. While we were still on the phone, she jumped on her computer to check out the details.

Why did I – and consequently she – pounce on this lead? In a word: trust.

That Facebook link came from a doctor I’ve come to trust. I’ve followed his health newsletter and website for over a decade now. At one point, I became his patient. Since then, I’ve passed on other tips from him that panned out, like a simple nutritional remedy that relieved my nephew’s chronic ear infections.

I don’t mean to hype up the Harvard study. I know that the researchers can’t guarantee a cure for my friend’s daughter. My friend knows that, too. She’s a nurse, so she has more insight than I do into the biochemistry and other complexities of medical research.

And yet, with tempered hope, she’s grateful to learn about Harvard’s clinical trials, grateful to find a doctor who’s looking out for diabetics like her daughter.

How can you watch out for your clients?
Depending on what’s happening in their world, your readers may feel worried, upset or confused. They’re searching for someone who will give them straight answers when they’re facing a brick wall and don’t know where to turn. Here’s three ways you can be the person who shows them the way out and earns their trust:

1. Monitor the media with their best interests in mind.
What breaking news is shaking up your field? As you take in your usual buffet of information, read everything through the eyes of your favorite client. What topics would he or she care about? Start with these concerns, then speak out with empathy and sage advice.

2. Interpret current events and inject your expert opinion.
Since my doctor sometimes pokes holes into what he considers flawed research, I knew Harvard’s diabetes study must be promising if it won his praise. Likewise, your subscribers want to know what the latest trend or opportunity means to them. Help them decipher which news flash to take seriously and which to brush off.

3. Prescribe timely actions.
Let your followers know if they should take action right away or sit tight until the situation ripens. My friend is thinking about entering her daughter in Harvard’s human trials. A consult with my doctor will help her family decide if doing so is the right step for them.

Looking out for your clients is marketing at its most elegant. It doesn’t feel like self-promotion. It just feels like one human being reaching out to another. When you take good care of your people, it just feels right.


© Copyright 2012 MaryLu Stefan. All rights reserved.

Although I find it hard to say goodbye to summertime, I welcome autumn for its gift of urgency. I know that fall is my last chance to revisit New Year’s resolutions and make a final push on projects still undone.

MaryLu Stefan

photo by paul bica

If you’re like most business owners, you hoped to gain more visibility in 2013. Even if you can’t accomplish as much as you’d planned last January, it’s not too late to make serious headway toward a goal that matters to you.
All too soon, Thanksgiving and the Christmas season will blur our business focus. Before that happens, here’s how you can make the most of the twilight of 2013:

1. Use the tighter time frame to your advantage.
The realization that it’s now-or-never can unleash a powerful wave of energy for taking action. For example, if you’ve been hesitating over how to approach a new contact about a joint venture, tap into the adrenaline of these deadline months.

If you stall now, you’ll lose your chance to forge a new relationship in 2013. So grab this short-lived moment before positive pressure gives way to the year-end scramble that can overrule your ability to think clearly and take serene action.

2. Ask yourself: what am I burning to get done before 2013 slips away?
Don’t beat yourself up for time lost. Instead, resolve to enter 2014 with a concrete marker of your progress. Spend some quiet time reflecting on which actions you can take now that will lift your spirits and launch a strong start into next year.

If you dream of offering an eight-week online workshop, for example, why not start with a free teleclass teaser and/or paid month-long seminar to test your material?

3. View this as an experiment in taking thoughtful risks.
Test now; expand in 2014. From a marketing standpoint, it’s never a bad idea to roll out samples and take in feedback before you plunk your heart and hard work into an offer that doesn’t sell. That free teleclass I mentioned could help you confirm whether you’ve read your market right, and clients really will invest in a two-month training extravaganza.

4. Don’t discount the small stuff.
The sheer size of big goals can excite us at first but prove intimidating when it’s time to act. For example, did you vow to launch a blog back in January? If you’re still mulling over topic ideas, why not start with a single 300-word post?

To help you picture what I mean, if you format a Microsoft Word document with one-inch margins and 12-point type in Times New Roman, your 300 words will fill up about half of one page.

Don’t laugh or look down on such a seemingly lame step. One blog post might not ignite the world, but it might ignite your world. It might free you from the monotony of holding back and propel you into the momentum of putting yourself out there.

And that could send you blazing into a bright 2014.


© Copyright 2013 MaryLu Stefan. All rights reserved.