The One Simple Solution to Being Overextended & Tired

I hear these refrains too often: “I’m tired.” "I'm too busy." "I'm barely keeping my head above water."

Let’s stop this.

In March, I spoke about zombies and content strategy at WordCamp Atlanta, an annual WordPress conference. The talk is here on WordPress TV. But what surprised me was people's interest afterwards in a document I referenced very briefly in the middle of my presentation. The document is called "20 Ways to Say No" and was written by Ramona Creel. It's perfect for people who overextend themselves. 

Please enjoy and use these 3 pages of ways to say no!

Please enjoy and use these 3 pages of ways to say no!

You may be overextended if you:

  • forget appointments
  • consistently feel overwhelmed
  • find yourself with insomnia in the middle of the night
  • frequently say you’ll do something, then not do it
  • have very little “down time” to decompress

These signs mean something needs to change. 

I see too many overextended business owners and professionals. Sometimes their businesses don’t thrive. Or sometimes their businesses succeed, but they have lost any semblance of serenity. What good is it to have a successful business and be stressed out all the time? 

Is the solution time management? Is it meditation or medication? Is it getting a coach? Maybe those things would help.

But the one thing that I know helps is to: 


It's so simple, but it can be hard to do.  As small business and website owners, we need to say "no" more frequently. We should only say “yes” to the right things, such as clients that match our values and projects that excite us. 

Saying "no" doesn’t mean being self-centered or uncaring. It means that we can only give so much without replenishing ourselves before we crumble.

My friend Rick sent me this Say "No" document about 7 years ago. It has made me a better professional and helped me become more focused. Download the 20 Ways to Say No PDF to learn how to say "no" in a gracious but honest way.  And do let me know if it helps you! 

Do Less, Not More in 2016

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”- Dr. Seuss

Too many people in both small and large organizations create a lot of extra work for themselves. They pump out content, send a flurry of mass emails, and rapidly develop services or products. I see lots of activity without enough planning, thought, or research. This often leads to poor results. Busyness isn’t productivity.

In 2016, I hope you do less, not more. Do whatever you do with care, thought, and deliberation. Make sure what you are creating will have impact. Don’t create unnecessary work for yourself.


Before creating an article, a product, a service, or anything else, ask yourself critical questions such as:

  • Who is this for?
  • How do we know they want it?
  • How long will this take to make?
  • Does this help us reach our business goals?
  • Is it worth the time?
  • Do we have the time?
  • How will we measure results?

Here are my other hopes for you in 2016:

Have a communication plan for this year. It doesn’t have to be long. A one page document with goals, target audiences and key messages can be sufficient. Plan what you are doing instead of taking haphazard actions. I did my communication plan for the year the other day in an hour. Download an example of a simple communication plan template here.

Go for quality not quantity. Whatever you plan to do online, go for quality not quantity. With digital content, especially for professional services organizations, this will serve you well. I encourage you to have short headlines, clear navigation, and straightforward language. Keep it simple and meaningful. Dump the marketing fluff. Here are 5 ways to give your website some love. Or check out my 2015 website tips that are still super relevant.

Don’t guess what the people you serve want. Talk with them, ask them, and study them. You’ll be much better at delivering items that are valued. Many companies create services or products based on intuition or false assumptions. I haven't seen it work well.

Be choosy about what ideas you execute. Ideas can be a dime a dozen. Next time you have a great idea, do some research to try to confirm it. Is it really great? Are you able to do it? Is it worth the effort? Remind me to tell you about my company called Recycled Sequins sometime. Great idea (I had a awesome tagline!), never executed (it saved me hours of work and frustration.)

Aim for joy. I hope you like what you are doing with your work life. If you don’t, what can change? Life is short, the first few days of 2016 are already gone! How are you going to spend your time?

I'll be doing more UX research and content strategy this year. Let me know if I can help you.

Wishing you a thoughtful, careful, and deliberate 2016!

Focus on Author Experience (AX) for Great User Experience (UX)

Author experience (AX) is a critical factor that affects user experiences on websites — particularly for decentralized organizations like universities. In case you aren’t familiar with AX in terms of websites, you could think of it like this: Author experience includes all aspects of content authors’ interactions both with the website and the managers at an organization.

AX is a priority for decentralized organizations such as universities that have many different groups publishing websites and content. And sometimes the content development landscape in higher ed looks like this:

Content Landscape in Higher Ed
Content Landscape in Higher Ed

Helping content authors get on the same page about goals, quality, and style is essential to avoid an inconsistent and confusing user experience.

Three things that can improve AX:

  1. Training on writing, photo, and video because nobody wants to feel over their head
  2. A style guide so that there is consistency on the website
  3. Page level content strategy, since having objectives and a goal for each page leads to smarter content decisions

All three are important, but I see page level content strategy as the key to helping content authors (I’m assuming there is already a communications plan in place for the organization). For example, in a decentralized environment, it’s much easier to fix formatting issues missed (ignored?) in the style guide than to get someone to remove poor content. Once content is up online, there is something sticky about it – it’s often hard to get rid of since people are now invested and accustomed to it.

More on page level content strategy in my next post coming in January!

If you are a content author in higher ed or another decentralized organization, how can you start a conversation about what you need? And if you are a manager, what could you do to improve AX (in order to improve UX) in 2015?

Have a website? Got content strategy?

Content strategy is a relatively new term that began to be used in web circles in the late 90s. It's commonly used by many professionals now. What is it? Why should you care? Here's my short explanation of what content strategy is:

Content strategy provides useful information to your audience so they get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. It's the planning, creation, and management of content in all forms.

If you bother to make content (create a website for example), it's worth thinking about content strategy. Simply put, you are more likely to get your goals met if you do some planning first.

Is content strategy the same as a communication plan? No. A communication plan would contain a content strategy. A communication plan is broader - it will specify overall goals for your organization, audiences, timelines, measures of success, etc.

You may be a very tiny business, perhaps a one person show, and wonder if you should be worried about this stuff. The answer is yes. You are more likely to be a successful and lasting business if you plan your communication. You will also then ensure you won't look like a zombie (book forthcoming on this topic).

If you don't have much time to devote to communication planning or content strategy, you can head the right direction by answering these questions:

  1. What is important to my organization? What values do I/we hold dear?
  2. What are my goals?
  3. Who is the primary audience I need to reach with my content? What are they like?
  4. How can I best reach them? What would they like to see?

This is a start toward a communication plan and content strategy. Let me know if you have questions or need help!

Serve More, Whine Less in 2014

Happy New Year! Just a quick blog post here about New Year's resolutions. I have a few professional ones, one personal one, but here's the overarching theme I'm embracing for 2014.

Serve more, whine less.

I need to be of service to more people and stop complaining. I feel best when I am helping people whether that is with a website, their writing, a problem, whatever! And while I understand the need to vent on occasion, I'm done complaining. It's a waste of time, and time is too valuable.

So, that's my theme I'll keep in mind for all areas of my life in 2014. What's yours?