Complete Digital Marketing Course, 4/10/18: Introduction to SEO

For day eight of the Complete Digital Marketing Course, we were introduced to SEO and why it is important to rank high in the search engines, especially Google. Here are my notes:

SEO Overview

1.) Are Search Engines An Important Source of Traffic?

Google is a huge source of traffic for most every website. Similar Web is a great tool for seeing how much of your competitors sites traffic can be attributed to search engine traffic. Statistically, it will probably average out between 35%-50% or so per website, if not more.

You can also see how much of their traffic comes from other courses, which is great for replicating an overall marketing strategy.

2.) Is Search Engine Traffic Valuable? 

Absolutely. People go to Google to search for a solution.

They click on the first result, and if the answer is good enough, they’ll be happy to stick around on that website, possibly clicking through more pages of content and subscribing to email. At the very least, they’ll become aware of the brand or website name.

3.) How do Search Engines work? 

Search engines take into account the following:

  • Relevance – enough matched up keywords is a huge factor in how highly you’ll rank in the search engine
  • Authority – authority is built on backlinks. How many other websites link to your website? The more, the better you’ll rank. This one gets complicated.

4.) What is Google Organic Click Through Rate?

Click-through rate is the percentage at which each descending search result gets viewed by the search engine user.

For example: the first result may get about 30%, the second result 22%. The third 14%, fourth 10%, and so on and so forth.

This is why many are so obsessed with being the first result. It really can make the difference between your SEO efforts paying off and not.

SEO Performance Metrics

Here are some powerful metrics to track from your SEO efforts:

  • Visits By Traffic Source – easy to track in Google Analytics: Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.43.15 PM
  • Conversions – also easy through Google Analytics. Set up a goal for completions: Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.45.23 PM
  • Revenue – trackable if you have a checkout page linked to your website.
  • AHREFS – good way to track your competitors, similar to Similar Web. AHREFS has a great organic keyword tracking tool.

Complete Digital Marketing Course Notes 4/9/18: Copywriting

For day seven of my completion of the Complete Digital Marketing Course, we focused on what good copy is, and learned the importance of following the AIDA formula. Here are my notes:

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is “sales, in written form”: you are trying to convince your audience, through writing, to take a certain action (buy this product, click this button, watch this video, etc).

Copy is a much cheaper way to convert buyers than focusing just on doubling traffic, whether that means getting more subscribers to your email list more visitors to your website, or more follows on social media. All of that is useless if you can’t convince said visitors to take the actions you need them to take!

Good copy always:

  • shows the benefit, not the features
  • has a good headline, subject line, or other form of catching attention

Good copy is important, no matter if for:

  • social media content
  • blog posts
  • email marketing campaigns
  • search engines

How to Write for Your Buyer Persona or Target Audience

Good copy should be written for your buyer persona – think that you are writing for one specific person, not a general audience. This will make your writing much more personable.

You should be sure to address the following when writing copy:

  • Who it is for
  • How do they think
  • What do they need

Make sure you address pain points found in your buyer persona’s lives. If you completed the survey and market research portion properly, you should have plenty of pain points and keywords to use.

Set goals: Each page of copy, content, etc. should only have one goal, or one Call to Action for the reader. Otherwise, they will get overwhelmed and not be sure which to follow, possibly abandoning the content in the process.

Finally, remember: good copy is not always creative. Be straightforward and to the point whenever it will be more effective.

A.I.D.A.

AIDA is: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

Attention:

Attention focuses on the first thing that your reader sees that makes them want to see more. This is usually the headline or subject line, but can also include photos and graphics that may compliment the headline.

Copywriting-HeadlineImportance

As we can see, the headline is of importance to the attention of 80% of people. The image draws a full 100%. Visuals are an important attention grabber, and should be used whenever they can in drawing attention to a piece of content.

There are several ways to create a good headline:

  • Practice writing good headlines. Try writing five different headlines for each piece of content you release, and go with the one you decide is best.
  • Make sure the length is concise enough.
  • 25 Headlines is a good tool to use for the above ^
  • Use Numbers, Listicles, Etc., as well as “How To” articles. They are cliche, but effective.
  • Punctuation. Use the Keyword before the colon: then benefits after. This is a great SEO hack as well.
  • Be specific. Ex., How to Create SEO Optimized Content, Vs. Write Optimized Content
  • Ask questions, and engage the audience. A good method for social media channels as well.
  • The five W’s: who, what, when, where, why!
  • Finally, use an enhancing image that compliments the headline.

Interest:

Interest is showing that you understand your customers problem.

Storytelling is the most powerful way to show this. Personal experiences, Customer experiences, or Fictional stories are a great way to illustrate this.

Make sure that this content is easily scan-able, and that there is visual appeal as well, including graphics and pictures when necessary.

Desire:

Desire is all about showing how your product solves their problem.

Focus on benefits over features. People don’t care about how the car saves more gas, they care about why that benefits them.

Ex.: Our 2018 model runs more efficiently because of this feature, which helps … feature run more smoothly Vs. Our 2018 model is the most energy efficient model yet, meaning less of your money will be going towards gas.

Action:

After you have gained your readers attention, interest, and desire, you’re finally ready to get them to take action. A Call-To-Action is your ask, usually in the form of a clickable button.

An effective call to action has the following features:

  • A separate CTA for each page of content produced, and no more than one per page.
  • Command verbs, such as buy, shop, download, subscribe, etc.
  • Create a sense of urgency, using words such as now, today, limited time offer, exclusive, etc.
  • Use contrasting colors for your CTA whenever possible. Make sure it stands out from the rest of the content.
  • Use no obligation language when necessary. Ex. Take This Course rather than Buy Now, or Shop New Products vs. Buy This Product, etc

Complete Digital Marketing Course, 4/7/18-4/8/18: Email Marketing Part 2

For days five and six, I have continued to learn about email marketing. However, I’ve focused more on how to build a list and start the campaign. Here are my notes:

Add a Lead Magnet To a Sign Up Form

A lead magnet is a bribe, or other type of incentive to get subscribers for your email list. Here are a couple of things that can work for you ad a lead magnet:

  • Discount code for your product
  • Free trial or sample
  • E-book or other informational packet or video content

To begin your lead magnet, you’ll have to change the language on your signup page or popup. Make sure to make the incentive clear, for example, “Want 20% off your first purchase? Sign up for our email offers and we’ll send you the code!”.

You’ll want to edit your signup in both Mailchimp (Signup > Embedded Forms > Change Form Title) and WordPress (Appearance > Widgets > Text > Add code after updating Mailchimp to the Content Textbox).

Convert Your Homepage to a Landing Page

Create a landing page on your website. This way, any visitors will immediately be prompted to sign up, rather than see your blogposts as a first stop:

  1. Add two new pages – “blog” and “home”.
  2. First, make your static front page: Setting> reading > front page displays> static page > home.
  3. Add your signup form to the homepage by copying the HTML code from mailchimp.
  4. Update your navigation bar by adding the “blog” to new navigation bar.

Add Popup and Opt-In Forms

Go to mythemeshop.com and look up the WP Subscribe Pro plugin. This plugin will allow you to add a popup and adjust the colors and font of your mailing list sidebox:

Instructions: upload plugin, add in Mailchimp API and list id, and designate “thank you” page.

Now… Lets Make Our First Mailchimp Campaign!

Make sure you clarify which list you want to send your campaign to!

Then, choose from the set up mailchimp templates. Choose one that will match your needs for graphics, textboxes, etc.

Now, integrate google analytics with Mailchimp to track your email campaign through G.A.: Mailchimp> account>  integrations> confirm

Make sure that you write a good call to action. Add this to the button function.

Test your email to make sure there are no technical issues or issues with your copy, etc.

Finally, before you send, think about the timezone your target audience is in. If it’s not the best time, schedule to send out the campaign at a later time!

Email Analytics and Metrics to Check

Google Analytics Metrics:

  • Website Sessions Per Campaign
  • Conversion Rate – goal completions per campaign

Mailchimp

  • Open Rate – track the effectiveness of your subject line copy.
  • Click Rate – track the effectiveness of your email copy, layout, graphics, etc.
  • Unsubscribe rate – how many users unsubscribed during this email campaign?

 

Complete Digital Marketing Course Notes, 4/6/18: Email Marketing Part 1

It’s now day four of the Complete Digital Marketing Course, and I am beginning to learn all about email marketing! Today we focused on the importance of list building, s well as how to set up your list in Mailchimp and install a sign up “sheet” plugin on your website.  We also delved a bit into Google Analytics and how to use it as a way to track an important email metric. Here are my notes:

Why List Building is So Important

  • Email is proven time and time again to be the most trackable and scalable way to market your services.
  • It also yields the highest conversion rate out of many different types of advertisements.
  • “As well as effectively driving traffic & sales, an email list protects your business. You’ll still be able to promote your business even if your search rankings or social media reach diminish due to an algorithm change.” -Daragh Walsh
  • Out of all of the channels I tested as a marketer, email continually outperforms most of them” – Neil Patel.

How to Integrate Mailchimp with WordPress

  1. Set up an email for your website by logging in to your hosting service and follow the chain of command: Mailbox > Add New Mailbox > Type in Name @ > Add
  2. Then sign up for Mailchimp. This is a pretty straightforward process.
  3. Create your list with Mailchimp by going to “Create List”. Fill in details, and import your email subscriber list.
  4. Now, you’ll want to add your sign up sheet as a widget on your website: Widgets > Text > Paste Text Into Content Box

The text you’ll want to be pasting into the box will be code found on Mailchimp and looks similar as seen below:

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 11.35.09 PM.png

To find this text, follow Lists > Your List > Signup Forms > Embedded Forms 

How to Track Emails With Google Analytics

Google Analytics is going to track a very important metric: (Site) Visitor to Subscriber Count Ratio.

Mailchimp already tracks subscriber count, but the former metric is so much more helpful as it shows if you need to improve how you’re presenting your email sign up list to site visitors!

To start with Analytics, follow below:

  1. Set up a subscriber “Thank You” page. This is where new subscribers will be redirected when they sign up for your email marketing. On your WordPress Dashboard, follow Pages > New Page > “Thank You” in custom url > Fill in Content box with a friendly message.
  2. You’ll then want the new thank you page to be set as the correct page in Mailchimp (otherwise they’ll direct subscribers to their page). Simply add the URL of your thank you page in the box seen below:Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 11.42.59 PMTo get to this page, go Lists > Your List > General Forms > Sign Up Forms > Confirmation Page
  3. Next, you’ll want to add a new goal in Google Analytics. Add a destination goal, name it, and put the url of your “thank you” page as the destination to be tracked.Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 11.44.37 PM

And you are now finished!

Complete Digital Marketing Course Notes, 4/5/18: Setting Up a Website

For day three of the Complete Digital Marketing Course, I have been learning about how to use WordPress.org to create websites. Here are my notes:

Why WordPress?

There are several reasons to use WordPress over competing content management sites like Weebly, Wix, and the such.

  • 29% of the web is powered by WordPress. Therefore, there may be a higher demand for WordPress sites to be built.
  • Open source software means you only pay for hosting, and you don’t risk losing your site if you can’t afford hosting (just switch to another host) or if the platform suddenly shuts down.
  • WordPress features a massive plugin and theme ecosystem. Over 10,000 themes available.

How to Get a Free Domain and 60% off Bluehost Hosting Services

When setting up your WordPress site, you’ll first want to pick a plan on Bluehost.

  • Basic plan – $2.95/mo for hosting on one site. Normally $7.99/mo; take the Complete Digital Marketing Course to get to discount.
  • Plus plan – for hosting multiple sites. Better if you plan to be building a couple different websites on WordPress, whether for a client or yourself.

Now, pick your domain name, or enter one you already own into the second box.

When creating a domain name, remember:

  • Try to keep it under 20 characters.
  • Make the name memorable; it should roll off the tongue.
  • Don’t use tons of keywords in the domain – it doesn’t do much to help you rank in search engines and may end up sounding silly.
  • .com sites are the most memorable, but use what makes most sense for the organization or person the website is for.

A few more things to remember when registering your site with Bluehost:

  • Domain privacy – playing for this feature is only necessary if you don’t want the contact information registered with your domain name to be public. If you don’t mind a couple random marketing emails here and there, then you can save $0.99 a month.
  • Site backup – good to have in case the servers ever crash and you can’t afford to have your site down. Extra $2.99 a month.
  • Remember to verify your WHOIS information on your email.

Adding Pages, Posts, Menus, and Widgets

First things first, you’ll want to pick a theme. Go to the sidebar and click:

Appearance > Themes 

From here you can browse the multiple free themes that WordPress.org has available for your use. Themes are even divided by type, and there are themes specialized for e-commerce sites, corporate, personal blog, portfolios, etc.

Next, you’ll want to add pages. To add a page, look on the sidebar and click:

Pages > All Pages

Then create your page. You’ll want to change the permalink, title, and then write in any content you want the page to display.

To make sure the page shows up on your site, you’ll need to add a menu:

Appearance > Menu > Add Pages to Menu

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 12.53.05 PM

You’ll see something like above. Select the pages you want the menu to display.

After, you may customize the menu structure in the box to the right. Simply drag the different topics around and it will change the order they appear in.

You now want to take a look at any widgets you may want your site to have, such as a calendar, email sign-up box, etc. To do this:

Appearance > Widgets 

And then simply add any widgets you are interested in having! You may rearrange the order the widgets show up on the sidebar by using the same drag-and-drop process as used with your menu.

Now you may want to start adding posts. TO do so:

Posts > Add New

You probably also want to change your site identity from the default – site identity is the “title” of your site. To do so:

Appearance > Customize > Site Identity 

Lastly, make sure that your site is live. Go to the Bluehost tab on the sidebar and click the button that says launch site. Your website is now live!

Premium WordPress Themes

You can purchase premium WordPress themes through a number of third-party sites. www.mythemeshop.com is what Daragh uses. They have good tech support for the non tech-savvy, and plenty of themes that are SEO friendly and categorically organized.

If you purchase a theme and want to install it, follow the instructions sent to your email.

Most likely, it’ll have you follow a similar protocol as below:

Appearances > Themes > Upload > Activate

Make sure you click the “import theme options, widgets, and content” button, otherwise you may not get the full functionality of the new theme.

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 1.05.31 PM

You’ll want to download the zip.file for the new theme prior to this process.

From here, you can now customize the them, add widgets, and import or create content.


I hope you enjoyed reading my notes on how to create a website on WordPress.org. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave feedback in the comments below!

Complete Digital Marketing Course Notes, Day Two: 4/4/18

For day two of my completion of the Complete Digital Marketing Course, I learned a bit about market research. I learned how to use Typeform, how to properly write a survey, and how to analyze the results. Here are my notes:

Why Typeform?

Typeform has a very simple layout compared to other survey websites.

The presentation makes it visually appealing to surveyees, and because of the question-by-question format, surveyees are less likely to quit the survey/fail to complete. This leads to a better completion rate.

Other reasons to choose Typeform:

  • free platform
  • incorporate google analytics
  • ability to build an email list

How to Design Online Survey

First off – there is the ability to make questions required or not required with Typeform. Utilize this tool effectively to make your survey the best it could potentially be. Only make the most important questions mandatory – as we see below, only the first three questions are mandatory, as they are the most essential data we want to capture.

Now, I’ll focus on the types of questions you’ll want to ask to create an effective survey.

First, you’ll want a good question to lead or start off the survey. This would most likely be a question that addresses the problem that the buyer has and how important it is for them to solve it.

Here’s an example from Daragh Walsh, creator the the Complete Digital Marketing Course:

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 9.34.46 PM

Using a question like this will vet out serious surveyees from those who are less serious, because anyone who does not complete this question is not going to invest time in completing the rest of the survey.

Next, ask a few questions that will identify the demographics of your surveyees (now your prospective buyers after the first “vetting” question). You don’t have to ask questions about age, location, income, etc unless you deem them important. Daragh focuses more only on the prospective buyers occupation – are they a business owner? Manager? Student? Etc.

Your next questions should focus on what your prospective buyer would want out of the product. Daragh first asks the surveyee what topics would be of most importance (SEO, email marketing, Social Media, etc). He then starts his first non-required question for the buyer – “what could we include” that would make you rate us five stars? That sort of thing.

The last question can be asking for their email. This way, you can build up an email list to market to once your product has launched. Make this question non-required so that surveyees don’t feel discouraged if they don’t want to provide that information.

How to Distribute Your Online Survey

There are three ways to distribute the online survey:

  • Share the URL
  • Launch a pop-up on your website
  • Embed in a webpage

Assuming you don’t have the ability/want to use a website for this survey, we will go with the first option.

Before distribution, we want to test the survey:

  1. Post the URL into your browsers address bar to visit the survey from a visitors viewpoint.
  2. Take the survey and answer each question, as we will use for testing analytics later. As you go along, ask:
  • are the questions in the best order?
  • do the questions make sense? can I rewrite them in a better fashion or change the format?
  • are there any grammar or spelling issues?
  • is the survey running seamlessly and are there any technical issues with the survey?

3. Now we will test the analytics. Simply make sure that your results are recorded once you log back in to your account and go to your metrics page.

Once you are done, double check. Have a friend fill out the survey and give you feedback from their perspective. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes!

After the testing is done, the survey is ready to share. Think about five places where your prospective buyer is most likely to be lurking. This could be a number of social media sites, news sites, email, or online forums. Identify those five places and distribute your survey.

Lastly, make sure that you use a title to catch their attention for the survey – it should show that you want to solve their problem, not your own!

Ex:

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 9.59.23 PM

Vs. “Please take my survey to help me prepare my new product!”

How to Analyze Results

Unique Vs. Total visits: These are two forms of metrics to analyze when looking at your survey results. Total visits include your own personal views, so unique visits are more accurate – these include only outside views.

Download your metrics as an excel file for easy analysis. When reading over the results:

  • Think about what your prospective buyers would most like to see incorporated into your product.
  • Think about keywords that stand out – these will be useful when promoting the product, whether through SEO, social media content, advertisements, etc.
  • A good exercise – physically write down your notes on paper. Record most common keywords used and any trends that you notice.
  • Make links between demographics and what types of features they most want to see in a product. Ex – business owner may want to learn SEO, student may want to learn email marketing, etc.

Complete Digital Marketing Course Notes, Day One: 4/3/18

This post is a summarization of Create a Buyer Persona and Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition on www.completedigitalmarketingcourse.com.

Before starting a marketing plan, identify the answers to these two questions:

1.) Who are your customers and what are their problems?

2.) How will your product succeed in the marketplace where others may have failed?

Step One: Develop a Buyer Persona

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer.

Example: Here is an example for the buyer persona of a digital marketing course.

BuyerPersonaExample

My example: Here is an example of the buyer persona I’d create for a company like Poshmark.

Name: Lauren

Age: 31

Location: USA

Goal: Sell used clothing and make a profit.

Specific Problem: Doesn’t like the competing platforms because of inability to market listings; wants a simpler listing process.

Five places she’s searching for answers: Ebay, Vinted, ThredUp, Buffalo Exchange, Tradesy.

Reasons for a Buyer Persona

  • Have a targeted audience, which will reduce wasteful advertisements.
  • The ability to create a more tailored message or mission statement.
  • The humanization of your marketing efforts.

Eight Places to Find Buyer Persona Data:

  1. Quora.com – see the most common questions for your niche.
  2. Facebook Groups – review profiles of group members.
  3. Online Marketplaces & Review Sites – AmazonYelpUdemy, AppStore etc.
  4. Typeform – ask what is your biggest fear / frustration with topic x.
  5. Google Analytics – review demographic &  interest reports.
  6. Facebook Analytics – review demographic reports.
  7. YouTube Analytics – review demographic reports.
  8. Just Ask! e.g. what you you want to achieve from this course (see lecture 3).

Step Two: Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

“A unique selling proposition defines your position in the marketplace and lets you stand apart from competitors.” – Daragh Walsh

How to Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

  • Read Amazon reviews, Appstore or Google Play, or whichever site would have reviews of products which will compete with yours.
  • Filter to the 3-4 star reviews – these customers most likely have one or two things that the product failed to do, thus the lack of 5 stars. Focus on building your product to fill these holes.

Headspace: The Best Mindfulness App On the Market

If you’re one who has an interest in self-help or personal wellness, you most likely have already heard plenty about the benefits of meditation. You may want to start your own practice, however, as a beginner with limited knowledge and experience, the practice may seem intimidating. As a beginning meditator, you may have already felt like giving up because of that.

The good thing is, there are several sources of knowledge that cater to beginners to help with starting a practice. And if less interested in learning about the history and philosophy behind meditation than you are interested in just starting, then Headspace is the perfect app for you.

With several guided meditations, Headspace is a great app for those who need guidance when meditating. The free “Basics” pack is a great way to begin your journey and get a sense of what the process of meditation is like. There are also “Minis”, which are short, one-minute meditations which are great for when you need a quick reboot or are short on time.

wall-animal-dog-pet.jpg
Who wouldn’t wanna feel as zen as this dog?

While the free meditations are of great benefit, there is also great benefit to a subscription. When subscribing to Headspace, you’ll gain access to the full library of meditations in the Headspace app. These range from coping exercises to pre-game meditations for sports players, and even visually guided meditations with calming animations. And at a price of only $7.92 per month (for an annual subscription), it’s so worth it.

Looking to begin your own practice? With Headspace, meditation and mindful living is made easy. Just follow through on your end, and the app will help guide you the rest of the way. Get ready to feel mental clarity very soon!

Download for iOS

Download for Android

The One Book that has Helped me Confidently Begin my Meditation Journey

If you lead a busy lifestyle, you may already know the benefits of meditation, and have therefore looked into the practice as a way of reducing stress and improving your own cognition. However, meditation is one thing that is easier said than done – many experts say that it takes several years to truly master the art before you begin to see the full range of benefits, such as the ability to “see beyond”. This doesn’t mean that you can’t begin a practice today, however, to begin to see some of the benefits to both your own physical and mental health.

It can be challenging to begin a practice when you don’t know much about how to properly approach meditation. That was the predicament I was in when I developed my own interest just last month. I didn’t know where to begin and how to overcome any pitfalls that I had encountered with previous meditation attempts.

Luckily, I came across this perfect little book called Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment, and learn-to-meditate you will while reading this little treasure of a book. The book is divided into two sections: The Gateway, which discusses beginning topics such as proper breathing techniques as well as the mentality with which to approach meditation, and Beyond the Gateway, which gets into different traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism, and discusses more advanced techniques such as how to reach altered states.

LearnToMeditate
Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment by David Fontana, PhD. Learn more about this book here.

In each section, there are several exercises which are in place to help guide you in using certain techniques or experiment with different approaches. The book is also beautifully illustrated with images of which can help inspire your meditations or ignite a general sense of creativity with how you approach your practice.

Below is my own favorite exercise. This has been one of the most useful meditation exercises for me, because it gets me in the habit of asking the question daily, “who is it who is watching?”. This allows me to witness my life through an outside perspective, and to adjust course accordingly. I also love this exercise example because it is just as useful to someone who is beginning their meditation journey as it is to someone who has been practicing their whole life.

Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment, Exercise 4 – Who Am I?

The question “Who am I?” is one that we will keep in mind throughout this book. For the moment, the spirit of inquiry, not the answers, is what matters. We have stumbled upon a puzzle that intrigues and engages us, but which we do not expect to solve just yet. For the time being, we are content to watch, ask, and wait.

  1. Sit comfortably and relax by tensing and releasing your muscles. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale, imagining that any remaining tension is set free with your out-breath. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward. 

  2. Watch the thoughts that pass through your awareness, but don’t judge them. Try not to hang on to pleasant thoughts, or to push unpleasant ones away. Just watch. 

  3. Now go one step further and ask yourself “Who is it who is watching?”

  4. Repeat the question mentally from time to time throughout the meditation, but always in a light, half-amused way, without demanding an answer. 

It’s not just this question that can be asked, however. We can ask many other questions to ourselves throughout our day that will force us to step out of our experience and into another perspective, allowing us to gain clarity on the many issues we face daily. Meditation is a great way to practice being aware of the exact moment you are instead of bouncing around in thought like many of us are so used to.

All in all, meditation is an amazing practice that I recommend anyone who is looking to expand their brainpower, reduce stress, and/or grow spiritually to take up. It takes way less than you think to begin, and having helpful tools around such as Learn to Meditate is a great way to begin and continue. By reading, I have become aware of how to get around personal pitfalls, and have become more understanding of the ultimate goal of meditation, of which is discover the truth of oneself.

The Five Step Process to Goal Achieving by Ray Dalio

If you haven’t read Ray Dalio’s Principles, I suggest you do so now if you’re looking for an in-depth look at how one can achieve their life goals.

Dalio, a former manager of one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, is a great role model for us to all look to, whether our own goals involve becoming rich or not. His principles for life and work are covered in depth in Principles, and they hold weight for most anyone, from any walk of life, who is looking to improve themself.

Below, I summarize my personal favorite chapter, or principle, that Dalio covers. Setting well defined goals and realizing the steps to achieve them is something that I and many other struggle with. However, it’s important to take the time to do so, otherwise your dreams will remain as dreams, and ideas as ideas.

While there are several approaches to goal setting, I love Dalio’s, because of his systematic and universal approach. He approaches goal setting and achieving the way a hero on a journey would – having a clear idea of what he wants, then going for it, only to realize there is a problem internally or externally blocking him from getting it. HE then must create a plan of attack and carry it out to achieve his success.

Anyways, here is the Five-Step Process:

1.) Have Clear Goals

The first step to defining clear goals for yourself if to prioritize them. While there might be several presentable options as to what you can do with your life, there’s limited time and therefore you must prioritize. You can always accomplish the other goals another time, whether sooner, or later on.

Remember that your goals should feel right as goals and desires. Reach for things that will expand your capabilities, but don’t do it purely for this cause. Likewise, do things you enjoy, but find ways for them to work for you and your wellbeing, not against you.

Don’t rule out a goal if it seems unattainable or unrealistic. During this step, we’re only focusing on the what, not the how.

Lastly, know what to do with your setbacks. Be able to look at what you have done, see what’s working, and adjust course accordingly. Be flexible and hold yourself accountable. And always know when it’s best to minimize risk, versus to risk it all (in a calculated way).

2.) Identify And Don’t Tolerate Problems

Look at your problems as opportunities to improve. To do this, it might involve some pain in facing harsh realities about yourself or others, but you have to get over this. Remember, acknowledging problems is not the same as accepting them.

When identifying problems, think if the problem is due to lack of skill or is an innate problem or habit you embody. Likewise, find if the problem is within yourself or within another person who may inhibit you. Doing so prepares you to find the right solution.

Think if the problem is a cause or an effect. Most problems are effects that can be treated by looking at the cause.

Invest first in fixing problems that will yield you the biggest returns in your success.

Finally, do not tolerate problems no matter what.

3.) Diagnose Problems To Get At Their Root Causes 

For this step, focus on figuring out the “what is” before figuring out how to fix it.

Distinguish proximate causes from root causes. For example, missing the train because you didn’t check the train schedule is a proximate cause of problems. Proximate causes are actions, or lack thereof, that lead to problems. Usually there is a root cause behind them, which causes a chain effect of proximate cause problems. For example, you may have not checked the train schedule because you are forgetful. If so, now you know which problem to focus on – the root cause.

4.) Design a Plan

Start by remembering that there are several paths to fixing your problems and achieving your goals.

Therefore, start with focusing on the big picture of things you need to accomplish to reach your goals. Which tasks need to get done first, and in which order? From here, break down the specifics such as timelines and micro-tasks, but don’t set your heart on these, as issues may come up and force you to be flexible.

If your plan involves other people, make sure it’s written down for them to refer to.

Most importantly, remember that having an imperfect plan is better than having a perfect nonexistent plan!

5.) Push Through to Completion

Planning without execution is useless. As you begin the journey of execution, keep your eyes on the goal and remember the why, or the purpose of the journey.

Make sure your to do list is ready at the start of each day, and follow through without question.

Lastly, remember to track your progress. Seek outside help, whether for outside perspective or to help with tasks you may not feel as competent at.

And that’s it!

Once last important reminder that Dalio gives us in this chapter is to reflect and think about which of these steps we typically fail at. Since they each require a different type of thinking (abstractly vs. concrete; creatively vs. logically), it’s unlikely that you’re going to be a master at each one.

Once you identify which step you fail at, it’s important to decide whether you will try to solve it on your own, or work with other people to combat it. Either way, “if you work on it,” Dalio says, “you will almost certainly be able to deal successfully with your one big thing”.