10 Fun Ways to Celebrate Christmas

Compiled by Heather Scheiwe

1. Get your friends together to string popcorn and cranberries while watching animated kids' classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

2. Offer free babysitting for a busy mom in your church while she goes shopping.

3. Pile the family in the car and drive around your town looking at Christmas lights.

4. Drop anonymous notes on your teachers' desks thanking them for sharing their gift of teaching with you. You may want to include a message about the greatest gift of all, Jesus!

5. Make a nativity scene from snow; if you live near a sunny beach, sand-sculpt the nativity scene.

6. Check with your local animal shelter and see if you and your friends can help give the animals their baths. Bring red and green ribbon to give them bows when you're done.

7. Grab your siblings for a fun day of shopping for your parents. After you've purchased the gifts, find a good place to sit and watch people. Try and guess who they're shopping for and what they bought.

8. Try a holiday recipe from a different culture, like Mexican wedding cookies or Norwegian lefse.

9. Read the Christmas story (Matthew 1 and Luke 2:1-20) several times before Christmas; write down some new insights God gives you as you read.

10. Keep a journal of all your favorite Christmas memories from this year so you can thank God for each one and remember them next Christmas!

Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today International/Campus Life magazine.

10 Tips for Managing Your Career

By Alvah Parker

Here are some tips for those just beginning a new career and career changers. If you have been in a job for a while, these tips may be helpful in revitalizing your career or in focusing your attention on the need to make a change.

1. Take responsibility for building your own career – In today’s work environment managing your career is your responsibility. Even if you are lucky enough to have a mentor you are the one that needs to take charge of building your career. Mentors make suggestions but you decide if the suggestions fit or if they will work for you and then act on them. You must have a vision of where you are headed and then find your own path!

2. Define career satisfaction for yourself – Notice what gives you the most satisfaction and where your passion is. Know your life purpose and use it to guide your career. Once you know what you love and what is most satisfying to you, find ways to do this kind of meaningful work either in your current job or another.

3. Have a detailed career plan which you update regularly – Make a career plan and follow it. Watch for job opportunities that meet your career goals and apply for them. If you miss a goal in your career plan, update the plan and create an action plan to attain the missed goal. Use your weekly career time (see #8) to call people (see #6) who can help you to reach your goal.

4. Build your own brand – Find a facet of your work that interests you and that is useful to others. Develop an expertise so that you are the “go to” person for this expertise. This gives you a competitive edge and you become known for your knowledge (the expert).

5. Track your accomplishments – You can not rely on your manager or your peers to remember and credit you with your accomplishments. Keep a list that gives your accomplishments in the format that states the problem, the solution and the result. You can use this document as a reminder for yourself during your annual review and also as a basis for updating your resume.

6. Build relationships – It is all about your network. Building and maintaining relationships with people in your field and people who are in a position to help you move forward in your career is imperative. Start with your college professors! Find other mentors, advisors and coaches along the way to help you expand your network. Stay connected to colleagues from past jobs who may be able to help you in the future.

7. Communicate frequently – To become known as an expert in your field you will need to write and speak frequently. Work with the leading professional organization in your field to speak at meetings and write for their publications. Find other places to speak and write on your expertise. This will help you to build your brand, become an expert in your field, and meet other people who can help you to move forward.

8. Set a regular time each week to work on your career and brand building – It is easy to get caught up in the activities of the job and to convince yourself that there is no time for working on your career. Doing that may be good for the company you work for but it is not good for your career. Setting time aside weekly to add accomplishments to your list, to identify people to network with and to find meetings to go to is an investment in yourself and your career.

9. Know your value to your organization – Why do others want you on their team? Be very clear on the value you bring to the organization and be able to say it simply and clearly. Take credit for this value and let others know about it. It is part of gaining credit for being an expert and branding yourself.

10. Be proactive – Don’t wait for others to do this. Get started today! In this case the early bird gets the prime assignments, the promotions and the new job.

10 Ways through which YOU can help prevent Global Warming

It is high time now that we start contributing to help control global warming and rising water levels. If we don’t act quickly, cities like London, Miami, Mumbai and Calcutta may be submerged in another 40 years. Hence, rather than leaving our faith at the hands of our Governments and big Corporate houses, here are 10 simple steps you can follow to help curb global warming yourself to a large extent:

  1. Get Educated
    Your first step should be to educate yourself about Global warming, reasons behind it and its impact. Only if you know in-depth about the subject that you will be able to spread awareness about the problem around you.

  2. Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
    Replace frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Save more than 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $60 per year, as they are cheaper and consume less energy.

  3. Keep your Car Tire Pressure at the optimum
    Keeping the tires on your car adequately inflated will increase your car's mileage, which will make it more fuel efficient. Check them every week and save 250 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $840 per year.

  4. Drive smarter
    A cars fuel efficiency drops sharply over 55 mph. Also, at this speed, don't forget to keep your car in top gear and the windows up.

  5. Replace Old Appliances
    Inefficient old appliances waste a lot of energy. By changing them, you can save hundreds of lbs. of carbon dioxide and dollars per year.

  6. Unplug Unused Electronics
    Even when electronic devices are turned off, they use energy. By unplugging them, you can save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $256 per year.

  7. Insulate Your Water Heater
    By keeping your water heater insulated, you can save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $40 per year.

  8. Use Recycled Paper
    Use 100% post consumer recycled paper. This can help save 5 lbs. of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.

  9. Energy efficient computers
    Turning your computers to a more efficient mode, helps to conserve power. Turning your computer to hibernate mode or low power mode or just turning off the monitor when you are not working on the Computer, conserves a considerable amount of money and energy. Upgrading to a laptop from a desktop can change your efficiency by 90%. Also switching to an ink jet printer from a laser printer can save you another 90%.

  10. Use a Push Mower
    Use your muscles instead of fossil fuels and get some exercise. Save 80 lbs of carbon dioxide & loose some more per year.

10 Things to Remember About Writing Correct English

By Dan Santow

Making the same teeny-tiny errors over and over and over and over again is a huge waste of time (for you, your editor and, if it gets that far, your reader). Here are 10 things to learn, learn well, and never forget:

  1. "ly" words do not take hyphens, so you are not a “highly-evolved person” but a “highly evolved person”
  2. in the same way that my friend Bruce always says, “Dan, you’re you and I’m me,” commas are commas and dashes are dashes. For reasons that elude me entirely, people want to use dashes in place of the last comma in a series, as in “Irish setters, English bulldogs – and French poodles.” (Seriously, what’s that about?)
  3. single entities (the names of companies, for instance) are single entities and are therefore referred to as “it,” not “they,” as in “On Thursday, Chrysler said that it planned to eliminate up to 11,000 more jobs.”
  4. “its” – sans apostrophe – is the possessive of the word “it,” while “it’s” – apostrophe in situ – is the contraction of “it is”
  5. except in charts and graphs, spell out the word “percent” and always use numerals, even when below 10; so it’s "4 percent," not "four percent" or "4%" or, heaven help me, "four %"
  6. prefixes themselves aren’t words, so when adding a prefix to a word you do not need to also add a hyphen unless the resulting word would confuse your readers; it’s "unheard," not "un-heard," "nonresistant," not "non-resistant," etc., but "pro-choice," for instance, and when mailing something a second time, "re-sent," instead of "resent," which means something else altogether
  7. don’t use a slash in place of the perfectly reasonable word “and”
  8. "i.e." means “in other words” and "e.g." means “for example” and both are always followed by a comma
  9. use a comma before “such as” and “including” when the words that follow are an aside (in other words, not necessary to the meaning of the sentence), as in “Arabella chose to take jewelry, including a fancy yellow European cut diamond and emerald ring, a pair of citrine and diamond earrings, and an antique diamond tiara from the collection of HRH Princess Maria Gabrielle of Savoia.”
  10. know when to use “that” and when to use “which”: Imagine “by the way” following every “which.” "The 2008 campaign season, which [by the way] started too early, will be over Nov. 4, 2008." The “which” phrase adds a useful, but not necessary, piece of information. So, if “by the way” makes sense, use “which.” Remember, “commas, which cut out the fat, go with which, never with that!” (I didn’t make that up; wish I had.)

10 low-cost ways to market your business

By Joanna L. Krotz - Microsoft Small Business Center

Too many small-business owners think marketing is like a trip to the dentist — something you just gotta do every six months or so.

But when marketing is continuous and targeted rather than occasional and shotgun, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your wares and reputation before you call or before they start shopping, you're that much closer to nailing a sale. The next news flash is that ongoing marketing isn't tied to a price tag. It's defined only by putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Here are 10 ideas for doing that — on the cheap.

1. Take steps to make customers feel special. Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. "Even with a Web-based business, good customer service is possible," says Denise McMillan, co-owner of Plush Creations (www.plushcreations.com), an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. "The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase," she says.

2. Create business cards that prospects keep. Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use — say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. "The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so and carries a high remembrance factor," says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.

3. Stop servicing break-even customers. If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You're falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. "More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP," says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count.

4. Develop an electronic mailing list and send old-fashioned letters. Most businesses have harnessed the power of e-newsletters — and you definitely should be sending out one, too. It's very cost-effective. But exactly because e-mail marketing is now nearly ubiquitous, you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects. Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read, whether an analysis of recent events in your field, premium offers or a sweetener personalized for the recipient (a discount on his next purchase of whatever he last purchased, for instance). "This mailing has to have value to those that read it, so it reflects the value of what you offer," says Leslie Ungar, an executive coach in Akron, Ohio. "Remember, the best way to sell is to tell."

5. Boost your profile at trade shows and conferences. You can easily create signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or an event mini Web site etc & create a long lasting impression on your audience.

6. Combine business with pleasure — and charity. Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your leadership skills. "I host an annual baseball game where I take hundreds of clients to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field," says Kate Koziol, who owns a public relations agency in Chicago. "Last year, I took 300 people and we raised $10,000 for a local children's hospital. Few people turn down a game and it's a great networking opportunity for guests. It lets me reconnect with current clients and impress potential clients."

7. Create a destination. Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has its coffee bars. Furnishings giant Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Why? So customers gravitate to the stores to enjoy an experience, to hang out for a while. Sunday morning at Barnes & Noble becomes a pleasant weekend routine, rather than a shopping errand. Steal this idea.

This tip isn't limited to offline destinations, either. Using pay-per-click advertising, you can cheaply drive traffic to a one-time news event or specialty offerings, points out Jay Lipe, a small-business marketing consultant based in Minneapolis. Lipe recently set up a Web site for Games by James (www.gamesbyjames.biz), a retailer of board games, and quickly attracted customers via pay-per-click ads. "The effect was overnight," says Lipe. "Traditionally in the marketing world, it takes weeks or even months to generate acceptable awareness and traffic. Here we saw traffic spike overnight."

Other tips to become a destination:

• Add a free advisory service, whether party planning ideas or investment seminars.
• Add customer loyalty services, such as free shipping for second-time buyers or rewards when customers spend a certain amount.

8. Become an online expert. This is the "free sample" approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals. "E-mail discussion lists have been my single largest source of clients over the last eight years," says Shel Horowitz, a small-business marketing consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

9. Court local media. Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It's usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative and write and send press releases. Usually, you can work on a short-term or contingency basis.

10. Finally, don't let customers simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven't heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail, inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there's anything you can do. A discount can't hurt either. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.

Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit" and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom publisher

10 Essential Tips for Your Press Release to Make the News

A press release is basically a part of an organization's PR exercise and is a formal announcement issued generally to the news media and other publications for communicating an important message about your comp. This self-promotion can play a positive part in the success of any business. Publicity generated by press releases is free and the coverage is often far more extensive than expected.Here are ten ways in which you can make your Press Release campaign, a sure shot success:

  1. Make sure the information is newsworthy. It should excite the reader and should compel him to click on the link to your site. Tell the readers that the press release is intended towards them and why should they continue to read it.
  2. When writing a news release, be a reporter and report on yourself or your business.
  3. Press releases are most effective when they are under 500 words, generally two to three paragraphs, preceded by a clear and attention grabbing headline.
  4. Be very creative - Keep the Title short and the first 10 words of your release as effective and simple as possible, as they are the most important.
  5. Start with a brief description of the news, then distinguish who announced it, not the other way around.
  6. Avoid excessive use of adjectives and fancy language like high vocabulary and idioms.
  7. You should always ask yourself "How are people going to relate to this and will they be able to connect?"
  8. Deal with the facts, don't fly in fantasy. Try and put out the truth as only then will you be able to create positive value for yourself.
  9. Provide as much Contact information as possible: Individual Contact, address, phone, fax, email, Web site address etc.
  10. Distribute the press release to some top quality news & PR distribution sites. Make it easily accessible to other media representatives by not including stringent copyright terms.

10 Ways to Optimize Your Site for Search Engines: Part 3

After you have taken care of the on page techniques mentioned earlier, you now need to do some off-page promotion of your site so that people take note of and visit it. Here are few things you can do:

6. Site Maps
Sitemaps are an easy way to inform search engines about your website & the pages on it that are available for crawling. A sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site, along with additional information about each URL (like when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site). Sitemaps give out all this information to the search engines important so that they can crawl the site more intelligently.

Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:

  • Your site is updated frequently.
  • Your site has pages that aren't easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process - for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or Flash.
  • Your site is new and has few links to it.
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.
You can generate sitemaps of your site by use this generator.

7. Press Release
Writing a good Press Release and submitting the same to various syndicates can bring in a lot of traffic to your site by creating a positive impression about your services, apart from the much need inbound links. Few things you should keep in mind when writing them:
  • Press releases are written in block style, so no paragraph indentation is necessary.
  • Have a friend read your press release and tell you whether he or she would be interested enough to read a newspaper story about it. If not, consider a rewrite.
  • Send your press release to as many free distribution site as possible. Often, this will turn into a story much faster.
  • Keep the tone of your release all business. Don't go into too much personal or non-business related detail or your press release will likely end up in the editor's circular file.
The distribution source of the release is also an important consideration. For reference, here is a list of wire services for distributing press releases: Remember, the objective of the press release should not be poetic and dont try to outsmart the reader!

8. Directory Submission
Directories are kind of online yellow pages with categorized data. Once they include your site in their database, these directories provide you with quality back links, which is precisely what we are looking for. But they follow stringent rules and guidelines to approve listing requests, to ensure good experience for their users. However, they all list their guidelines and if you follow them properly, then you can be rest assured that your site will be accepted in their!

Here are some sites where you can find a good list of various directories to which you can submit your site to:
  • info.vilesilencer.com
  • www.directorycritic.com
  • webdirectorylist.smashingdir.com
However, if you can also go for certain directory submission services, as they help to save a lot of your productive time, which you can utilize in creating more value for your business. Certain highly recommended services are:
  • Submit2Please.com
  • SubmitEdge.com
  • www.inetzeal.com

9. Article Writing and Submission
Writing an article about the various phenomenons of the industry to which you belong to and submitting the same to various article syndicates and directories has got its own advantages:
  1. It helps you to create a goodwill for you as you are sharing your knowledge with your readers and helping them to go about their business in a better way
  2. It is Viral in nature
  3. It helps you to generate quality links
  4. It helps you to pre-sell your product or service to the reader
However, the key for your article submission campaign to be successful is not just creating quality, informative and creative articles, but you must also submit them to the right places in the right manner so that your desired audiences can find them. You can find a good list of article directories at www.directorycritic.com/article-directory-list.html

10. Social Bookmarking

By getting your site bookmarked on various popular social bookmarking sites, you can gain instant access to a large number of audiences around the world. You thus get a big boost in the traffic to your site and improve your sales manyfold!

Social bookmarking service has proved to be a very effective SEO tool. Search engines use the data on these sites by counting the bookmarks as votes & using tags to index & categorize data. Social Bookmarking brings you the following advantages from SEO’s point of view:

  • Faster indexing
  • Deep one way links from sites with high page rank
  • Anchor Text Links
  • Can have a viral effect if the site has got interesting content.
Thus, it helps to increase your website’s value in the eyes of the search engines, who in turn, give your website more importance, leading to better rankings. The best way to get people start bookmarking your site is to request your friends, other bloggers and eminent experts to visit your site and bookmark it if they like it. Few of the more famous bookmarking tools are:
  • BookmarkSync
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Diigo
  • Furl
  • Fark
  • Faves
  • GiveALink.org
  • Ma.gnolia
  • My Web
  • Netvouz
  • Newsvine
  • Reddit
  • Simpy
  • SiteBar
  • StumbleUpon
  • Thoof

10 Ways to Optimize Your Site for Search Engines: Part 2

Although Keyword research and page titles - meta tags are very important for a site to get organically optimized, it's not exhaustive. There are a number of other modifications you need to carry out on your website along with them. Here are few more important things you should take care off:

3. Site Interlinking
This is one important aspect of Search Engine Optimization which most Experts often overlook because of its complexity. But it is very important to make the Search Engines see your site the way you want to! You should use "No follow" attributes smartly to make sure that pages of your site don't appear to be reciprocating each other. This is because most Search Engines are now discounting Reciprocal links and are stressing more on One way Links. The following diagrams will give you a better idea.

If you notice, the links from individual pages to the index pages looks like one way link to it, in the site following a proper interlinking structure. The main advantage of this is that you can control the Page Rank being passed on by the index page and thus, help to improve the same.

4. Image Optimization
Image optimization is another aspect which most SEO experts tend to over look. Although many find it useless, but they help to further organize your site and can help you gain good SERPs in some Search Engines like Yahoo! & MSN (I am not confirming this, but have noticed this for some of my client sites).

Image optimization is really simple. All you need to do is add a title to the picture and put in your desired keywords in the "Alt Tag". However, the title should be descriptive and should let the user know what the image is about and the "Alt Tag" shouldn't be spammed with keywords. Add utmost 2-3 keywords.

5. Content Optimization
Quality Optimized Content is very important for a site. Content directly affects your site's rankings and its conversion. For optimizing a content, one should keep in mind the following few points while developing it:

  1. Repeat your desired keywords once every 100 words (Keyword Density)
  2. Bold out the keyword whenever you are repeating it so that the robots can make out that you are stressing on that particular term.
However, optimizing content on the index page has got its own disadvantages. You are compromising on your user experience, improving which should always be your prime target. Repeating the keywords and highlighting the same might annoy them and finally click on the dreaded "Cross".

10 Ways to Optimize Your Site for Search Engines: Part 1

If you have a website, you would want people to come and visit it (Of course, thats why its up and running!). Search Engines like Google and Yahoo! can be a great way to derive quality traffic to your site, without having to invest heavily in doing so. You can get your website rank well in these SEs by optimizing them. Although its a bit tougher than it sounds, but you can do few things on your own and check the results. Here are 10 things you can do to get your site optimized:

1. Keyword Analysis
This is the most important stage of optimization. If you are optimizing your site for the wrong keywords, then you will end up with:

  1. Poor rankings in SEs search index.
  2. Poor conversion on your site
However, focusing on the right keywords can make you a king. While choosing the keywords, you need to strike the right balance between keyword popularity and competitiveness. Here are certain tools with which you can carry out the your research
  1. Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool: Googles very own tool which lets you have an idea about whats hot and wants not!
  2. KeywordSpy: Highly recommended! It not just gives you an idea about the popularity of the keywords, but also lets you know which keywords your competitors are focusing on.
  3. WordTracker: The most popular and user friendly tool around. Simple to use and easy to understand. The right tool for newees!
  4. Technobloggie: It's free! But a little less effective than those above!

2. Page Titles and Meta Tags
After you have decided upon the keywords you want to focus on, you need to include them in the page titles and meta tags. For the page titles, one should remember the following points:
  • Keep your Page Titles around 69 characters. If it has to be more than 69 characters, then try to use the keywords early in the titles.
  • Use Keywords cleverly. Make your page title in a sentence structure which should inform the user what the page is about.
  • Stay away from "Filler Words" in the title, if possible, such as "And, If, Or, The, Is, A," etc, etc...
  • Keep your title in Title Case, it looks good!
As for the meta tags, they are not so important a few days back until this came on the Google blog. Meta Tags have got three parts: Title, Description & Keywords. You can create meta tags by using this free tool offered by SEOBook.com.