Summer Success Check-in

Summer is in full swing, and while for the most part, I strive for unstructured weekends, I did set summer goals. It’s time to check in.

I had three areas of focus – walking, reading and writing.

I’m on target with the walking, but it has required some creative stepping (pun intended). The actual goal is to walk one million steps. It is an ambitious goal because while I know I should be walking 10,000 steps most days I was only reaching 5,000 to 7,000. I decided I needed to ratchet my efforts, and I set the one million steps goal.

As crazy as it is, it’s working. I’m currently 100 percent on target and 53 percent to goal. Yes, you read that correctly – I have walked more than 500,000 (give or take a thousand) steps so far this summer.

20000 StepsIt has required some herculean efforts on my part. One lazy Saturday, I walked less than 5,000 steps. That Monday I walked 15,000 steps, and was back on track. At a recent conference, I arrived the day before and explored Washington, D.C., on foot visiting many of the monuments. By day’s end I had accumulated 20,000 steps. That helped out when I only had 5,000 steps on the day I returned home.

I get up in the morning and walk 3,000 to 6,000 steps before work. At first, I struggled, but now I really enjoy my mornings. It’s cooler and peaceful. It’s my own world. During the day, if my schedule permits, I walk for 15 to 20 minutes with a colleague. We save all of our discussions for the walk time, and we’ve solved several problems on our walks and taken some great photos to share on social media. If she is not available, I will still try for a short walk. I find the walk allows me to think and processs, and I return to my desk reinvigorated.

My summer reading, which actually started back in May is a bit sporadic because I am tending to read novels. I did, however, finish Greg McKeown’s, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” I’m more focused on celebrating the essential, and not busyness. I say no to focus on what does matter to me and set boundaries. That means that while I would like to resume golfing, for now, I must say no because what is important to me is my writing. Golf requires too much time – time that could spent writing and rewriting.

I also am about halfway through “Mastermind” by Maria Konnikova. Already, I am finding I am more observant. Still on my list are “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark and “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life” by Marietta McCarty.

As for writing, I’m making great progress on one of my books. My accountability partner is helping me to stay on track. I also signed up to attend a mystery writer and fan conference in the fall. Not only will I meet some of the authors whom I read and are inspired by, but I also will learn about writing techniques, agents and marketing.

Still, I’m glad there are a few more weeks left to summer. I still need to eat an ice cream cone and catch fireflies!

3 Steps to Transition from Vacation to Work

DCI just returned from a week away from the office. Part of the time I was at a conference, the rest of the time I was on vacation and, for the most part, I was not checking emails. I had asked my colleagues to phone me if anything was critical. This allowed me to more fully disconnect and have the necessary restorative break that I needed.

Returning to the office, though, is never easy. Through the years, I’ve developed a few habits to make the transition easier.

Return home a day early or schedule an extra day of vacation. If you can, return home on Saturday. If not, plan to take Monday off. I find that having a full day at home is helpful for catching up on laundry, putting away suitcases, catching up on mail (both slow and email) and paying bills. I go to the grocery store and run errands. This way I start my work week with the basics covered.

Block your morning. This will give you time to make a to-do list for the week, listen to voice mails, check email and connect with colleagues. Focus on any high-priority assignments. If you don’t do this, you are likely to jump write into the fray and won’t know what has happened while you were out.

Leave on time. It’s tempting the first day or two back to put in extra hours to catch up. However, that defeats the purpose of a vacation. You want to stay rested, which makes it easier to focus on priorities and bring you’re A-game to the table.

Developing these habits will enable you to identify your priorities for the week and quickly get back up to speed. And hopefully, the vacation glow won’t disappear too quickly.

My Weekend of Nothing

“You do too much. Go and do nothing for a while. Nothing.”

— Lillian Hellman

Between summer goals and an accountability partner, I had been making great progress. This past weekend, though, I did Nothing.

I’ve capitalized it because I rather like thinking of nothing as something tangible, as something I should aspire to. Those who know me, know I’m really not all that good at doing nothing. It’s one of the reasons I love the Lillian Hellman quote. I carry it with me. I aspire to it, and rarely succeed.

I had a to-do list for the weekend. I’m not sure where it ended up. I was supposed to walk 10,500 steps each day. I didn’t even break 5,000 steps on Saturday. To be honest, I didn’t break 4,000 steps.

I was supposed to write two chapters of my book and write my blog post for today (yes, this one; the one I wrote during my lunch hour).

I had planned to work in the yard. The sky was blue, the humidity was low. I did buy some plants for the gardens, but alas they remain on the porch.

DSCN1076Here’s what I did do, though. I listened to my heart and soul. I woke up with the urge to open all the windows in the sunroom, brew a big pot of coffee, and get lost in a good book. Not a management book. Not the selection for book club. A beach book, or in this case, a sunroom book. Bliss.

Then I decided I wanted to scrapbook because the light was so perfect in the dining room. I opened the blinds all the way. I pulled out all of the supplies. Through the pages I created, I relived a fabulous trip with my goddaughter.

I awoke Sunday feeling guilty for barely moving the day before so I left the house and walked. Maybe strolled would be a better word. I explored the neighborhoods near me. Seven thousand five hundred steps later, I returned home.

My beach read was calling me, so I headed to the pool and read until I finished the book. I paused in my reading to dangle my feet along the pool’s edge — the water was still too cold for full immersion.

I returned home and finished the scrapbook. I finished the book.

I did Nothing.

And I am better for it.


Cycling Race Organizers Share Lessons

For a few months last year, everyone in Richmond, Va., could not get enough of bicycles. The UCI World Road Race was in town for 10 days, and this was the first time the race was going to be in the United States in decades.

Now, many months later all that is left to do is to assess how successful the race was. It’s a good practice to do no matter the magnitude of a campaign or project. Reviewing the lessons learned allows you to implement those learnings in future endeavors so it’s important to be honest.


Source: Richmond 2015 PowerPoint slide.

Among the lessons race organizers Lee Kallman and Paul Shanks shared were –

  1. People like comfort and certainty. Europeans use a paper size known as A4. US paper is 8-1/2 x 11 – not quite the same thing. This caused some early consternation.
  2. Plan, listen and then plan again.
  3. Embrace help. Kallman noted that the Richmond2015 team that worked on the race was small. “Sometimes we weren’t good at accepting help, but we got better over time.”
  4. Just own it. Parking was going to be an issue no matter what race organizers did. One of their team members spoke at a meeting and directly stated that no parking would be available on a particular street. There was no sugar coating. Residents weren’t happy with the news, but they could accept it.
  5. Relationships matter. Race organizers leveraged their relationships with partners and reporters.

The race organizers recognized that message management would be critical in the months leading up to the race and throughout the race. “The event was more than a bike race,” Kallman said. “We knew cycling wouldn’t get [people] excited.”

Richmond2015 launched a website to help with navigating the race. Once it launched, it gave people confidence, said Kallman. “People were interested in how to get to work.

The UCI Road Race in the United States had zero brand recognition and, yet, is a storied event in Europe. While organizers struggled to get early coverage, the turning point came when the Washington Post ran a story about the race. “It became a proof point,” Shanks said.

During the final four weeks of the project, the team earned 54 million media impressions.

Kallman and Shanks also focused on social media and crisis planning. They developed a Joint Information Center and their efforts became a case study for how to handle crisis planning. They acknowledged, though, that despite all the planning there were a few small incidents, including a stolen bicycle of one of the riders. It was resolved quickly with the bike recovered and “reflected the hospitality and vibe,” said Kallman.

They may not be planning another cycling event in Richmond, but they have learned from this event and are ready for whatever comes next.

Finding Direction This Summer

I love lazy, unstructured summers. For a week or two…. After that I need some purpose.

Even as a youngster, I kept a calendar in the summer marking vacation and camp, and how I was doing in the library summer reading program.

SAMSUNGI’m the same as an adult, although now I try to ensure that I do have some lazy, unstructured weeks to my summer. I have my vacation days allotted and mainly they will be spent lounging poolside.

But there will be days with purpose, including —

Reading. I’ll read my mysteries and fiction. I also will read books on self-management, communications and leadership. During the summer, I spend more time outdoors, often in a lounge chair with a book in hand.

Writing. I’ll work on my book and my blog. My accountability partner will keep me from slacking too much. I may even do some writing poolside (although not too close).

Walking. I always enjoy walking in the cool of the morning or evening. To keep me motivated to do that this summer, I set an ambitious goal. I’m calling it my One Million Steps to Success Plan. One of my colleagues has agreed to join me on this plan. We must walk a minimum of 10,000 steps each day (and sometimes more) from Memorial Day through Labor Day. When we succeed, we will have walked one million steps!

I say this is highly ambitious because I’ve yet to walk 70,000 steps in a week. So why will I succeed with this?

  1. I have someone to do it with.
  2. It’s fun and just quirky enough to motivate me.
  3. We broke the summer down into bit-sized chunks. Between now and Flag Day, for example, we must walk 155,000 steps. Today, I did 10,000.
  4. I have fewer commitments in the summer and, therefore, fewer distractions to keep me from walking.

What direction will your summer take?

PS Feel free to send encouraging words my way and cheer me on.


Do You Need an Accountability Partner?

The other Friday I spent the entire day writing, thanks to my accountability partner.

For the past year, I’ve met every other Friday at 8 a.m. with Liz, my accountability partner. I’d been lamenting that I needed to find a way to jump start my one book, but that I was not making the time.


My writing space at the Library of Virginia. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

The next thing I knew, I had an invite from her to spend the day writing.

We’d start at 8:30 a.m. at the Library of Virginia. We lost ourselves in the stacks and wrote all morning. We then took a break and drove to The Jefferson Hotel, where we had lunch and then spent the afternoon on the mezzanine writing. By day’s end, I had 6,000 words on paper. That weekend, I outlined my additional writing days.

I could not have done it without my accountability partner.

What is an accountability partner? You could think of her as my inner voice, my critic, my cheerleader, my coach or any other number of terms. I’m also her accountability partner.

We met while taking a coaching class and discovered similar interests. We also recognized that individually we weren’t always meeting our personal goals. We decided to help each other hold ourselves accountable.

Our meetings are simple. We discuss what we would like to achieve and what we could do in the next two weeks to move ourselves closer to our goals. The next time we meet, we report on our progress. Sometimes we critique each other’s work. Sometimes we provide resources.

Mostly we provide inspiration and encouragement.

If I don’t complete my assignments, there is nothing that Liz can do. However, I respect and value Liz’s time, which means that there are some Thursday evenings when I am scrambling to finish my homework. I almost always do. So does Liz.

We’ve been meeting now for about a year. I decided to make a list of my accountability successes. Here’s what I’ve achieved:

  • I’ve coached my first client
  • I joined a coaching federation
  • I’ve enhanced my blog
  • I created a website
  • I outlined one book
  • I rejoined my mystery writers group

I’ve had this success thanks, in part, to Liz, who is someone I trust to give me straightforward feedback. Because we have similar goals, she is interested in what I am doing and wants to see me succeed. I want the same for her.

She suggested the all-day writing day, in part I’m sure, because I had said several times, “If only I had a day to write.” For whatever reason, I wasn’t giving myself permission to take such a day. However, when Liz suggested it, I jumped at the opportunity.

Turns out that having an accountability partner helps you get things done. If you don’t have a person you can turn to, you can probably find an app to help you.

When I finish this book, you can be sure my accountability partner will be featured in the acknowledgments.

Editor’s Note: If you had an accountability partner, what would you have them help you with? Please post your answers in the comment section.

Advice on How to Write a Novel

The other week I received an intriguing email from my accountability partner. She asked if I could take a particular day off from work.

I checked my calendar and realized I could.

Liz and I would spend the entire day writing. I could hardly wait!

I have three books in my head. One is halfway down on paper (well, the computer). One is in outline form. One is still swirling. I need writing time.

Unfortunately, I have not been following my friend Adriana Trigiani’s advice. And I should since she is a best-selling novelist. She has told me — and countless others — that the secret to writing a novel is to just do it.

It’s the same advice I heard from several authors involved with Sisters in Crime, Central Virginia Chapter.

Meriah L. Crawford, a writer, teacher and private investigator, said, “You have to make time for writing. If you go to grad school, it makes you a better writer.”

You can write anywhere. Teresa Inge writes in her car at lunch.

You can hold a writing marathon by writing all day, which is my plan.

Another option is to write in small bites, which I’ve tried, but I only get so far. Others have had more success with this approach.

Kristin Kisska, who has young children, writes during nap times. Her debut novel is a contemporary suspense adventure set at her alma mater, the University of Virginia.

Adele Gardner suggests writing for 15 minutes when you wake up.

And then there is Vivian Lawry, who did not start writing until after retirement.

Mary Burton enjoys hunting down serial killers, which she does in her New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels of suspense and romance. She has 27 books to her credit and suggests having daily page goals to get the book finished.

Her advice is similar to that of Walter Moseley, who writes, “In order to be a writer you have to set up a daily routine. Put aside an amount of time to sit with your computer or notebook.” The advice is included in his book, “This Year You Write Your Novel,” which is one of more than 25 books he has written, including the Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones mysteries.

So now that I’ve procrastinated by reading his book, it’s time to start writing. And I’m going to start with a marathon day!