I Survived Michael Smart’s 30-day Detox

I’ve never been good at following instructions. I often don’t think the rules apply to me. Sometimes, I make the rules up (just ask my sister about playing Monopoly with me as a child!).

So I confess that while completing a 30-day digital detox under the guidance of Michael Smart, I may not have followed all of the rules exactly. However, in some instances, I was actually ahead in terms of my detox.

One rule I broke was not deleting my social media apps from my phone. I had a perfect excuse (as I’m sure many others did). Mine was that I use them for work. I’m often at events where I post using my phone and not a laptop. I didn’t want the extra step of logging in via a browser. I expect my devices to work for me.

The point of deleting the app was to keep me from looking at the sites throughout the day. Fortunately, I don’t do that. And through the detox I’ve been even more focused on not checking. My personal phone now stays in my handbag, and I check it at lunch only.

My work phone is off to the side and I only check it when I receive a text message or phone call as only a few people have the number. The rest of my day is focused on my priorities, which ultimately is the point Michael was making.

One tip that greatly benefited me was “ruthlessly unsubscribe from every mass email that doesn’t bring you massive value.” This has been a game changer for me. I subscribed to some emails thinking I would glean nuggets of information. Instead all I did was hit delete. Before long, I had about 20 such emails, and while a nano second to delete doesn’t seem like much. It was adding up. I unsubscribed and my mailbox is not nearly so cumbersome.

Despite working in a profession in which I have to be 24/7 accessible to handle a crisis, I am not tethered to my mobile. Yes, it’s with me. But I don’t check it constantly. I’ve told everyone that if I am needed to respond, I should be called. That prevents me from looking at my phone and checking emails all weekend. The problem with checking is that it becomes too easy to respond to emails.

So when Michael proposed that we create a digital “sabbath” one day of the weekend, I realized that for the most part I was doing it. What would help, though, is his suggestion of setting an auto responder. By setting an auto responder asking people to phone me if they need me during the weekend, I reinforce my message about calling me if I am needed.

He had many other great tips, and I’m working to incorporate them into my habits. It’s not easy to do but I’m making a good start. Would you share in the comments field one of your tips for managing your digital presence?

4 Steps to Help Disconnect for Vacation

SAMSUNGI recently returned from a week’s vacation where I did not check in with the office or read work emails (much). I suspect most people won’t believe that, but it’s true. I knew I needed a vacation to recharge. And that’s just what I did.

To ensure that I would be able to disconnect, I took some steps that might be helpful to you. Here are the four steps I took –

Plan ahead: I scheduled no new meetings the three days before I left for vacation. This ensured that I did not get new assignments. I also spent those last three days wrapping up projects.

Identify who can help: I let my boss and others with whom I frequently interact know who would be my back-up. I also set my out-of-office on my email and voice mail. Nothing is more frustrating to someone who is trying to reach you and they don’t know you are out of the office.

Set parameters: I told key people that if they needed me to mark URGENT in the subject line. Those would be the only emails I would read. Fortunately, I never received any. It helped that I planned my time away during a slow week.

Schedule your return: I kept my out-of-office on for the first Monday back. I blocked the entire day to connect with colleagues to see what I needed to immediately address. Once I handled those tasks, I responded to emails, many of which at this point could simply be deleted.

By day’s end, I was caught up and ready for the next big project. I still have plenty of energy from the vacation, too.

Inspiration From Space

The other week I was in need of some inspiration. I couldn’t pinpoint what was keeping me from zooming ahead. Maybe it was the pollen in the air clouding my judgment and slowing me down. Whatever it was, I was struggling.

20170413_130907_001Then I looked to space — specifically to astronaut Leland Melvin, who was speaking to a group of scholar athletes being honored at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars awards luncheon.

Within a few short paragraphs, I was ready to soar. He opened with “whatever you do, you can always reinvent yourself if you are a life-long learner.”

He talked about pulling from those things that inspire you. For him it was books such as “Curious George” and “The Little Engine That Could.” Later it was tennis, a chemistry set and even an old bread truck that he and his father converted to a camper.

From those inspirations, Leland became the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space. He served as a mission specialist operating the robotic arm on two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station: STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009.

These all became part of his story and journey. He shared, “Life is not about the destination, but about the journey.” While on the journey, he said it’s important to also help others find their way.

In the end, he urged the audience to “Keep rising.”

I may not serve on a mission to space, but I’m inspired to meet my deadlines!

Accountability Meeting Didn’t Go Well – Or Did It?


My writing chair has been empty but thanks to my accountability partner, I have a writing schedule once again. 

My last accountability meeting did not go well.

It was all my fault as I was not accountable. At the prior meeting I said what I was going to do and then I didn’t.

I seriously contemplated calling my accountability partner and asking for a pass on the meeting. But that defeats the purpose of the meetings.

We met, and my partner wasn’t mean about my lack of progress. Just the opposite – she was encouraging. We discussed why I had not met my goals. It wasn’t about making excuses, but rather about finding a way to get me back on track.

I explained that I had had a productive few weeks in other areas. I organized a statewide conference, coordinated a national board meeting and hosted friends. Of course, sometimes we deliberately get busy to avoid what we need to do. Fortunately, that was not the case. These were long-term commitments and I was more than willing to honor them. I did, however, miscalculate how much time I would have for other endeavors.

As part of my conversation with my accountability partner, I scheduled my future writing days. Setting aside specific days and times works best for me. If I simply say that I am going to write three times before our next meeting it seldom happens. When I block the time, it always happens, in part, because I have a set time and so I will say no to any requests made of me made during that time.

In actuality, my meeting did go well. My partner and I discussed what didn’t work and how to address those areas moving forward. I’m looking forward to sharing my progress at our next meeting.

Making Summer Work

20140727_180844Memorial Day weekend has passed, which means summer is in full swing. Some years I find myself asking in September, “Where did summer go?”

I miss weeks at the Jersey shore or in the Poconos. Now, I’m more likely to take vacations in the spring and fall, but I find it’s important to not miss out on the pleasures of summer.

I also need a tiny bit of structure in the summer or I’m likely to let the long summer days pass me by without having achieved anything. While I’m all for relaxation, I don’t want to be a slug (no offense to slugs).

Here are some tips on how to make the most of summer:

  1. Learn a new skill. This summer I’m spending more time working on my personal website and one for an organization of which I’m president. I’m learning through trial and error and asking lots of questions. I hope both sites will be better for my effort.
  2. Explore new places or take a different route in your neighborhood. I get my wandering in by foot. I’m challenging myself to walk 10,000 steps each day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It equates to about one million steps. I find it’s more fun to get the steps in when I’m exploring a city, a garden or a new neighborhood. I did the same thing last year, and had a blast reaching my goal.
  3. Work toward a goal. It could be decluttering your home, running a marathon or, in my case, working on a book. I recently finished the first draft of a quasi-travel book. Several people are reading it and providing feedback. Soon it will be time for the rewrite and shopping it to agents. In the meantime, I’m at work on a mystery.
  4. Read a book (or two… or three). I love summertime reading. I keep a stack of paperbacks for the pool and beach (ones that I don’t care if they get splashed). It’s also fun to read a classic I overlooked in high school or reread one. I’m leaning toward The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck or Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. The summer also will feature books on self-management and leadership, including You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. And I can’t wait to read my friend Adriana Trigiani’s book, Kiss Carlo.
  5. Enjoy the season. Summertime is about grilling out, eating watermelon, catching fireflies, going to a baseball game and visiting a Farmer’s Market. Make your own list and have fun crossing them out. Or toss the list and find a hammock!

5 Steps to Prepare for a Media Interview

Capture5I spend my days responding to media inquiries and prepping individuals for media interviews. Having done this for more years than I care to admit, I’ve learned a few things. Here are five of my top tips to prepare for an interview:

Know the angle of the article before you agree to the interview. I never give an interview or arrange for someone else to be interviewed unless I know the topic. If it’s related to a crisis, I already know it’s going to be slightly hostile, and I plan accordingly. But even if it’s completely cordial, it’s important to know the focus. And, if possible, ask for the questions in advance.

Collect background information. I always find out about the news outlet, as well as the reporter. This includes looking at recent stories, finding out what makes the reporter tick and finding out how stories are handled by the outlet.

Prepare your answers. Whether the reporter provides questions in advance or not, you should always develop your own list of anticipated questions – both the good and bad – and determine your answers. What are the main points you want to make. When the story runs, what is the one point you want to get across? If you anticipate some tough questions, how can you pivot to the points you want to make?

Provide background on your organization. Also, be willing to provide background on your organization or your subject matter. Don’t assume the reporter has had time to conduct the necessary research. If you provide this information, not only do you make your organization look good, you make the reporter look good.

Conduct a dry run. Interviews are not easy. Schedule time to have someone play the role of reporter and ask you questions. Then practice giving your answers. You don’t want to over rehearse, but you do want to be comfortable answering the questions.

5 Steps to Networking Success

dscf2419My colleagues and I were deciding what time to head out to a luncheon workshop that includes networking. I opted to arrive early, and it had nothing to do with punctuality or finding a parking space.

As an introvert, it’s easier for me to be among the first to arrive at a networking event. That way, I can spot others arriving and easily approach them. We connect and have a conversation. It’s much more challenging for me to wade into a large group and network.

Here are a few tips for successful networking:

As I shared above, arrive early.

Stand out. Have your elevator speech ready, be professional, and be memorable. For years, when people asked what I did, I said that my job was like being an air traffic controller. I then explained what I meant. In my current job, I like to wear a lapel pin of our mascot, which always leads to conversation.

Listen more than you talk. If you ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers, you will learn about the person, and they are more likely to remember you because you listened. Too often, we ask a question, and instead of listening, we are thinking about our next question to ask or what we are going to share with the person.

Aim for quality, not quantity. When I first started my career, I was all about collecting business cards. Those cards do me no good, though, if I can’t remember whose card it is or in what context I met the person. If I’m at a lunch event, I may only leave with one card. At a conference, I may leave with seven or eight. I make it a point to note something I learned about the person on the back of their card.

Follow-up. One of the reasons, I write notes on a person’s business card is because I like to follow up with the person within a month of our meeting. I try to share information that I think may be of value to them, further cementing our networking opportunity.