How Did I Get So Busy?

I noticed a reoccurring theme playing out during my weekends. I was always trying to catch up. And even at the end of the weekend, my “To Do” list never seemed shorter.

So this weekend I stopped and read “How Did I Get So Busy?” by Valorie Burton. It’s a 28-day program that promised to help me “rediscover my true priorities, shift out of overdrive and reclaim my life and schedule.”

Of course, I read the book in one weekend instead of during 28 days. And I read a large chunk of it while riding a stationary bicycle so clearly I needed the advice contained in the book.

As the author notes, “The problem with being too busy is that you lose your sense of self. In the race to get it all done, you give up the experience of being fully engaged in anything.”

Fortunately, I am not that far gone. I still enjoy meaningful conversations over a cup of coffee or cooking a meal from scratch for my book club. But I also knew there were areas of my life where I was not being intentional with my actions.

And so I’m now focused on being productive by accomplishing that which matters most. And I’m not going to wear busyness as a badge of honor.

I am going to exercise regularly, as I’ve already shared. In fact, I’ve hired a personal trainer to keep me on track. I’m now cooking meals on Sunday so I have lunches for the work week. I’m not eating at my desk but rather in the break room. Lunch might be finished in 15 or 20 minutes, but at least it is a break. And some days, I take an entire hour. I also have all of my vacation days scheduled.

I’m also focusing more on the journey and not the destination. I’m working on not letting technology intrude. I can be sitting right by the phone and not answer it. I’m still working on ignoring e-mail except during set times.

I’ve changed my approach to my To Do List. At the top I now list my goals for the week, listing no more than three. Then I put on the list those items that will help me achieve those goals. Anything else is not urgent and is not needed on the list. Of course, some of those items may become urgent if they don’t ever get finished so I track them using the Task List in Outlook.

I’m saying “no” more frequently. Before accepting a meeting invitation, I must know the purpose. Otherwise, I don’t accept the request.

I’m also spending quiet time each day. It’s the one I struggle with the most. I started with a minute. I’m working up to 10 minutes each day. No music, no television. Just me sitting quietly being present and not busy.

Are you too busy? How do you get unbusy?

Lessons from Lee Iacocca

Networking works when you are sharing information with others and not always asking someone to help you out.

I have a good example of this: The other day I received an email from Jeff Porro, a speechwriter with whom I’ve worked and also the winner of the 2010 Cicero Award for Best Commencement Speech. He was sharing an article he wrote based on interviews with Lee Iacocca’s speechwriting team, on how today’s execs can inspire employees and customers alike with candor and a great narrative.

Most likely, I would not have come upon the article on my own, and yet the article contained valuable information for me. I write speeches and am a guest lecturer.

When writing I sometimes get caught up in trying to convey specific information. That’s important, but there is something that is even more important, Iacocca says.  “In every speech I give, the object is to motivate.”

When I speak, I’m often sharing case studies or best practices so for me, it’s about motivating my audience to adopt or embrace the practice or, at the least, consider how they are working and if it’s optimal.

I also learned that Iacocca “always spoke from a script, never spoke off the cuff,” according to one of his speech writers. The key, though, was that he rehearsed it until his delivery sounded natural and relaxed.

Speech writing and speech delivery is not easy, which is why considerable time must be devoted to both aspects.

Thanks for sharing the article Jeff! 

Developing a Content Strategy

I recently wrote about how book authors have to do much of their own PR and that often involves social media. For many, it’s a challenge because they are already busy writing their books.

So what is an author to do, or for that matter anyone who is looking to use social media to promote their business? It comes down to having a content strategy.

To develop my strategy I needed to look at three areas – audience, location and measurement.

As with any PR effort, the first thing to do is to identify your audience.  My audience is members of NFPW and prospective members. I knew that I wanted to reach members of NFPW on a regular basis. I also knew that many members were like me – they already received too many emails. And I wanted to use a social media platform so that members would become more familiar and comfortable with social media.

Facebook was out because I couldn’t tell enough of a story, although I’ve found that it’s good to link my blog to my Facebook account. Twitter was no good because at 140 characters I would never finish a thought! And for many members, Twitter is simply too overwhelming. The ideal place was a blog. So I started Cynthia’s Communique.

I had the first two areas covered. Now I had to measure how I’m doing. Each month I review the stats that are available to me on WordPress. My goal is simple – I would like to average more than 300 hits a month. I’m not consistently there yet but I’m getting closer. I am encouraged by the number of comments. It’s nice to start a conversation. I’d like each post to have at least one comment.

My blog does not come easy. As with any writer, I suffer from writer’s block so I try to keep a running list of ideas. I also try to write some blogs in advance so I’m not always on deadline. This is especially helpful when I’m traveling; at least I don’t have to worry about finding a WIFI spot.

I’ve already made my calendar for the year, noting all the days that I will publish. I’ve gone through and marked when the NFPW conference will be held (Sept. 8-10), affiliate meetings that I will attend and other possible topics, such as National Letter Writing Week or Resume Month. I sketch out potential topics and fill those in, too. Before long, it doesn’t look so daunting.

Writing a blog is rewarding, but it’s also a commitment, and I have to treat it that way, which is why I have a content strategy.

Mouse Jiggler Keeps Mouse Active

During the holidays I watched several movies on my laptop by dowloading them from Netflix. I would get so engrossed in the movie that I would forget to jiggle my mouse, and the next thing thing I knew the screen was dark. Of course, as soon as I jiggled the mouse, the movie was again visible but it would take a second or two and sometimes I missed seeing something, especially in the thrillers.

This also happens to me when I’m giving a PowerPoint presentation. Most of the time, I’m moving the mouse at regular intervals as I advance the slides. But every once in a while, a good discussion will start and suddenly the screen is dark. You know this has happened because everyone stops looking at you and glances toward the screen.

And yes, I know I can disconnect this feature, but I don’t actually want it disconnected all the time, just sometimes.

I recently learned of a cool way to fix this. Mouse Jiggler is a tiny, handy utility whose sole purpose in life is to jiggle the mouse cursor for you, so that the screensaver doesn’t kick in. It also has a feature called “Zen jiggle.” I love that name!

Anyway, its purpose is to jiggle the mouse “invisibly” so that your computer thinks the mouse is moving without the cursor actually having to move.

Check it out at http://mousejiggler.codeplex.com/.

7 Ways to Get Involved with NFPW

You’ve renewed your membership in NFPW. Now what?

How about making a commitment to get involved with NFPW? There are so many ways to get involved. Here are seven–

1)      Enter the communications contest. The deadlines at the affiliate level are fast upon us so review the rules, the categories and enter your best work. If you place first in your category, you’ll go on to compete against all the other first-place winners through the national contest. Judges are encouraged to provide feedback, which is great for enhancing your work as you go forward.

2)      Bring in a new member, or mentor a member who has recently joined. It’s a great way to encourage others and share the organization with colleagues. When you join a group, it takes time to learn the dynamics and you can provide guidance for a new member.

3)      Plan to come to conference. This year’s conference will be held Sept. 8-10 in Council Bluffs, IA and Omaha, NE. It’s hosted by Iowa Press Women and Nebraska Press Women. The hotel is Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel.  

4)      Propose a solution, instead of complaining. Too often I hear a member complaining about how something is being handled or organized, but they don’t offer an alternative solution. Complaining isn’t helpful; offering a solution is. Even if it’s not feasible, it might lead to another approach that is.

5)      Be active in your affiliate. If your state has an affiliate, get involved. Again, you can attend meetings. You could offer to secure a speaker. You could coordinate a dinner at a local restaurant so members can network.

6)      Contribute to the website and newsletter. We’re always looking for copy. Great things are happening at the affiliate level that could benefit other members so submit it to NFPW. Members also are doing great things. Your career is not the time to be humble, so again, share it with others.

7)      Have fun! Each year the affiliate that hosts the national conference also offers tours of the region. It’s a great way to get a first-hand look at other parts of the country. One of my favorites of all times was a tour in North Dakota. We were visiting a fort along the Missouri River. The sun was setting in the West and in the East the moon was glowing in the dusk sky. That image is forever etched in my mind. In Colorado I slept in a “haunted” house. In Washington, I went whale watching. Last year, I got my Kicks on Rte. 66!

What ways do you get involved with NFPW?

Rebranding Starbucks

Starbucks is rebranding.

And not everyone is happy. I just spent several minutes reading more than 100 comments on the Starbucks website about the new brand and logo. Only a few comments were favorable.

But that’s not necessarily a problem. I went through a rebranding with my organization more than a year ago. Mainly we heard from those who weren’t happy. If you’re disgruntled, you want to let people know. If you’re happy, you don’t have anything to really say.

What is good about what Starbucks is doing is that Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer, has provided customers with information about the new look. He’s blogged about it, sent an email to customers and created a video.

Schultz is making sure that customers aren’t surprised when they get a cup of coffee with the new logo.

As part of its celebration of the 40th anniversary of the company, it has evolved the design of the siren, the image seen on the cups.

Schultz says the logo “embraces and respects our heritage,” and also is more suited to the future. “The world has changed, and Starbucks has changed.”

What do you think of the new look?

National Letter Writing Week

6,761 – that is the average number of mail pieces to Justin Bieber processed each second by the USPS (Source: Real Simple, January 2011).

Why am I telling you this? I’m curious to know when the last time was that you wrote a fan letter. Perhaps it’s time, especially because Jan. 9-16 is National Letter Writing Week.

I’m not expecting you to write to Justin Bieber or even Justin Timberlake or any other celebrity for that matter. But why not write a note to a staff member acknowledging a good piece of work that they’ve done? You could send a note thanking someone for an act of kindness or for organizing the last conference you went to.  You could send a letter encouraging someone to join or get involved with your affiliate or NFPW.

In this fast-paced, high-tech world in which we live, sometimes old-fashioned notes or letters convey so much more. I’ve received a few in the past month, and they’ve greatly brightened my day.

So why not brighten someone’s day during National Letter Writing Week?