Handwritten Lists Better than Electronic Ones

Pens and paper

The act of writing a list helps me to remember what I need to do. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I lost my “To Do” list the other day. For some reason I decided to type my list on the computer but I had not saved it. I was rushing to my volleyball match and somehow lost the list. That never happens when I write my list on paper.

One other time I wrote my list on the computer. I discovered that I do not gain the same satisfaction deleting items from the list as I do when I physically cross the item off my list.

For me, the mere act of writing the list helps me to remember what I need to do and, more importantly, to prioritize the items. Turns out that writing things down, with your actual hands, is just plain better at getting you to remember and execute good ideas, according to an article in Fast Company magazine

I have even gone so far as to buy “special” notebooks for making lists. I started using small notebooks for lists when a colleague pointed out that I had 3 sheets of paper, all with different lists. Why, he asked, didn’t I put them in a notebook so I could keep better track of the lists. Ever since, I’ve carried a small notebook, which often doubles for taking notes at informal meetings.

One of my favorite notebooks only allows me to list two items and has pithy comments, such as “Today’s about quality not quantity” and “Today I will get some stuff done”. For me, only listing two items is nothing short of a miracle. Yet when I do this I can happily report that I always complete the assignments.

And after all, isn’t that the point of a list?

iPad Today Co-host Shares Social Story

Early in Sarah Lane’s career she thought she would be a mathematician since she was good at math. But the co-host of iPad Today, the Social Hour and Tech News Today at TRiT.tv, discovered she liked a few other things, too.

Sarah Lane, co-host of iPad today and other shows, enables her audience to know about the stuff that is important to them. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

“I like being social. I like talking,” she told an audience at a recent social media workshop in Idaho Falls, ID. As a result she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State. As an intern she worked on a documentary about San Francisco in the 1980s. At the time there was no social component of the internet, Sarah said. Her research was conducted in a basement reviewing tapes. 

She would go on to work for TechTV on a show called “The Screen Savers” for which she produced the “Blog Report.” Showing the audience one of her early reports, she noted how frightened she looked. “I was frightened that I would say something just a little wrong and the audience would pounce on me,” Sarah said.

Today, she said, her “skin is a mile thick.”

She found her passion – talking technology with others who love technology, which she does through online TV. She describes “This Week in Technology” or TWiT as “almost like sports talk.” Success is measured not on the number of views of the show but on the number of downloads. “We’re successful, although we don’t have American Idol numbers.”

Another show Sarah works on is The Social Hour, which she co-hosts with Amber MacArthur. Ironically, the two have never met. Sarah is in San Francisco and Amber is in Canada. Sarah noted, “ We all have the same amount of tools; it’s just what you make of it.”

Her role, she said, is to spend her days and nights trying out new services. “You don’t have time. You just want to know about the stuff that is important to you.”

Stopping the Insanity

Earlier in the week, a robin repeatedly flew at my office window. Bang. I’d turn around to look and he would be stunned on the ground but otherwise okay. Several minutes later, “bang”! Finally, after a few hours of this, the robin grew wise and realized he was not getting into my office. He flew away and, I hope is doing well wherever he landed.

This robin reminded me that if I want different results I can't keep doing the same things that I've done in the past. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Many days I feel like that robin. Watching and listening to the robin, I realized that sometimes I do exactly what Albert Einstein warned against: “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.”

Upon this epiphany I picked up the phone and spoke with my business coach. We discussed several items, and helped get me back on track. I knew what I needed to do; I simply needed to talk it out loud. So if you don’t have a coach, find a friend or colleague and talk it through.

Rather than banging my head into a wall like a robin, I’ve recommitted to do the following:

  1. Follow 18 Minutes, a great time management tool.
  2. Bring healthy snacks to work. Eating junk food does nothing for my concentration so if I have an apple or carrots handy, I’m better able to fuel myself. Plus, the “crunch” just sounds good.
  3. Set aside specific time to work on emails. I’m not alone in finding an inbox that remains perpetually filled. Many emails I can glance at and quickly delete. Others require more thoughtful responses. Identifying time each day to answer emails or forward them prevents them from going into a black hole.
  4. Schedule time for friends, family and fitness. By adding it to my calendar, I have something to look forward to and I create appropriate work/life balance.

Once I stopped hitting my head into my virtual wall, I quickly discovered how much more energized and engaged I became. The robin was a good reminder. I just hope he didn’t end up with a headache while trying to get me to pay attention!

National Columnists Day

Today is National Columnists Day, which recognizes the importance and value of newspaper columnists. It was established in memory of the day columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle was killed in World War II.

I grew up reading Dave Barry (just going to his website makes me laugh out loud), the late Erma Bombeck and Bob Greene (whose career had a tragic twist). The columns were funny, moving, candid, and I could never get enough of them.

At one point in my newspaper career, I was given the opportunity to have my own column, which I called “Off the Cuff,” a recommendation from my father. It allowed me to write on most any topic. I enjoyed that freedom.

Columnist Nancy Wright Beasley, who writes a monthly column for Richmond Magazine also enjoys having the opportunity to choose her subjects. She says. “It is a privilege to be a columnist because you have the opportunity to shed light on special people who do wonderful things and are often not covered by the daily media.”

Another columnist, Ann Allen notes, “I love being a columnist. It’s more creative than reporting the who, why how, when and where.”

In later years, I was drawn to the columnists at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. My friend Julie Campbell reminded me of those great writers, who included Steve Clark, Betty Booker and Jann Malone. When I was at the Roanoke Times & World-News I enjoyed reading Ben Beagle. In researching this column, I found The World I Never Made, which is a collection of his columns.

My tastes and genres have evolved. And thanks to blogging, opportunities are everywhere for reading about issues that matter to me and sometimes just reading good writing. I asked my Facebook friends who they are reading. Here’s a sampling:

Why not make time today to read your favorite columnist? And while you’re at it, add a comment to this blog letting us know who you are reading.

Tough Cop Writes About Teddy Bears

As a cop, John Lamb admits he had a reputation for being “the coldest human being on the planet.”

Then he met his future wife Joyce, who said to him, “You’re nothing but a big teddy bear.”

John Lamb is a tough cop who writes a teddy bear mystery series. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Teddy bears would become a key character in a series of mysteries he would write. Lamb is the author of the “Bear Collector” mystery series. He also is a retired cop with 22 years of service with a Southern California police department. During his career he served as a patrol officer, hostage negotiator, homicide investigator and patrol sergeant.

The first gift he gave his future wife, naturally, was a teddy bear. The two started collecting handmade bears. “They are original, and they’re amazing,” Lamb said.

As a cop, Lamb said he often held a dim view of the human race. The beauty of teddy bear collecting is “There aren’t any teddy bear jerks.”

After retiring to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, Lamb’s publisher told him they were looking for a new line of cozies – mysteries in which there is no blood and no guts. Lamb realized, “I’m living a cozy” as he sat on his front porch and thought about the hundreds of teddy bears he and his wife had collected and their comfortable home with six cats and two golden retrievers.

He wrote the first few chapters of the first book, The Mournful Teddy, and within 24 hours had a three-book deal.

He would go on to write four more books in the series, all with the word “teddy” in the title. “You have to have a word you can hang your series on,” Lamb said.

His most recent work is a suspense thriller, which he is working to get published. The publishing world is much more challenging today, Lamb said. “We no longer build or grow an audience,” Lamb said. “If it’s not a homerun, they don’t sell them.”

Despite such obstacles, Lamb said, “I love writing. I’m going to keep writing.”