Remembering Nora Ephron

I suspect I’ll spend this coming weekend watching movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”

That’s because the movies were written by Nora Ephron, who died yesterday at the age of 71 after a six-year battle with leukemia.

I’ve always admired her wit and wisdom.

She once said:

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

I’ve re-read that quote often and it always inspires me to push myself past my comfort zone, to try something new. I don’t want to be on the sidelines.

As an avid reader (and a writer), I connected with what she wrote about reading in I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Women. She wrote:

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. … Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; … Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” 

As a former journalist, I never know whether to laugh or to cry at what she wrote in “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again”:

“1. Journalists sometimes make things up.
“2. Journalists sometimes get things wrong.”

Whatever she was writing, she made us pause and think, and often laugh. It will be a good weekend to watch her movies and escape into her books.

Maximizing Your Mornings

I’m an early riser – 5:30 a.m. and I’m up and at it. No snooze button for me. Most of my friends groan. About 10 years ago, I would have, too, but over time, I found that getting up consistently at 5:30 a.m. works for me.

Newspaper and yogurt

Your morning routine can make you more productive and successful. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I work out in the morning at least once a week and sometimes three times. I’d prefer to work out in the evening to relieve the tension and stress of the day, but my evenings are usually packed with social activities or I work late and then I don’t motivate myself to hit the gym. I have no excuses with a morning workout. Best of all, I head to work energized.

On the mornings I don’t work out, I use at least one day to go to the office early to get organized and focused. This is really helpful for me on Mondays, especially if I have been traveling. Other mornings, I use the time for myself. Sometimes I write in my journal. Sometimes I simply sit and read a book that I want to finish. Whatever I choose to do, having some quiet time in the morning sets the tone for the rest of my day.

According to time management expert Laura Vanderkam, mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules. If we use them wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead happier, more productive lives. She’s written a book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings – and Life. In a recent post on Fast Company she talks about the five-part process to get the most out of the morning.

My morning routine isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely improved since I’ve given careful thought to how I spend the time. The result is a more productive day.

How do you spend your mornings?

4 Steps to Organized Photos

Digital photo thumbnails

Four simple steps will help you keep your digital photos protected and organized.

I’ve traveled a lot the past several weeks, which means I also have taken hundreds of photos. And, I know where they all are. I also never worry about my memory card being full because I download as soon as I return from a trip.

If your digital photos are overwhelming you, here are a few tips to help you get organized.

Download your photos after you return from a trip. If you also take daily photos as I do or snap images weekly then be sure to download at least once a month. If you take your photos on your phone be sure they are backed up automatically. If not, be sure to download monthly.

Delete the bad shots as soon as you take them. Once you have downloaded your photos review them and delete duplicates and poor-quality shots. “In reality, bad photos are just clutter, making it harder to find the good ones,” says Kristy Holch of Techlicious.

Create folders on your computer to store your photos. All of mine go into the “Photos” folder. Then I have subfolders that are labeled with the name of the holiday, the vacation or the topic. I also include the date. It makes it easier for me to find them later. Sometimes I save a photo to two places. I do this especially when I think a photo might work for my blog.

Back up your photos once you have uploaded everything. Do these each time you upload a new batch of photos. Having once lost a set of digital photos, I’m a bit obsessive. I back up to an external hard drive and an online storage service. Because I scrapbook, I also often have a set of prints.

When is the last time you organized your photos?

Finding, Capturing Life’s Moments

For the past six months, I’ve been taking a photo a day. It’s intended to get me to pause and enjoy the moments of each day this year despite a busy schedule.

Produce stand

The colors at this produce stand made me pause and enjoy the scents of all the fruits and vegetables. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

During a recent vacation, it was quite easy to take a photo a day. I probably took 100 photos a day!

For the most part, I’ve not had a problem. I’ve found myself playing more with my photography and trying to figure out how to capture the smell of a spring day, the sound of leaves rustling in a tree before a storm or the smell of a peach cobbler fresh from the oven – all things that provided me with simple joy on a particular day.

Some days, though, it’s more difficult, especially on busy work days. And yet as I leave the office and think, “It’s 7 o’clock and I’ve yet to take a photo,” I rewind the day and realize there were many moments in the day, I could and should have photographed.

I now have an office with a window (my first one in 15 years!) so the view is always worth a photograph. Sometimes I wish I had photographed a great presentation (really!). One day I did photograph a colleague because we always made sure to smile when we saw each other. It was her last day before she moved out of the area and so we took a photograph with big smiles. That photo makes me smile.

Once in a while I think I’ll just stop the project. I’ve done it for six months, why continue? The answer is that I need to keep finding the joy and the moments in each day. It would be too easy to overlook them, and I don’t want to do that.

At the end of each week, I add the photo to a PowerPoint presentation I’m keeping for myself. One slide, one day, one photo. Of course, some days, I’ve actually put multiple photos on the slide. There are no real rules, except to find the moments each day.

I wonder what I’ll discover in the next six months?


Spelling Counts, Especially with Names

I started patronizing a different Starbucks. They always ask my name to put it on my cup. I get a lot of variations on the correct spelling. One day I simply told them how to spell it. Okay, it’s a cup of coffee, and all that matters is that I get my coffee, but still, it’s my name.

I chuckled when I saw this spelling of my name.

As someone who grew up reading and writing for newspapers, I always was told that spelling counts. As a result, I can’t stand a misspelled name. On a recent trip, I landed at a foreign airport and there was a sign with the most unique spelling of my name. Again, all that mattered was that someone was there to pick me up and take me to my hotel.

In writing, spelling counts. I used to teach news writing, and if a student spelled a person’s name incorrectly, I gave the student a zero on the assignment. Very few ever made the mistake again. My journalism teacher did the same in my class (fortunately, that was one error I did not make).

Apparently spelling names correctly is not easy for anyone. If you doubt this, check the corrections page of your newspaper. You will probably find a correction for a misspelled name at least once a week. The Poynter Institute last month reported that the Los Angeles Times ran a correction after misspelling Elliott Gould’s name in a caption. That was the 47th time since 1985 that the Times has referred to the actor as “Elliot” instead of “Elliott.”

What can you do to prevent misspelling a name? Here are a few tips:

Ask the person you are interviewing to spell their first and last name and provide you with their title. Even if you think the name is a common name, ask for the spelling. I recently worked with an “Alison” and an “Allison.” The second “l” made all the difference when assigning tasks.

Check the person’s name on the company email directory if you are working on an internal story. Of course, you are relying on the organization to have spelled all the names correctly.

Ask for the business card. Whenever possible, I get business cards because I have the person’s name and title in black and white. Plus, I have a phone number and email address if needed.

Ask the person to write the name down in your notebook. When I travel overseas on assignment, the names are quite tricky for me so I always hand over my tablet and pen and ask the person to write it. Then I write it in my handwriting and verify it with the person. I’ve learned that letters don’t always align when I get back home.

Taking the time to spell a person’s name correctly is a foundation of good writing. It’s worth the extra time.

Keeping the Vacation Alive

Chocolate covered strawberries

My vacation featured a cooking demonstration. This photo helps return me to the relaxing meal we had following the lesson. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I just returned from an incredible vacation, one in which I took no electronic devices. I watched no TV and read no newspapers. It was a stress-free week.

I knew, though, upon my return that the stress could quickly mount at the office so I took some precautions. Perhaps the suggestions will help you when you return from a vacation.

Leave your first morning free to address urgent emails and messages. Don’t worry about any of the others. Don’t schedule any meetings. I actually blocked the time on my calendar so no one could snag it.

Block time each day for the first week to catch up on the emails. To save time, sort your emails by conversations. By reading the latest, you can eliminate all of the individual ones in the thread.

Set a limit to your day. You can work long hours but you’ll lose that vacation feel way too quickly. I limited myself and a colleague even offered to call me to make sure I was walking out the door.

Schedule something fun or relaxing for your first weekend back to extend that vacation feeling.

Schedule your next vacation or break if you haven’t already done so. I block time each quarter on my calendar. That way I always have something to look forward to, even if it’s simply curling up at home with a book.

If all else fails, look at your vacation photos each evening or change your desktop image to one from your vacation spot.