Learning To Be Creative

As a former newspaper reporter, I was good at gathering the facts. I could write a decent lead and story, but I would not say that my strength was creativity.

When I took Shonali Burke’s Social PR quiz, the results said much the same. During a webinar she challenged participants to find ways to play to their strengths and also, when possible, to build the areas where they weren’t as strong.

I took that advice to heart during a recent conference. I always take notes at conferences and in meetings. Notetaking keeps me focused and helps me remember the key points from a workshop or meeting. My notes are very linear and rarely have doodles. I like watching artistic people take notes because theirs are so creative — tiny graphics to sum a key point; clever bullets to highlight a list.

During the webinar with Shonali, I challenged myself to creatively take notes, but quickly discovered I was missing key points because I was so focused on figuring how to visually depict what she was sharing. I knew I couldn’t do that at my conference because there was a ton of valuable information I wanted to learn and share with my colleagues.

Before I headed to it, though, I learned about canva, which allows you to more visually display your information. Since I am not a graphic artist, I thought this might just work. Of course, at the conference, I forgot the name of the program, but I was committed to the idea of presenting my conference learnings more creatively.

Capture_CMCI created a one-page document using Excel that was a series of boxes of differing sizes. Within those boxes, I placed my take-aways as well as some unique stats. I included tips about media pitching and using Twitter. I noted that I walked 20,000 steps on the day I arrived in Washington, D.C., as I explored many of the monuments. I captured that I moderated a panel. I filled the boxes with color to make it more pleasing to look at.

And while my designer friends might shake their heads at it, I am pleased with my creative thinking. More importantly, I pinned the document to my bulletin board to remind me of the things I learned and need to be doing in my job.

That, I think, was what I was supposed to learn from the results of my Social PR quiz.

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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 your 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.