The Power of Measurement

20000 StepsThe other week I lost my Fitbit. And for a few days I didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to measure my progress. (Yes, I realize that was a lousy excuse for not working out.)

Of course, fitness goals were achieved and records broken before the arrival of Fitbits and other tracking devices. I, though, had become dependent on mine. While I waited for my replacement to be shipped, I found other things to track, including the number of miles I walked on the treadmill and the number of flights of stairs I climbed in a day.

The same holds true at work. How do you know if you are succeeding? My team has monthly goals, and toward the end of each month, we review our progress against the goals. Sometimes we need to step up our games. Sometimes we need to recalibrate.

A professional group to which I belong is concerned about membership. When I ask how many members we have and how many have renewed, no one knows immediately. I do because I’m tracking it. I suspect I drive the parent organization crazy because during renewal season I ask for our membership list about every two weeks. I want to track and determine where follow-up needs to happen. If members aren’t rejoining, I want to know why. If we’re getting new members, I want to know what has drawn them to the group.

When I decided to visit all states within the U.S., I listed them and tracked my progress. I knew I wanted to see all the states before I turned 50. Without a plan and means of tracking, I was not going to get to see all 50 states. I worked my plan and, in the end, I visited all of them by 50.

Management guru Peter Drucker is often credited with saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If you want to succeed, figure how to define your success and how you will achieve it.

Here’s to your success.

Gift Yourself Unscheduled Time

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A few years ago, when I was in the middle of a major project and working 12 hour days, a friend said she understood because she had no time, either. She then went on to tell me about her weekly appointments with her personal trainer, ladies night at the local wine shop and a fun afternoon with her grandkids.

I was frustrated because I was not doing any of those things so how dare she complain? And yet, I could tell she was stressed. I asked her some questions, and then we both realized that her frustration was that she was overscheduled and had no time to do what she wanted, when she wanted. She took steps to remedy that.

The lesson stayed with me and the other month, when I realized I was becoming cranky, I realized I need more unscheduled time in my life. I played on a volleyball team one night a week for two hours. I went to the movies with a friend one night a week. I went to the gym once or twice a week. I had book club and board meetings.

Where was the time to read magazines? Or sit by a window and watch the birds at the feeder? Where was the time to simply decide in that moment what I wanted to do?

Despite enjoying all of the activities in my life, it was time to create unscheduled time. I’m taking a season off from volleyball and I’m not going to the movies every week.

Already I feel better. I’ve had more time for walks in the evening. More time to get lost in a book. More time to simply be.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, no matter how fulfilling your life is or how much fun you are having, maybe it’s time to give yourself the gift of unscheduled time.

3 Reasons to Join a Professional Group

At the end of the year, it seemed like all I was doing was paying dues. I belong to several groups and membership expired on Dec. 31. As someone who has served as the membership director, I know how wonderful it is to see all of the renewals come in before the year ends.

I know that I have to pay my dues at the end of the year. I set money aside throughout the year, knowing that with the holidays I may run short of expendable cash. This way I’m ready.

I didn’t hesitate in paying my dues because of the value of the organizations.

My mystery writers group (Sisters in Crime Central Virginia) provides me with hope and confidence. Most of the members are published authors, some of whom have made the best-seller list. All of them have offered tips and encouragement as I work on mine at my own pace. Hearing their stories gives me confidence and hope that one day my book will appear in print and reside on a shelf or an electronic device.

zen-rockMy coaching group (International Coaching Federation Virginia) is helping me to learn and develop skills. I’ve been informally coaching for years, and decided I wanted to formalize the process. I attend monthly meetings and learn from successful coaches. I’ve learned about imagery, mindfulness and credentialing. Last year I created my own coaching page so individuals can secure my services.

My communications groups (VPC, NFPW) have provided me with hope, confidence and new skills. They also have provided me with leadership opportunities. I have served as president of both my state affiliate and the national organization. I’ve led a strategic planning workshop for NFPW with another member.

As an added benefit, I have found that in all of these groups there are several individuals who also offer friendship. That’s a nice bonus.

Many more reasons exist for joining a professional group. I am interested in hearing from you about what groups you belong to and why. If you are willing to share, please post your reply in the comment section.

 

Strut Your Stuff, or Why Communications Contests Matter

The other week a colleague asked me if I was entering the Virginia Professional Communicators contest. I said I didn’t really have anything to enter.

She immediately noted two or three things that she thought were worthy. We sat down and looked at our work for the year and realized we had achieved much more than we remembered. My feelings toward the prior year became much more positive.

I don’t have to win an award, but awards do have merit. They can provide validation. They may improve your work or make you try harder. And, they generally make you feel good.

capture_contestWhat do I mean by validation? If you’ve worked hard on an article, a campaign or a project, when it’s finished you, your team and your boss may acknowledge for a moment, but you are usually already hard at work on the next thing. An award for the article, campaign or project validates that you did great work and that others recognize that effort.

I always appreciate the judges’ comments. I take the time to read them. Most often they offer suggestions that would have made the work I submitted even stronger if I had had their tips or advice in advance. I find that useful as I embark on the next project.

Awards also make me try harder. When my colleague and I reviewed our work, we made a list of possible entries. A few days later, we reexamined the list. In one or two instances, we deleted the work from the list because while it was good, it wasn’t great. If we are going to enter a contest, we want to enter our best work. We discussed how we could have made the projects stronger and have noted it for future efforts.

I have another week to finish my entries. I’m already thinking ahead to next year and determining how I can do my best work this year.

Note: For tips on how to enter a contest, check out this post.

Top 16 Communiques of 2016

Lists and more lists. The word of the year. The color of the year. The best of. I decided that while I was reviewing my blog posts for the year, I, too, would compile my top 16 for 2016. I based it solely on numbers from WordPress because, honestly, I was too lazy to add in the posts that were most retweeted or talked about on Facebook.

I describe my blog as providing insights for communicators. However, what I am discovering is that the blogs that have the biggest views and the most comments are related to the career I’m moving toward; namely, that of life coach. That’s encouraging, and I’ll continue to offer more of these types of posts in 2017. I’ll still have posts related to communications and leadership because these are areas that remain relevant to me and, I hope, I can continue to share with you what I am learning.

If you missed out on some of the top posts, below are links to them. I’ve also shared a thought or two about each post.

Comments Wanted: I find it ironic that a post requesting comments was my most popular post. I can also tell you that the request worked. I had many more comments throughout the year. The reason I want more comments is that we can all learn from each other and have a stronger conversation. #KeepCommenting

My Weekend of Nothing: I did nothing and I was better for it. When was the last time you did nothing?

Do You Need an Accountability Partner?: I know I did and still do. Turns out that having an accountability partner helps you get things done. In 2016, I’ve been hard at work on a book, created my website, rejoined a mystery writers group and joined a coaching federation. My accountability partner is the best! Thanks @lizbryantmedia.

Don’t Waste Leap Year Day: An extra day gave us 1,440 additional minutes. I spent many of those hours writing. I asked readers to share how they planned to spend the day, and a few shared their thoughts. Most, I think, were too busy spending the minutes.

What’s on Your Happy List?: Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what makes us happy.

My Travel Checklist: Since I love to travel, I shared some of the things I do to make traveling easier.

Creating a Powerful Presentation: Apparently, we’ve all suffered through too many insufferable PowerPoint presentations as many people read this post.

Do ‘The Hustle’ to Succeed at Pitching: I was delighted when Michael Smart agreed to an interview with me. I’ve been a member of his Inner Circle for some time, and his pitching tips are spot on.

Finding Direction This Summer: I love lazy summer days, but sometimes they need purpose. Readers provided additional encouragement.

Interview with Shonali Burke: I participated in Shonali’s Social PR webinar and wanted to learn more about her. She graciously agreed to an interview.

Blog Goals for 2016: Who knew that my post about my blog goals would make the cut, but it did.

4 Reasons to Join a Professional Group: If you haven’t given thought to joining a professional group, this post might make you consider doing so.

3 Steps to Transition from Vacation to Work: The three steps all involve managing your time.

Advice on How to Write a Novel: The surest way to write a novel is to start writing. Several authors share additional tips.

7 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference: Prepping before a conference and taking a nap during the conference are two of my tips for getting the most from a conference.

Dial Down Your Stress: I offer three suggestions on how to dial down your stress.

Reviewing my blogs has helped me prepare for 2017. I also have a request (or two) to make of you. If you have suggestions for topics, please let me know. If one of these blogs resonated with you, please post a comment and share why. Even better, please share my posts with your colleagues and friends.

Here’s to a great 2017!

Why Emails Are Not My Priority

If I keep checking my emails, I can keep up with them.

If I don’t check my emails, I might miss something urgent.

I have told myself both of these statements more time than I can count. And either way, I don’t succeed with my emails.

dscf2419I have made strides with my inbox, but the other month something Michael Smart said in an online workshop hit me.

“Stick to a schedule when checking and responding to email,” he said.

Now he’s not the first person I’ve heard say that. But for some reason when he said it, this time it resonated.

It may also be because he helped me to realize that emails are not my priority. They often are a means to reach my priorities – whether that is pitching a story and having it placed in a news outlet or tracking down information to write a blog post.

I’d been thinking about my priorities and how I often find myself busy, but not productive. Reading Greg McKeown’s book, “Essentialism,” is helping me to focus on getting the right things done.

As a result, I’ve slowly been weaning myself from checking emails constantly. I also no longer reply to an email the second I see it so that the sender won’t always expect me to be so speedy with my replies. And I try to never respond to emails on the weekend unless it is a crisis.

There are some exceptions for me with respect to checking my inbox. If I have just sent a media release or if I am handling a crisis, then I am checking my emails constantly, you might even say continuously. It’s okay in those situations.

When I am out with friends, I may keep my work mobile handy in case it rings. Only a few colleagues have the number, so if it rings, I know it’s urgent. I don’t have to keep checking the screen and the emails.

Ultimately, managing my inbox is not about the emails. It is about managing my priorities, and I know I need to spend my time at work pitching the media and strategizing. At home, I need to spend my time writing my book or relaxing.

Finally, emails don’t own me.

5 Steps to Simplify Complex Topics

One of my college journalism teachers told me to write my stories so my grandmother could understand them. His point was that stories need to be written so that anyone can read and comprehend them.

dscf4270How do you write a complex story in a way that my grandmother (or yours) can understand?

Take a lot of notes when you interview your subject matter expert or source. Even if you don’t use all of them in the story, they will aid your comprehension.

Use Google to help with your understanding. If the person you interviewed used words and terms you don’t know, Google them. If it still doesn’t make sense, find a video that might explain the concept.

Distill the information. In other words, keep digging until you can boil the story down to a few key points. From that you can build your and the reader’s understanding by adding layers to the story.

Find the holes. As you build the story, identify any holes and find the missing information. You may have to call your source back or complete additional research.

Write to make people interested. Ultimately, you are telling a story. What is that first attracted you to the story? Why do you want to tell it? If you keep those questions top of mind as you research and write, you will interest others in reading the story.