I’m mildly OCD. I say this with no disrespect to people who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder every day; folks who can’t leave the house without performing a ritual or those who get stuck in a cycle of arranging their pencils on their desks.
My compulsion is that need to feel organized. Few work tasks exist that I can accomplish without first putting it on a list or recording it in some way. Since my job involves lots of contact information (emails, phone numbers, social media handles, you get it) and perhaps the last communication I sent to someone, I need to transcribe all that, too.
I can spend the better part of a morning just updating excel spreadsheets, reminders and notes, before actually getting down to business. That can kill my productivity and eat the hours in my day. The key is to make it part of my ongoing routine.
Here are three ways I keep myself organized:
- Google Docs – For any PR person, a good list is priceless. But lists only get good through curation, and so I make sure that I keep everything current on a daily basis. Every scrap of info goes in there – email addresses, mobile numbers, twitter feeds, birthdays, you name it. When I need to reach out to someone, it’s there – and if it’s not, I hunt it down and record it. (I also put all this into my address book, which I update relentlessly.) I recently made the jump from Excel to Sheets, which makes it easy to also share information with co-workers and family members. And it keeps everything updated from wherever you are, and easier than keeping something in Dropbox, which I still love for photos and media.
- Apple Reminders – Ever since I saw that episode of Modern Family shot entirely on Apple devices and watched Julie Bowen’s character put things into her reminder list as she screamed at her family, I have been hooked on the app. I update it CONSTANTLY and make sure it’s dinging away at me at all hours to get me motivated and see things through to completion. There’s nothing more satisfying than clicking that little “done” button!
- Evernote – I have all but stopped taking handwritten notes in journals. My hands don’t write as fast or as neatly as I can type, it’s too easy to give up in the middle of a written idea or scribble out something that doesn’t look right on the page. Besides, all those notes still need to be transcribed into the computer to be acted upon. (I know I can take a photo of it and import it, but who has that kind of time?) At every meeting, I apologize for opening my computer and then do so and happily click to open a new note. I haven’t had any complaints. I also make sure to make eye contact repeatedly throughout the meeting and engage with thoughtful questions, to make sure people know I am not just surfing Facebook. So far, so good.
Honorable mention: Grammarly, the spell checking app. If you write for a living and don’t know what it is, just get it. Amazing tool.
What are your favorite organizational tools? Leave a comment below.
It could be the greatest speech of all time.
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech – truly a perfect oration if there ever was one – delivered on the National Mall as part of the “March for Jobs and Freedom” Rally in 1963.
This was a turbulent time in America. And this was a dangerous speech to have delivered. King does it not only with style, but with a linguistic grace that few have ever been able to replicate.
When I listen to King’s words, I am in awe – not just for what he says – but in the knowledge that he sat down and wrote this out, crafting messages and phrases that would resonate long after his untimely assassination and continue to inspire people whose parents had yet to be born.
I talk a lot about great writing on this blog, and how important it is to be able to coalesce ideas into language that moves people to action and fundamentally changes the way people see an issue.
It’s too easy to just watch the 15 second clip of the end of this speech that every news program is going to play tonight. Watch the whole thing through.
Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.
Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.
The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)
And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.
I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.
He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.
What are your best ways to write?
I love to write.
I have loved it since I was a kid. I remember creative writing exercises in fifth grade, letting me stretch my imagination and my vocabulary at the same time. I remember straining (happily) to tell a story through mere words on a page. To keep the details together and make it make sense. To define a beginning, a middle and an end. To have a hero and a villain. To have a happy ending.
As PR people, we get paid to be great writers. More pointedly, we get hired to be story-tellers. We translate the gobbeldy-gook brought to us in various forms, and weave it (don’t say “spin!”) into a narrative that is factually accurate and creatively mesmerizing. Our job is to make people care.
And it all starts with great writing.
We can’t write enough. We can’t practice that story-telling craft enough. We can’t ever stop getting better at doing that thing that makes our audience sit up and say, “Wow. Tell me more.”
What’s your favorite part about writing?
There’s something in the air, people. Can you feel it?
March 1 is off to a glorious start here in New York City – the sunshine and not-so-chilly-anymore breeze makes me imagine Spring like a rookie baseball player in the on-deck circle: chomping at the bit to step into the batter’s box and take a cut at the first fastball that comes his way.
Yes, I am very excited that warmer weather – even if it’s not officially “here” – is very much right around the corner. And that means the First of May can’t be far behind. (Thank you Jonathan Coulton!)
And since it’s Friday ShareDay, it’s time to revel in the glory that is someone else’s well formulated content. (cue drum roll)
So here’s a post on the most formidable skill you can build, no matter what you do for a living: your ability to write well. Thanks Dave Kerpen for penning a post I wish I had written myself.