Back At It


Priorities

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from posting.. things have been quite busy.

I have had so much going on at work that I had not one moment to think about creative writing, much less put something down on paper (or computer!), even though it was on my mind.

And although not posting anything new here is a bit of a failure on my part, it also points out an important lesson about priorities and workload.

I could have easily not completed a work project in order to take time to write something. I could have put this blog – a hobby of mine – ahead of something that affects my clients and my company. I could have sat and mused about writing something fun or insightful, worked the copy until I got it just right, found an interesting image and loaded in links for entertainment, posted it, sat back and felt like I had accomplished something.

But that would have meant putting off things that needed greater attention, that were frankly more important.

It illustrates to me the larger lesson of prioritizing and delaying pleasure in order to achieve a goal.

So much of life is about knowing when and how to prioritize, and when to set aside things that don’t matter.

Pardon me, now.. it’s dinner time with my family and I am turning this thing off. (see.. priorities!)

May the Fourth Be With You!


Star-Wars_alltrilogies

Here’s a rare .. even unprecedented.. Saturday post, for a special reason:

Happy Star Wars Day!

This day (for those unfamiliar) honors a set of stories that – I have to confess – created my love for space, movies and great storytelling. Thank you George Lucas!

Today, fellow geeks, is our day to let our Corellian, Jedi or Sith hang out!

So whether you’re a Padawan or a Master.. a smuggler or a bounty hunter..

Make it a great day!

May the Fourth Be With You!

Getting In Focus


GettingInFocus

I have a confession: I am a total scatterbrain.

Completely disorganized. I get sidetracked so easily, I may not finish writing this post in a single sitting.

To combat this inherently anti-productive weakness, I know I need to employ helpful strategies to keep me on track. Maybe some of these will work for you too:

1. Make lists. I do this to the point of obsession. Mostly because when I have an idea, it disappears if I don’t write it down. That’s how I either fall behind in my work or simply forget to do something altogether. (See also: sticky notes, refrigerator magnets, emails to myself and strings around my finger.)

2. Work when you are inspired to work. This isn’t as flippant as it sounds. What I mean is, listen to your brain and its normal patterns. Do you get flashes of brilliance late at night? Do you go into creative lockdown after lunch? By identifying when (and where and how) you work best, you can train yourself to maximize your productivity and efficiency.

3. Use tools that help you be more productive. I write all my posts in Evernote (including this one) so they are with me anywhere I go, on any device. So if I think of something and want to add it to something already in progress, that key document isn’t somewhere inaccessible. Find the tools (hardware, software, apps or even coffee!) that will help you work easier.

Side note: there’s a phrase you don’t hear often, “work easier.” You hear a lot of “work better” or “work smarter.” The real goal is to make work seamless, zen-like, so it just flows out. And that’s the key. Work easier.

4. Automate the mundane. True or not, a favorite story of mine is the one about Albert Einstein having a closet full of nothing but brown sweaters, white shirts and khaki pants, and wearing the same outfit every day so he didn’t waste a second thinking about anything but his work. He just grabbed the next set of clothes in the line and kept moving. It’s why I keep my wallet and keys in one place, or park in the same spot at the train station. If I have to stop to think “where are my keys?” or “where did I park?” I am losing what could be valuable moments or a train of thought about something far more important.

5. Eliminate distractions. Everyone knows this, but it bears repeating because none of us do it all the time. Do you shutoff your email while you are working on a strategy document? Close out social media networks while you are not using them? I sit facing away from the window at client meetings. Get rid of the things that snap your head around the other way, or that make you zone out.

There are probably plenty of other productivity strategies that you have encountered too. What are some of your favorites?

And you think YOU have problems?


What's Important Now

Sometimes we lose track of what’s really important.

As part of my job, I often have to interview people – total strangers, really – to create pitches to send to reporters to get them to write stories about my clients. We call it “hanging a pitch,” because the publicity for the client will be “hanged” around that one person’s story.

Last week, I had the great honor of speaking with a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. As a grade A9, he tells me he was among the top 1% of his peers, and commanded a squad of 900 in Iraq. Married with three children, there was no limit to his future.

In 2007, he was run over by a fertilizer truck in a freak accident. He suffered partial loss of his sight and hearing, severe injuries to his legs and brain, and has since been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury. He says he has lost his ability to do math, among other cognitive functions. He was relieved of his command, he says, on Christmas Eve 2007.

He says he reached a low point – after drinking and depression had set in – where he was set to commit suicide. Looking around the room for a weapon, he instead came upon a white, three-ring binder his wife had created, filled with mementos of countries they had visited while serving their country (she is also in the Air Force). Memories flooded back, and instead of killing himself, he told his wife he needed help.

There’s a happy ending to this story, the rest of which, hopefully, you will read in the newspaper or see on TV very soon.

But it’s stories like these which should be a reality check for all of us. We all wrestle with our personal struggles, whether with work, family, health, or loss. They all hit us in personal ways, and can take its toll in ways just as unique.

But you think YOU have problems? Try walking a mile in this guy’s shoes.

Engaging Friday ShareDay


rbrb_2833

So it’s finally, really, officially spring here in New York!

I, for one, have been waiting for this for a while. If you know me at all, you know I am not the biggest fan of the cold or the snow. (Remind me why I don’t move to Key West again?) So I am very much looking forward to some time spent outside this weekend, in the backyard and the park. Do I dare hit the beach, even if I am hanging out in jeans and a sweatshirt? Hmmm…

It’s also Friday ShareDay, and that means bringing you someone else’s brilliant piece of content, with props and a thank you.

This post has made the rounds quite a bit on social media, but I thought it worth posting here today, from the fine folks at Mashable, about the “Most Engaged Brands On Twitter.” Check out the right hand column for the insightful analysis.

Happy Weekend!

Pick Three Things (And Stick With ‘Em)


Pick Three Things

“Pick three ideas and convey them frequently.”

It’s advice we give to clients in the PR world, especially when we train them to speak with media or engage with public audiences of any kind.

Our strange cultural fascination with the number “3” aside, there is wisdom in the root of this concept. Studies show the human brain can’t retain more than three bits of information at a time, at least not in a meaningful way. And even though you can train your brain to do more, the truth is, most people don’t.

Just as the parable advises on how to eat an elephant, we should not endeavor to jump to the final step from the first. Nor should we try to accomplish everything simultaneously. At best, we will fail. At worst, we will implode.

Three things. Pick ’em and stick with ’em. Only once they are done (one way or another) should you decide to move on.

No Surprises


surprise

Surprises are bad.

No, I’m not talking about surprise birthday parties, or a 50% off sale at your favorite store.

I mean business surprises. The things that sneak up on you and throw you off your game, sucking time and energy out of your day that should be spent on accomplishing the things you and your team have planned and committed to. And they are – for the most part – completely avoidable.

Surprises happen because of a lack of communication. In the case of a surprise party, that is intentional.

But in the work environment, people who are supposed to be collaborating can often surprise each other, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Not communicating leaves other people standing around waiting, or getting caught flat-footed when you need to call on them for assistance and support.

Team members can stumble to get up to speed, casting aside other projects because yours is “on fire” and needs immediate attention. Obviously, that’s not the path to success. And it can even make happy clients, well, not happy.

Like I said, it’s completely avoidable.

Institute a “no surprises” policy on your team.

Surprises


Cameron Russell Headshot

Last week, I wrote a post about an underwear model.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I wrote a post about a TEDTalk – a really interesting one, too – given by professional model Cameron Russell, who talked about perception and the inequities of what people look like versus who they are. (Here’s my original post, with a link to Cameron’s talk.)

As a bit of a social experiment, I used a thumbnail of Cameron that I thought would catch people’s attention (yes, mostly men) to promote the post. You see where this is going.

So I was surprised to see that, in the first 24 hours the post was live, there was no discernible spike in traffic to my blog. In fact, the day’s clicks rated lower than the week before, when I posted “Friends” with a classic promotional (and equally titillating) still from the show.

What that tells me is that you, my fellow reader, are not beguiled by cheap thrills. In fact, the data leads me to believe that, in a world we are told is ruled by Kardashian scandals and stories of faux sex tapes, you are coming to this space to read and learn. And that makes me happy.

So thanks to you all for checking in on a regular basis. I really appreciate all the facebook likes, retweets and shares on LinkedIn. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

PS: Thanks Cameron for not only giving a really cool talk, but for RT’ing the tweet to my original post. Shows you really believe in what you said on stage.

PPS: I wrote this post over the weekend, before the Boston Marathon Bombing. I didn’t personally know anyone involved who was injured or killed and am grateful for that. I also chose to post this, as scheduled – even as we seem to be in another cycle of terroristic attacks (just like we were in September 2001) – because that’s what we do as Americans. We don’t twist in the wind because some coward takes a cheap shot at us. We rally, we help the injured, we get up, and then we do the ass-kicking that needs to get done. America is with you Boston.

Superficial Friday ShareDay


Cameron Russell

One of my favorite topics to noodle and debate with others is that of perception.

In the PR world, we are challenged to always put ourselves into the shoes of another: whether we are trying to tell someone’s story to create a compelling pitch, anticipating a reporter’s questions to help them write a better story, or putting ourselves in the shoes of a person to whom we are trying to communicate a message.

Perception is powerful. It is the source of discordance as well as harmony. It’s the key to almost everything we want to accomplish in life.

And so for this Friday ShareDay, here’s a really insightful TED Talk on perception and the inequities of how people look versus who they are from underwear model (thank me later, guys) Cameron Russell titled “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.

Happy Weekend!