Am I the only one who can’t proofread his own writing? If the title got your attention, the answer is probably a resounding “no.” Proofreading is an art. With three simple tools, you can improve your skills.
First of all, proofreading is boring. Face it. You’re not learning anything new from the content. After all, you’re the one who wrote it. Plus, you have to read s-o v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. No skimming through sentences as you would when reading other content.
Secondly, you’re anxious to publish the work so the rest of the world can enjoy it. The longer you spend proofreading, the longer you postpone the thrill of being done. After all, it’s often been said that writers don’t like to write. They like to have written.
Third, your brain gets in the way. When I proofread my own content, my eyes see what my brain meant to write. If I read the content aloud, I have better success. But still, my mouth tends to say the words that are rolling around in my brain and not what’s actually on the page.
I have found an answer that works for me. Not only does it provide results, but it makes the process border on fun.
The Trio to Improve Your Proofreading
Head over to Grammarly.com and download the free browser extension. On their homepage, you see examples of the tool in action. As you compose in your browser, Grammarly flags spelling and grammar errors. It also offers suggestions for better wording. All this happens in real time.
What Are You Writing Today? - YouTube
With Grammarly, you don’t even have to proofread to catch many of your errors. The error detection happens automatically.
Read Aloud (the Extension)
Let’s return to the original problem. If my eyes don’t catch my writing errors and if reading my content aloud doesn’t work well, what will work? The answer: Listen to someone else reading my content.
When proofreading, what my eyes and lips miss, my ears catch. Click To Tweet
I use a free Chrome extension called “Read Aloud.” Download it from the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, the icon in your toolbar looks like a small bullhorn. Right-click on it and choose “Options.” You will be able to choose from a variety of voices, speed, and pitch.
When you are ready to proof-read, highlight a block of text, right-click, and choose “Read Aloud” from the list. It’s that easy. My ears immediately pick up on anything that doesn’t sound right.
“Read Aloud” finds the obvious errors and anything else that would sound “wrong to your ears.” Maybe you overuse a word or phrase. Your ears will catch the pattern. After all, sometimes a sentence sounds OK to you or me but is not quite grammatically correct. Hemingway App steps things up a notch. It goes beyond error detection and improves the clarity of your writing.
Ernest Hemingway gave us such powerful works as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. His style of short and powerful sentences was something he learned as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star.
Hemingway App helps you write in the same powerful style as the legend. The process is simple. Compose your text as normal. Then, copy and paste it into Hemingway App.
Check Your Ego
Hemingway App flags sentences as “hard to read” and others as “very hard to read.” The site flags “passive voice” quicker than your 11th-grade English teacher.
Don’t try to impress Hemingway App with complex words. It suggests simpler alternatives. The site also points out adverbs and encourages the writer to minimize them.
In the sidebar, notice the statistics. Hemingway App counts characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. It expresses “readability” by school grade level.
The site requires no login. It does not save your work. My advice is to compose in your normal word-processing software first. Then, copy/paste into Hemingway App.
Here is how Hemingway App looks when you visit.
The first attempt
When you visit Hemingway App, highlight and delete the sample. Then, paste your own text. Get ready for a surprise. If you think your English teacher’s red pen was bad, this is worse. But, you get to make it better!
Look at the highlighted items. Reword and watch the color disappear as you make the edits that result in crisp, clear writing.
Over time, you’ll gain a sense of what Hemingway App likes. You’ll see fewer “red marks” when you paste your work.
Still, the site flags me for sentences it thinks are too hard to read. But when I satisfy the site, I have to admit the writing is better. It’s easier to understand and more enjoyable for me to read. And if it’s more enjoyable for me, it just may be more enjoyable for others to read as well.
I never hit 'publish' until I run my copy through Hemingway App. Click To Tweet
Writing is important…now more than ever
I went to school during a time when the only people who read what you wrote were you, your mom, and your English teacher. I entered the workforce during a time when the only outlets were books, magazines, and newspapers. Only “writers” published.
Today, anybody can start a blog and do it for free. Instantly, anybody with something worth saying can write for anyone who thinks it’s worth hearing. That’s a huge shift and a huge responsibility. It’s also a huge opportunity. Today, we’re all writers.
Technology has changed our reach. If your aim is to write something good enough for the whole world to read, doesn’t it make sense to let technology help you craft the message?
Stephanie Thurrott is a freelance writer who found herself feeling overwhelmed. As 2018 approached a close, tasks were accumulating faster than she could handle then. Deadlines grew closer and loomed larger. But after instituting three time management practices, she saw an interesting trend in her income. The first quarter of 2019 was up 65% over the same period a year earlier.
Thurrott wrote about her changes in an article for NBC News Better. I tell you this story because she interviewed me to get my perspective on these three practices. In this post, I share the practices and my take on them.
This technique involves accounting for every minute of the day on the calendar…when you’re going to walk the dog, when you’re going to watch TV, when you will check email, etc. Proponents of the idea argue as follows, “What goes on the calendar actually gets done.”
I take a different approach. Sure, it’s fine to have a general map of how time is accounted for. A college freshman could plug in classes, social obligations, meals, sleep, and exercise. The blocks of time left provide an idea of how much discretionary time one has. Beyond that, the rest is overkill.
The calendar is a place for day-and-time specific activities. It tells “where I am.” Need to make a phone call? Chances are, that call doesn’t need to happen at a specific time. If 9:00 is fine, 9:15 probably is as well. Assigning a specific time on the calendar adds an unnecessary restriction. It also makes it harder to see the items that are truly time sensitive.
Instead, my to-do list does the heavy lifting. Every task has a date. I use the “Priority” field to segment my day into morning, afternoon, and evening. For me, that’s enough.
“Snooze” is a recent enhancement to Gmail. Click the small clock icon that appears above the message. Set a date and time. The email disappears and returns at the requested moment.
I like the idea for certain types of email. Think about the promotional emails filled with pictures and clickable buttons to make purchases. It’s great to be able to snooze the email and have a couple of days to research what’s being advertised. When the email reappears, you’re ready to either make a purchase or delete the email.
Other situations don’t lend themselves to “snoozing.” When you take the time to read an email, also take the time to decide what that email means to you and what you’ll do about it. I read 5 paragraphs and decide the needed action is to discuss the topic with “Jim.” I’m also thinking of a half-dozen questions to ask. I don’t want to have to re-think any of that.
Instead, I forward the email to my digital task list. In the process, I change the subject line of the email to reflect exactly what I need to do (“Call Jim about the XYZ account”). I assign a date and add to the body of the email my questions. When Jim and I get together, a task on my list reminds me to talk to him about the email. In the note section of that task are the questions I had formulated. No need to rethink anything!
Schedule Tasks for Times You’ll Actually Be Able to Do Them
Thurrott wrote about her struggles with a long to-do list. Her problem was the lack of specific date or priority assignments caused her tasks to pile up. Her solution was Google Tasks because of its ability to assign a date for each task. There are far better choices. Remember the Milk is mine. In other posts, I wrote about why I chose it and the learning curve other might experience. Google Tasks does not allow for repeating tasks and lacks a place to add details about the task. Those two problems are deal-breakers for me.
I agree that assigning a date to each task is a good idea. You’re deciding on the front end when you want to see a task again. Going a step further to assign tasks to the morning, afternoon, and evening puts tasks in an order that’s going to help them get done more quickly. You’ll spend your time accomplishing what you planned instead of scanning a long list wondering what to do next.
The author did relate that the 65% boost in income wasn’t all necessarily due to these three productivity hacks. But they certainly made a difference in the feeling of control she has over her time. You can read the full article here.
So it’s your turn… What’s a productivity hack that is responsible for making you more productive? Let me know in the comments.
Dr. Gawande writes candidly about the challenges doctors face and the conflicting priorities with which they wrestle. My favorite part of the book is the “Afterwards.” Here, the author presents his five-point call to action for the reader. While he writes from the perspective of a surgeon, his words reach far beyond the operating room.
Ask the Unscripted Question
Dr. Gawande challenges doctors to go beyond the normal questions of ailments, where it hurts, and how long it has hurt. He asks them to reach for questions which allow them to know the people who sit before them. He extends this concept to asking the questions which allow doctors to get to know staff members beyond the role in which they see them each day.
If we replace “doctor/patient” with “teacher/student” or “principal/teacher” or “boss/employee,” his suggestion is right on target. The same advice could extend to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Anybody can follow the script. When we go beyond the expected questions, we just may get the unexpected answer that winds up making all the difference. The author writes, “If you ask a question, the machine begins to feel less like a machine.”
Dr. Gawande writes, “Whenever doctors gather— in meeting rooms, in conference halls, in hospital cafeterias—the natural pull of conversational gravity is toward the litany of woes all around us.” Amazing how this scenario sounds like the stereotype of the “teacher’s lounge”! In fact, the universal advice given new teachers is, “Stay out of the teacher’s lounge.” The master teacher learns that while avoiding the negativity of the teacher’s lounge is good, being the force which changes the conversation is better.
Every profession has its problems, and when competing priorities exist, there is often no single right answer. The negativity can fester, and before you know it, the ox is in the ditch. When the negative conversation begins, we can feed the beast—and if this is our choice, we become the beast. We also have the capacity to make a better choice, to turn the conversation from “how bad things are” to how good things can be, and the next steps we can undertake right now to make the situation better.
“It doesn’t really matter what you count…The only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you.” Gawande talks about counting how often instruments or sponges were left inside patients during surgery. Counting the incidents led to determining the situations in which they seem to occur, and hence the problem causing the mistakes. Finding the real problem was the first step towards finding a solution.
When we count something, we are focused on it. When we focus, we find the relationships which have always existed, yet nobody seemed to notice. “If you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting.” Great advice for researchers in many fields—and we are all researchers.
“An audience is a community. The published word is a declaration of membership in that community and also a willingness to contribute something meaningful to it.”
I will always be indebted to Dr. Terry Gates, one of my professors during my Master’s degree in the early 1980s. I had taken my comprehensive exam and was waiting to hear the results. What arrived was an envelope larger than I had expected. Inside was a letter stated I had passed the exam. Furthermore, a letter from Dr. Gates stated he had his secretary type my answer to one of the questions. He said he wanted me to submit that answer as a journal article to a state magazine.
That day marked the first clue that I just might have something to say that would be of interest to a larger body. What had started as the answer to a question on a test did indeed become the first time I saw a publication containing something I had written.
Have you had a similar experience? Do you have thoughts on paper you have kept to yourself? What outlet do you have where you could share it with a world beyond yourself?
We all have strengths. We all have something from which others can benefit. Never before in history has it been easier to publish our writing. The blog you read now is an example. In many ways, writing is a responsibility, a way of giving back to the body of knowledge from which we have benefited. It’s like holding up our end of the conversation.
Best of all, when we clarify our thoughts to the point others can comprehend them, we also clarify those thoughts for ourselves. The clarity leads to better performance, which leads to writing about that improved performance, which leads to even better performance. The cycle continues as long as we are willing to participate.
“Look for opportunities to change…be willing to recognize the inadequacies in what you do and seek out the solutions.” Countless lives are owed to advances in medicine. Practices considered to be correct give weigh to better practices. As a result, people are living longer and enjoying a significantly better quality of life than previous generations.
The ideas that have made your life and my life significantly better were once ideas on a drawing board. Modern-day pioneers were not afraid to share those ideas. Early adopters were not afraid to give those ideas a chance. They spread until reaching the proverbial “tipping point,” where they became a common part of our days.
What’s the next great idea out there just waiting to push us to a higher level in some aspect of our lives? Will we be part of the early adopters, seeing its value when others have yet to discover it is even there? Will we lead in its implementation? Will we become the voice to which others listen as they begin to see the value in what we do? It’s a choice we make.
So much to do. So little time. If you often feel that way, join a very large club. For starters, you can look for the tasks that really don’t need to be done at all. Look for those you can delegate to someone else. But what if you don’t have “staff” to delegate to? What if you have trimmed your list and everything that remains really does need to get done?
You are the one who has to do it. How can you get more done in the amount of time you have? That’s where batching comes in.
So what is “batching”?
“Batching” is an old time management tactic that refers to handling a number of similar items at one time. Let’s look at an obvious example.
If you want a cookie, would you make just one? Would you roll out enough dough for just one? Add the chocolate chips for just one? Heat the oven for just one cookie? Of course not. It’s almost as easy to prepare the dough for several dozen cookies as it is for one. It’s certain as easy to slide a pan full of cookies into the oven as it is to do so for one.
Why does it work?
Many activities in life come with “start up” and “clean up” time. You have to gather materials before you begin and put them away afterwards. That lost motion adds up quickly. The trick is to maximize that “time in the middle,” the time you are actually getting the work done.
In addition, you get into a mental “flow.” You’re focused. Your thinking is clearer. You make fewer mistakes.
Batching puts an end to procrastination. The hard part is getting started. Once you’re in that flow, you don’t want to stop. If you do, you have to figure out where you left off, pysch yourself up, and fight the whole “procrastination dragon” all over again.
Batching is a powerful time management tactic. It promotes focus and let's you get done more in less time. Read these practical examples of batching at work. Click To Tweet
What are some opportunities in your life to “batch”?
Errands. Do you find yourself hopping in the car to run just one errand? Wait a few days until the errands accumulate and handle them all in a single trip.
Birthday cards. Do you run to the card shop every time a birthday appears on your calendar? Why not stock up so you always have a supply at home. Take advantage of a sale or buy them by the box at a greatly-reduced price. Even better, use batching to address your cards for the whole year in one sitting.
College classes. I used to schedule a class for the earliest possible time and schedule remaining classes back-to-back. By lunch, I was done. Most semesters, I wound up with a couple of days each week class-free.
Meal planning. If a heavy work schedule makes daily meal preparation a challenge, batch cooking on Sunday. Prepare the entire week’s menu ahead of time.
Email. How many times a day does email derail your attention? Let it accumulate. Pick a couple of times during the day to handle it. At that point, handle every bit of it. When you’re done, email is back to “empty.”
Housework. Do you really want to haul out the vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies every day? Pick one day each week and dig in.
Bill paying. Do you pay bills manually rather than through bank draft? Instead of hauling out the checkbook, return address labels, and stamps every time the postman comes, batch it. Pick a couple of days each month. Save up the bills and pay them all on the designated day.
Now it’s your turn
You get the idea of what batching is all about. What are some examples from your life where batching would help? Let me know in the comments.
Blogs provide a great way to stay on top of what’s happening in your field or what interests you. That statement holds true regardless of what position you hold. The problem becomes one of time. You identify more and more good blogs. You then spend more and more time going to each to read new content. Today’s article on “Feedly” is going to give you the relief you need.
What if you could go to one place and see the new posts from all your favorite blogs? What if you could dismiss the posts as you read them and save others to re-read later? It’s not only possible, but it’s free, and it’s easy.
Feedly to the rescue
Start by creating a free account. Go to feedly.com. Click “Get started for free.” You have several ways in which you can create a login. Many people will choose to login with their Google or Facebook account. Clicking “Continue with Feedly” allows you to use your email address and create a unique password.
At this point, you can click on categories under “Explore the Web.” If you already know of blogs you like, enter a URL in the search window. Watch the results. When you see something in the list you like, click the “Follow” button. Feedly will ask you to supply a “Feed name.” That means you are being asked to supply a category. You might enter Education, Technology, Finance, Sports, etc.
Start adding content
Click on any of the categories to see a list of suggestions.
If you already have some specific blogs in mind, click the green “Add Content” button. In the search bar, enter the URL for the site. Or, you can enter a name. In this example, entering my name returned my site.
Clicking on a result gives you more detail about the site. If you like what you see, click “Follow.”
You’ll be asked to put your selection into a “category.”
Feedly will give a suggestion, or you can supply your own.
Continue adding as much content as you like. Over time, you’ll keep returning to that green “Add Content” button as you come across new sites you want to follow.
Your workflow on Feedly
Open Feedly. Click on “Today” in the left sidebar. Start reading your selections.
I like what’s called the “Magazine” view. Select your view by clicking the three horizontal lines in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Once you have read a post, it doesn’t appear again. When you open Feedly, what appears is always fresh content.
But what if you want to re-read an article later? Click the ribbon. It will turn solid green. This article will appear in a section called “Read Later.”
When you are finished with an article, unclick the ribbon. The article will not appear again.
What's easy gets done. Feedly is a free tool that takes the blogs you have decided you enjoy and brings their content to one place. Click To Tweet
Feedly from your mobile devices
We all have those spare minutes during the day. We find ourselves looking at our phones during those times. But just what are you looking at?
You could be looking at email. Personally, I find I am better able to handle email from my desktop computer. That’s why at the end of the day, my inbox is empty. Other than a quick look to see if there is something critical, reading email is not how I spend those minutes.
You could look at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. There’s always something new there. But is it content that is of quality? After all, you’re trading your time for the content you’re viewing. Is it worth it?
There’s another way to spend those spare minutes when the tool you have is your phone. Open the Feedly app. It’s a free download from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store. Open the app and begin scrolling through the posts. What’s in the list are all coming from blogs I like. However, every article is not going to be of interest.
My routine is to “swipe right” on any article of interest. It marks the article as “Read Later.”
During spare moments, I work through the “Read Later” articles on my desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. Icons within Feedly let me share interesting content I read on social media. While I am not a fan of multitasking, I find I can read through Feedly and watch TV at the same time.
Abundant information is a blessing of the time in which we live. The ease of being overwhelmed by it is the challenge. Feedly lets me make decisions about my interests in the front end. It puts the content in one nice, neat place.
Now let’s hear from you. What are some of the blogs you like to read? Leave a comment. Others may want to add them to their Feedly.
If yours are already organized, congratulations. You benefit every day as you put your hands on exactly the right file in seconds.
If you’re not there, that filing cabinet may be your enemy. You hate to open overstuffed drawers. You have a sinking feeling that you won’t be able to find anything. It’s like a metal version of the Bermuda Triangle. Files go in never to be seen again. If that’s where you are now, read on.
These basic principles will help you get things under control:
Use manila file folders. While I love hanging files for my Tickler File, they’re not the best choice for reference filing. Manila folders take up much less room in the drawer. They are also less expensive.
Create one A-Z system. Avoid assigning one topic to this drawer and another topic to that one. Instead use a broad category name for each file with a subcategory underneath.
Leave breathing room in each drawer. When a drawer gets packed, you’ll avoid wrestling with it. You certainly won’t add to it. Instead, file folders wind up stacked on top of the filing cabinet instead.
Move infrequently-used files offsite. Some types of records must be maintained permanently even though you never access them. Maintain filing cabinets in another building or remote storage room. Put those seldom-accessed files there. Don’t let those ancient files occupy prime real estate in your office.
Examine the contents of the files annually. While the system is designed for documents of long-term value, at some point certain material will outlive its usefulness.
Decide what to trash
Get a copy of a relevant records retention schedule.
Armed with your retention schedule and a box of very large trash bags, those filing cabinet drawers may just get more manageable.
For personal home filing, I like the idea behind the Freedom Filer. This video demonstrates how the system works. Here is another example of the Freedom Filer done by popular professional organizer Alejandra Costello. The Freedom Filer ensures that you are regularly throwing away outdated documents as you replace them with current-year copies.
Decide what to digitize
How many owner’s manuals do you have? How many are you still keeping for equipment you discarded years ago? Sites such as Manuals Online allow you to search for a digital version of owner’s manual for the product you just bought. Often, a Google search for the particular product turns up a digital copy of the manual. Create one folder on your hard drive and store all of the digital manuals there.
Three days from the morning I write this post, my wife and I will begin a trip to France. The 10-day excursion celebrates our 30th wedding anniversary. But there’s something on my mind…
I don’t speak French.
Not even a few phrases.
Yes, I imagine most of the people I encounter will be used to American tourists and speak English fluently.
But wouldn’t it would be nice to have a “Plan B”?
OK Google, be my French interpreter…
Google Translate has been around since 2006, but it’s made remarkable strides. What excites me about this little friend is its ability to be a personal interpreter.
Here’s how it works. While connected to Wi-Fi, I say, “OK Google, be my French interpreter.” The phone opens the Google Translate app to the “conversation mode.” I speak my message in English.
Google speaks the French translation. It also displays the message in both languages.
Next, I tap the “Francais” button and allow my newly-found French friend to speak a reply in his native language. Google Translate speaks the English translation and displays the message in both languages. In other words, it functions just like a human interpreter.
Lucy and Ricky sure could have used Conversation Mode in this famous scene from I Love Lucy Click To Tweet
I Love Lucy Down the Line of Translation - YouTube
And that’s not all…
If you have a Google Home device, it’s even easier. After the initial, “OK Google, be my [name of language] interpreter,” you and the other person carry on your conversation. No button to push. Watch it in action in this video.
Google Assistant’s interpreter mode translates 27 languages - YouTube
I own a Google Home Mini. It cost a whole $29 on sale. What you see in the video works exactly the same on the inexpensive Google Home Mini in our living room.
And one more thing…
What about those signs posted in French? How will I know what they say? Just open the Google Translate “camera mode.” Select your language and the desired foreign language. Point the camera at the sign. Watch the camera image change to English.
Here’s an example. On the left is a sign in French from the Internet. I opened Google Translate on my phone to “camera mode” and pointed my phone at the computer screen. On the right is the result.
It’s a good thing I got that “heads up.” Otherwise, I could have been towed!
So, will Google Translate make learning foreign languages obsolete?
Absolutely not. Those who speak foreign languages fluently report that the translations aren’t always exact. Syntax can be inaccurate, for example.
What Google Translate gives us is meaning. It allows communication to happen where a language barrier would have otherwise prohibited it.
Find someone who is bilingual. Have a conversation using Google Translate's Conversation Mode. Click To Tweet
Here’s the thing…if you wait until you need Google Translate to use Google Translate, you’ll never use Google Translate. So here’s my challenge… Find someone who is bilingual. Have a conversation using Google Translate’s “Conversation Mode.” Let me know about your experience.
I enjoyed being a guest on Rebecca Councill’s podcast, “Digital Path.” Both of us hold the certification “Evernote Certified Consultant.” During the interview, we discussed my journey to Evernote, what I keep there, and how each of us uses it in our day-to-day lives.
We all have digital documents. They are the parallel of the paper that fills our filing cabinets. Just as paper documents live in folders, our digital documents live in folders nested within other folders. The computer serves as the “digital filing cabinet.”
Those digital documents come to us as email attachments. Some we download from websites. Others, we create ourselves and need a place to store so that we can find them when we need them. Digital documents have page breaks every 11 inches and inch-wide margins around the sides. There are perfect for printing.
This era is termed the “information age.” Much of the information we’ll need later will never be printed. So, we don’t need special formatting, such as page breaks or margins. We simply need to be able to find the information when we need it. Excellent search capabilities are paramount. The ability to access it all from our phones becomes essential.
That’s why Evernote became such a hit a decade ago. It’s why 250 million people us it today. Two mouse clicks takes every word, photo, and link on web page and puts it into Evernote. Every word, even a word embedded in a photo, becomes searchable.
Grandma’s Typewriter and Recipe Box
Merely thinking about our grandmothers brings back memories of the smells in her kitchen. If you are of a certain age, your grandmother’s recipes were likely written on 3 x 5 note cards. She didn’t type them on 8 1/2 x 11 inch pieces of paper. She didn’t need to. The note cards were easier. Grandmother could organize them however she wished.
She might even write something in the corner of the cards, such as “Salad” or “Dessert,” Thanksgiving” or “Summer.” She might even designate recipes that were favorites of a particular family member by jotting that name in the corner of the card. Grandmother understood the modern-day art of “tagging.”
However, if the church decided to put together a cookbook, Grandmother hauled out the typewriter. You see, she understood the difference between documents and notes. On one, the format was important. On the other, the information was all that was required.
Bringing that Concept to Today
What information do you need to have with you everywhere? When you need air filters at Walmart, wouldn’t it be nice to have the correct size on your phone? When you check into a hotel, wouldn’t it be nice to have the rewards number handy? Need a replacement part for a household item? Wouldn’t it be great to have a photo of the needed item on your phone when you walk in the store?
Digital notes provide the solution to everyday needs. In my experience, there’s not a better place to keep that sort of reference information than in Evernote. You can create a free account today.
The Interview Gives Plenty of Examples
The best way to understand Evernote is to see how others use it. The text of this post gives some examples. The interview gives many more. Thanks to Rebecca for having me as a guest. You can listen to the full episode here.
If you use Evernote, do you have a unique use? Let me know in the comments.
I enjoyed being a guest on the “Tug of War With Time” podcast, hosted by Penny Zinker. During the episode, we talked about my book, Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. We talked about email, Evernote, and managing tasks. Time management techniques are important. We talked about the need for having a system. The text of this post covers the major points.
Here are excepts from the interview. At the end of this post, you’ll find a link to the full interview.
The uniqueness of the book
With all the time management books on the shelves, why does the world need one more? That was the question in front of me a decade ago when I wrote Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. I faced the same question five years ago while updating the book for a second edition. Time management books generally focus on the business world, but are applicable to other fields. My approach was different. The book is specific to schools and can be applied to any field.
The book also fills a void. Each of us has “repeating tasks” in our lives. These tasks are those we do the same time every week, every month, or every year…
provided we don’t wind up forgetting. Yet, the literature on how to handle that feature of our lives is absent from most of those books.
Second, we know that good documentation can save us time, embarrassment, money, and legal troubles. Most time management books are silent on that subject.
The email debate
Even those in the productivity space don’t agree on everything. In the interview, I talk about getting email empty every day. Penny Zinker, the host, advocates keeping everything in her inbox. Listeners will enjoy the two contrasting viewpoints. Some people have collections of folders for their email. I have none. Time management techniques are not necessarily universal.
The calendar and the task list
Quite a few authors favor putting everything on the calendar. I take a different view. The calendar is a place for “where I am.” It’s also a place for date-and-time specific information. For example, I have the dates for Alabama and Auburn football games on my calendar. The reason is not because I will be attending a game. But if I am planning a visit to Tuscaloosa on a fall Saturday, I want to know if I will be fighting game-day traffic.
While my calendar dictates where I am, the task list is a place for all the things I need to do. Few tasks have to be done at an exact time. Starting on that report at 9:00 is fine. An equally-fine time would be 9:15. The task list lets me choose a date. But if something doesn’t get done on the date planned, it rolls to the next day with no rewriting.
It’s about having a system
Life doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it. Sure, we have demands on our time. Sometimes those demands are heavier than others. What we need is a system that allows us to put it all in one place. That point is at the heart of the best time management techniques. That way, we can see it all. When you can see all your choices, you make better choices.
One of the secrets is to keep the system clean. Lots of things work. When the system bogs down, it doesn’t mean it’s time to change the system. Usually, it means you need to clean up the system.
Each year, Global Gurus (GlobalGurus.org) recognize a “Top 30” in various fields. I am excited and humbled to announce that I have been named #1 in the “time management” category.
Global Gurus is a research organization. According to their website, their rankings “…came from emails sent to 22,000 business people, consultants, academics, and MBA’s around the world…” The criteria for judging the “Top 30” focused on public opinion (30%), originality of ideas (30%), impact of original ideas (10%), practicality of ideas (10%), presentation style (10%), number of publications and writings (5%), and “guru factor” (5%).
I first appeared in the “Top 30” in 2017, ranking in the low 20’s. In 2018, the ranking was #4. Most of the others in the list are speakers and authors with whom I am very familiar. Every one of them is outstanding. To be listed among them is humbling. To be ranked #1 is something beyond my wildest dreams.
Many thanks to those who voted for me! It lets me know that the regular dose of “nuts & bolts” strategies makes a difference for readers. It gives me something to live up to.
Many of you have been following my work for some time. The first workshops I conducted were over 20 years ago. Over the years, tools have changed. The demands on our time changed. What has remained the same is a commitment to brings you nuts-and-bolts solutions to your every-day challenges.