Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Keep Your Resolutions for 2012

About five years ago I found myself in a situation where I organized my day-to-day professional activities with a clipboard-based form, coordinated meetings via Microsoft Outlook’s calendar function, kept personal appointments in a weekly paper calendar, and used a variety of scattered papers as task lists.

As long as I was at my desk, I could quickly identify my availability to meet with others or ensure that when I needed to attend to personal business there were no conflicts.  However, when I was out of the office, I had no way of knowing what was scheduled or even which activities were priorities for the next day or week.

Having four separate systems to keep track of my life was clearly not working!  When I had the opportunity to attend FranklinCovey’s Focus class I seized it.

In the Focus class, which I now teach occasionally, I learned about a strategy of planning that has worked successfully for me since then.  The content of the class is derived largely from First Things First, which is expanded from Habit 3 of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:  Put First Things First.

The first part of the course reviews four quadrants of priority based on urgency and importance.  This is referred to as the “Time Matrix.”

Quadrant I contains activities that must be done because they are urgent and important (a flat tire must be repaired).

Quadrant III is where you will find activities that are not important but urgent.  These may be phone calls (a ringing phone must be answered) or other interruptions.

Quadrant IV is an area of activities that should be avoided because these are not important and not urgent.  Have you ever played Farmville until 1AM?  This would fit in Quadrant IV.  It is fine to play Farmville or any other diversion, provided that you are not neglecting real chores in order to complete virtual chores.

Quadrant II consists of activities that are important but not urgent.  Spending time on prevention, wellness, planning, and true recreation, which renews body, mind, and spirit, fits here.  Quality time with your family and personal time to exercise or pursue a hobby are important to maintain balance in your life.

The second part of the course provides the practical structure to implement the concepts of the Time Matrix.  Based on the idea that you should only engage in activities that help you achieve your long-term plans.  The four elements of the planning process are presented in the form of a pyramid, with each element building on the foundational elements below it.

Identify Values.  The base of the pyramid is “Identify Values.”  What are the values that are important to you?  They may be different that mine, your co-workers, or even family.  Using Benjamin Franklin, as a model, it is suggested that you identify 8-10 values and define what each means for you.

Identify Goals.  Once life-long values have been identified, goals can be determined.  You will continue to set, modify, and evaluate goals continually.

Plan Weekly.  The next step of the pyramid is “Plan Weekly.”  By taking a few minutes at the beginning of each week to layout your integrated schedule of personal and professional commitments, identify the roles that you will have during the week (e.g., parent, teacher, child, supervisor, etc.), and prioritize tasks, you will be more effective.  Planning weekly is probably the most important step in terms of the execution of the Focus/First Things First productivity model.

Plan Daily.  At the top of the pyramid is “Plan Daily.”  At the start of your day, take a few minutes to review your schedule and tasks for the day.

I have found these strategies to be very effective.  Whether you use a paper-based planning system or are fully electronic (something that is now a valid option with smartphones), developing a system is vital to becoming more effective.

If you first identify life-long values, base your goals around those values, and plan your weeks and days accordingly, you will find that you don’t need New Year’s resolutions to propel you forward to success.  Happy New Year!  Don't forget to subscribe to the blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Screen Capture Links

Capturing all or part of the information displayed on your computer screen is essential for preparing presentations, handouts, and training materials.  It can also be useful as a future reference.  This list of links is taken from my site, (video capture)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Liz Lynch Radio Show

I had the honor this week to be Liz Lynch's guest on her show.  You can listen to previous episodes by clicking on the link above.  Liz's main website is

Liz and I discussed how to "Storify Your Facts."  During our 30 minutes together I shared how important it is to use stories whenever possible to illustrate the point of your presentation or as a  narrative to keep facts interesting.  Liz is a great interviewer and I enjoyed talking with her.

Below is a list of books that I discussed during the show.
Please listen to the recorded show, check out the book listed above, and subscribe to  I have also updated the Walmart video I discussed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Links to Create Word Clouds

A tag cloud, also known as a word cloud, visually depicts the keywords found in a block of text.  Words are displayed by various sizes based on the frequency count of the word.  This visual format is convenient in identifying the most important or most used words in a document or website.

Below are links to six websites that generate tag clouds or word clouds.  Most of these sites provide a variety of options for font, color, and block shape.  To better compare the sites, I have used the Gettysburg Address, written and given by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  This famous speech is short (10 sentences) and well-written. 

This last link is not for a site where you can generate clouds, but instead contains word cloud art of each book of the Bible.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking

Not too long ago I found myself in a situation where I needed to succinctly present to a group in such a way that I needed to convince them to take action at the end of my talk. Unfortunately, I did not have a good structural model to follow and failed to make the case for why my listeners should take action. What I encourage you to do is explore some reading and speaking tips in order to be better prepared for a presentation. If you do, you will experience success where I did not.

What you've just read is a technique that Dale Carnegie shares in his book, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking.

If you were asked to give an impromptu five-minute presentation to a group, small or large, would you be able to do it? If you're like many people, you might try to pass up such an opportunity. However, if you read The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking you will gain more confidence. In this easy-to-read book, Dale Carnegie lays out everything you need to improve your public speaking.

At the outset, Carnegie dispels common fears and myths about public speaking. He also suggests a mindset for success. Following these two topics, he presents what is the foundational principle for the remainder of the book. This principle has been a staple of Dale Carnegie's training content since he first started teaching in 1912. The "three E's" are:
  • Speak about something you have earned the right to speak about through experience or study.
  • Be sure you are excited about your topic.
  • Be eager to share your talk with your listeners.

Following this first section of fundamentals, Carnegie devotes the remainder of the book to various aspects of speaking. Chapters include:
  • Earning the right to talk
  • Vitalizing the talk
  • Sharing the talk with the audience
  • Making the short talk to get action
  • Making the talk to inform
  • Making the talk to convince
  • Making impromptu talks
  • Delivering the talk
  • Organizing the longer talk

The short talk to get action is particularly effective and is centered on the "magic formula" which consists of:
  • Give an example, an incident from your life.
  • State your point, what you want the audience to do.
  • Give the reason or benefit the audience may expect.

The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking is an essential read for anyone who speaks publicly, whether to a small group of coworkers or a large crowd of people.