Friday, August 28, 2015

10 Reasons You Need a WhiteBoard

I love dry erase whiteboards. They are essential tools for business and personal life. For my home, I purchased my first whiteboard, 24x36 inches, when we experimented with home school for my daughter's sixth grade year. Home school didn't work out, but the whiteboard did. I started writing goals on the board and used it for planning and problem-solving.

Recently, I decided that I needed to expand my whiteboard space, so I purchased a second board, also 24x36, resulting in a usable space of 36x48 inches. Just like one monitor seems okay until you experience the productivity advantage of working with dual monitors, you can't have too much whiteboard space.

1 Erase mistakes

With a good eraser whiteboards are very forgiving. As soon as you can see a word or idea visually, all it takes is a swipe of the eraser to start with a fresh canvas. Just be certain that the pens are dry erase markers and not permanent or flipchart markers. I have seen several people write on a whiteboard only to discover that mistakes can't be erased when using the wrong pens.

2 Connect ideas

Mind maps are a great brainstorming tool, whether in groups or working by yourself. Another similar tool is the Ishikawa fishbone diagram, used to help identify causes of problems. Whiteboards are an effective medium to quickly write out key points and then draw connecting lines between various topics.

3 Show your work

Whiteboards are usually mounted on walls or on an easel stand. They are designed to provide maximum visibility for a group. Remember to write in a large font if you are working with a large group. Writing neatly is also helpful.

4 Live large

The larger the whiteboard space the better. I once worked in a place with a conference where all of the walls consisted of whiteboards. Every time we came into the conference room we could see how ideas were developing.

5 Play well with others

Collaborative brainstorming typically results in more and better ideas than thinking alone. Whiteboards provide an excellent way to quickly write out ideas and draw designs. This can be accomplished concurrently, when working together, or asynchronously, as various individuals contribute to different ideas on the whiteboard over time.

6 Storyboard like Disney

Walt Disney pioneered the concept of presenting a series of drawings to tell a story. His technique, storyboarding, is now used everywhere. Whiteboards can be used to plan presentations and documents. If you print PowerPoint or KeyNote slides at 9 to a page, they are the same size as small sticky notes. Using the whiteboard, you can tape printed slides, add sticky notes, and draw other ideas for slides.

7 Reuse, recycle, renew

Just like you can erase mistakes, you can erase everything and use the space again. Before you erase, take a photo so that you can utilize the ideas from the whiteboard later.

8 Explore your creative side

With a variety of colors and pen sizes, there is no end to the creativity when using a whiteboard.
Additionally, because you can place text and drawings anywhere without software limitations, it is easier to be creative.

9 Find your path

When developing a new process or reviewing an existing one, the whiteboard makes it easy to walk through the various steps of a process. As you draw out a process, it is easy to make changes or insert additional steps. Once a process is captured on the whiteboard, you can then review the process to look for unnecessary steps or opportunities for improvement.

10 Keep your audience focused

When you are creating in real-time, the audience must focus on your presentation. The audience can’t read ahead or lag behind. Using a whiteboard will help you and your audience stay at the same pace. Using a whiteboard ensures that you keep visuals simple without unnecessary graphics or too much text.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Put first things first

In an earlier post I shared about books that have changed the way I think. One of those books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

The first two habits are:
  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.

Habit 3 - Put First Things First

This third habit is the focus of this post. In my book, 60,000 Words in 6 Weeks, chapter one addresses similar concepts. The Twitter summary of the chapter is Whether you write for just a few minutes at a time or several hours, be intentional with how you utilize your available time daily.

The main idea of putting first things first is to organize your days and week around priorities. As Covey writes in the book, "The key is not to prioritize what's in your schedule, but to schedule around your priorities."

The best way to achieve this goal is to first think about activities in your life along two continua, urgency and importance. Covey uses urgency and importance to create four quadrants into which all activities can be sorted.

Quadrant I - Necessity

The first quadrant, events that are urgent and important, is the quadrant of necessity. These are the unexpected crises that must be dealt with. Flat tires, medical emergencies, deadlines imposed by upper management, and similar events fall into this quadrant. To ignore crises often leads to worse situations. Quadrant I events must be managed.

Quadrant III - Deception

The third quadrant (I'm saving Quadrant II for last) contains events that are urgent but not important. These are often the result of other who impose their priorities and crises on you. These types of activities can feel important because action is occurring, but the end result is not important. Checking e-mail, telephone calls that interrupt other work, and meetings for the sake of meetings fall into this quadrant, the quadrant of deception.

A great Quadrant III example is a ringing phone or a knock at the door. How can you evaluate the importance until you first acknowledge the interruption? Quadrant III events must be evaluated with caution.

Quadrant IV - Waste/Excess

The fourth quadrant, events that are neither important nor urgent are time-wasters. Excessive time spent on hobbies, using technology without a purpose (constantly checking Facebook or Instagram), and watching TV are excellent examples of activities that waste time.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with hobbies, TV, or technology, it is the excess use that brings activities into Quadrant IV, a quadrant that should be avoided.

Quadrant II - Planning and Preparation

The second quadrant is characterized by events that are not urgent but are important. Planning based on priorities, whether work-related goals, personal goals, or family is vitally important, but not necessarily urgent. A crisis won't occur now if you don't plan a cruise for next summer. Unlike excess time wasting in Quadrant IV, taking time to relax between period of activity fits into Quadrant II because of the rejuvenating nature.

Taking the time to set goals, build relationships, spend time with family, and improve yourself are worthy activities, and this is where the focus should be. Time gained from avoiding Quadrant IV - waste and excess - can be applied to Quadrant II activities.

In thinking about these quadrants, where your daily and weekly activities fit? What are some Quadrant III and Quadrant IV activities that you can eliminate?

The U.S. Geological Survey has produced a three-page guide to the time management matrix, available as a PDF.

Friday, August 21, 2015

eNewsletters I Receive

In the continual search for education and information I have come across several blogs and websites that periodically provide updates. Most blogs provide several different options if you are interested in the following. You can subscribe to RSS feeds, maintain a list of blogs as favorites (bookmarks), or have them e-mailed to you.

Many infopreneurs use e-newsletters and other give-aways as a mechanism to obtain your e-mail address. I have joined so many different lists, which lead to other lists, that I can't even tell you how I came to subscribe to some the e-newsletters listed below.

Whatever your interests, I encourage you to continually learn by subscribing to e-newsletters, reading blogs, and attending an occasional webinar.

Go For No
The authors of the book, Go For No, advocate a paradigm that more customers rejecting your product or service simply means the likelihood is increased that a few will accept what you offer. For example, if you prospect to five potential customers but only one buys, you've gained one customer. However, if you prospect to 500 potential customers and only 100 buy (the same percentage) your business will experience accelerated growth. 

Jane Atkinson’s Wealthy Speaker University
This author, training, and coach focuses on helping people become professional speakers.

Writer’s Digest Editor Blogs
The Writer’s Dig – Brian Klems
Writer's Digest magazine offers several different blogs, which can be subscribed to. This particular one usually has 3-4 articles related to the craft of writing.

Robert McKee – Story
Robert McKee is well known for his story seminar, which he conducts several times a year for aspiring authors and screenwriters. He also offers a version of his seminar for business professionals who can use narrative as a sales tool. The e-newsletter consists of a video where a conference attendee asks a question and McKee provides an answer in 3-5 minutes.

Shift-it Coach
Christina Merkley is both a graphic facilitator and life coach. Graphic facilitation consists of someone drawing visual notes of a conference or meeting. The notes are typically drawn  on large pieces of paper, like 4 feet by 8 feet, so that all in attendance can follow the progress and contribute to the meeting. In this e-newsletter Christina provides tips for graphic facilitators and her perspective on navigating life.

Jeanette Maw’s Good Vibe Blog
I don't subscribe to the universe as an entity waiting to return to you whatever you desire. However, there is no question that a positive outlook on life improves how you live and interact with others. This blog, received as an e-newsletter, occasionally has something of interest to me.

Canva Design School
Canva is an art design tool primarily used to create inspirational quotes arranged in an attractive way. It is available online as well as in app versions. The design school provides basic instruction on graphic design as well as tutorials on how to use the Canva tool. Most of the e-newsletters feature excellent examples of design from print and online sources.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cost of Liquids

In a previous post I wrote about the sad demise of my inexpensive printer, the HP OfficeJet 4300. After several years of service, it stopped working after I inadvertently dropped it from a tall height, from the printer's perspective.

In the course of shopping for a new printer, I spoke with a salesman who reminded me that the true cost of the printer is not the physical device itself but the ink cartridges. Both laserjet and inkjet printers require cartridges of ink in order to print.

Some printers require cartridges with three colors together (cyan, magenta, and yellow) and a separate one for black. Other printers provide slots for each individual color used in the printing process. This provide some economy as colors with ink remaining don't have to be discarded as is the case with the 3-color variety.

My discussion with the salesman reminded me of an exercise I conducted as the introduction to a data analysis workshop. The task is simple: put a series of liquids in order from most expensive to least expensive.

Before proceeding, take a few minutes to do this activity.

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Podcast List

A combination of broadcast and pod, short for iPod, a podcast is an episodic audio or video program available for download via the Internet. Podcasts span a range of lengths and publishing schedule.

Podcasts are a great way to learn new information and/or be entertained. Podcasts are ...
  • Free
  • Easily downloadable - downloads can be scheduled
  • Available for a wide range of topics - current categories at Apple's podcast store include arts, business, comedy, education, games/hobbies, government/organizations, health, family, music, news/politics, religion/spirituality, science/medicine, society/culture, sports/recreation, technology, and TV/film.
  • Asynchronous - you control when and where to listen, including the ability to rewind and fast forward content.

At the time of this post, the blogs I currently listen to are listed below. I pulled the description from the podcasts. Typically, I listen to podcasts throughout the day while I am working or driving. If I find myself losing interest during a particular episode, I stop listening.


Hope Sabbath School (Weekly)

  • Summary: A weekly, in-depth interactive study of the Word of God.
  • Why I listen: This podcast provides a preview of each week's Bible study at church. I am better prepared to discuss the topic after listening.

Official Mark Levin Audio Rewind (Monday-Friday)

  • Summary: Mark Levin has become one of the hottest properties in talk radio. His top-rated show on WABC is now syndicated nationally. He is also one of the top new authors in the conservative political arena.
  • Why I listen: A practicing attorney and constitutional scholar, Mark Levin's academic approach to current political topics provides an insight that other talk show hosts do not. His book recommendations are excellent.

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Weekly)

  • Summary: Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Whether English is your first language or your second language, these grammar, punctuation, style, and business tips will make you a better and more successful writer. Grammar Girl is a Quick and Dirty Tips podcast.
  • Why I listen: English is my first language and my mother was an English teacher, but I still appreciate these practical tips, which have improved my writing.

On The Page: Screenwriting (Weekly)

  • Summary: Join professional script consultant Pilar Alessandra as she demystifies screenwriting and answers your questions about script craft and story.
  • Why I listen: Although I am not writing scripts for TV or film, I find the discussion and different approaches to the craft of story to be applicable both professionally and personally.

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor (Daily)

  • Summary: Each day, The Writer's Almanac features Garrison Keillor recounting the highlights of this day in history and reading a short poem or two.
  • Why I listen: I like this podcast for the quirky tidbits of history and the short poem. Although this is a daily podcast, I usually download and listen to the weekday episodes.

A Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Wobegon (Weekly, during the show's season)

  • Summary: Garrison Keillor's signature monologue, The News from Lake Wobegon, a staple of the live public radio program A Prairie Home Companion.
  • Why I listen: Garrison Keillor's conversational style is a great one to emulate for storytelling. Keillor masterfully ties the various fictionalized news events together in unexpected ways.

The Paracast - The Gold Standard of Paranormal Radio (Weekly)

  • Summary: The Paracast explores a world beyond science, where UFOs, UFO, poltergeists and strange phenomena of all kinds have been reported by millions across the planet. The Paracast presents longtime researchers in the field, to shed light on the mysteries and complexities of our Universe and the secrets that surround us in our everyday lives. Join long-time paranormal researcher Gene Steinberg, co-host Christopher O’Brien, and their roster of special guest experts and experiencers, as they explore the realms of the known and unknown. Listen each week to the great stories of the history of the paranormal field in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Why I listen: I am rather skeptical about UFOs, and this podcast adopts a similar skeptical approach. Since the alleged events of the alien crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, an entire industry has existed, which researches, confabulates, and makes up UFO-related events. This podcast breaks down current events related to the field every week. 

What do you think about podcasts? What podcasts do you listen to?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How I wrote my memoir in 44 days

Below is the introduction from my new book, 60,000 Words in Six Weeks: How I wrote my memoir in 44 days. It is available from

On Writing Well

Several years ago I read the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He recommended that aspiring authors write one story per day for 120 days. At the conclusion of those four months, writers should discard everything they wrote. According to Zinsser, it takes that amount of time to find the voice and rhythm for narrating a story. I followed his suggestions for about two weeks, but stopped writing.

My 500 Words

More recently, I came across the website This is a challenge presented by the author Jeff Goins. The basic rule of My 500 Words is to write five hundred words per day for thirty days. I decided to give it a try. However, rather than write a series of thirty articles on random topics, my goal was to write a cohesive narrative where all of the entries connected in some way. I decided to write about a topic I knew well, my life.

30 into 120

In thinking about this writing challenge, somewhere along the way, I converted the 30 days into 120 days, and thus a total of 60,000 words rather than 15,000 words. Even after I realized this faux pas I still committed to completing the longer project. To help me stay motivated I envisioned my memoir as a printed book. As most printed books average 250-275 words per page, I knew that 60,000 words could potentially result in a 200-page book, a reasonable first effort.

I wrote 60,027 words in 44 days. After some basic editing, I setup the text to resemble a book and printed it using an online print-on-demand publisher. This e-book is about my process. Each chapter answers a series of questions I asked myself along the way. I hope you will find inspiration and motivation from my experience that you can apply to your own writing journey.

60,000 Words in 6 Weeks

If you ever thought about writing a book or are currently writing, I believe that 60,000 Words in 6 Weeks will help you. While there are a number of excellent books that discuss creative writing, storytelling, and other aspects of the writing craft, my book is a practical one to help you track the progress that you make everyday.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Paradigm-Changing Books

Merriam-Webster defines paradigm as "a theory or a group of ideas about how something should be done, made, or thought about."

A number of books are read every year that affect readers in some way. While some books clearly delineate two different ways of approaching the world, many others make an impact in a more subtle way, by introducing a new way of thinking that lingers in the mind after reading.

The books listed here are books that I have read which have affected me by either affecting actions  I take or my way of thinking. These books have changed my perspectives on the world.

True Believer - Eric Hoffer
In True Believer, Eric Hoffer presents a theory about why people join religious groups, cults, and followings. Why do people leave a seemingly normal life and risk everything by joining groups like ISIS (the Islamic State) or contribute to political change? Drawing on examples from events during his life, Hoffer's philosophy still applies.

 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey
This book contains seven habits that will help you prioritize activities in your life, set better goals, improve interactions with others, and become more effective personally and professionally. Perhaps the most famous of the habits, "Begin with the end in mind," is also one of the best.

How to Win Friends & Influence People - Dale Carnegie
Like 7 Habits, this book contains simple, common sense tips, but they are so hard to apply! The first nine principles lay the foundation for the rest of the book. Filled with examples the book is easy to read and definitely worth rereading from time to time. The first principle, never criticize, condemn, or complain, is one that I continually work on.

Science & Human Behavior - BF Skinner
Although Skinner is largely unknown outside of the professional mental health community, Skinner's work is well known because we all apply his principles to our lives. We are continually seeking to alter our own behavior as well as that of others. If you've ever given a children a smiley sticker in order to increase the likelihood that the positive behavior will continue, you've applied Skinner's work to your life. In the book, the author describes the essentials of how to modify behavior with reinforcement, extinction, and punishment. These three are not equally effective.

The 45 Second Presentation That Will Change Your Life - Don Failla
Although this book is geared towards network, multi-level marketers, the basic concepts of recruiting people into your organization, creating a sustainable plan for training, and motivating others apply to everyone. Consisting for 12 presentations, the genesis of the book came from the idea that you can sit down with someone at lunch and draw this information out on napkins.

The Memory Book - Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas
When I was in college I found myself failing the daily map quizzes in history class. Looking for any help to improve my grades, I came across this book. I applied a couple of the simple techniques in order to memorize the various locations on the maps, and significantly improved my scores. Although I lost the copy I owned in college, I now own this as an e-book and am continuing to work on applying these principles for a better memory.

Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
Half of this book is about Viktor Frankl's experience in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. A psychiatrist prior to the war, he lost his wife and other family members. However, while he noticed that many around him simply lost all hope for the future, he continually made plans for his life after the war. This mindset helped him tolerate the terrible situation into which he was forced. The second part of the book is his theory of psychology drawn largely from his experiences and observations.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive & Others Die - Chip & Dan Heath
Why is it that we can easily recall the various urban legends we read about on Facebook but can't recall the discussion from yesterday's staff meeting? There are principles that, if applied, will help our messages to family, coworkers, and customers more likely to be retained. The authors present six principles to improve the "stickiness" of ideas.

Modern Mind Mapping for Smarter Thinking: Tony Buzan
Mind mapping is a visual brainstorming method that consists of writing a topic in the center of a page and then writing 4-5 keywords or facets of the topic around the topic. By connecting lines between the topic and the keywords, and subsequently to more specific details, you are, according to Tony Buzan, mimicking the way our synapses fire in our brains. Our minds do not catalog information in a linear fashion, but continually search for connections in order to retrieve stored knowledge. The mind mapping technique will increase your creativity.

Propaganda - Edward Bernays
Why is it that we wear denim jeans and eat bananas? Edward Bernays breaks it all down by revealing the secrets used by governments, corporations, and other groups to influence populations to adopt a certain paradigm. Propaganda is not just for enemy governments pushing their agenda. Every organized agency utilizes it to some degree.

What do you think about my book selections? What books have you read that have changed your life?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Farewell Office Jet 4300

About ten years ago I walked into an office supply store in search of a new printer. Both of the inkjet printers I owned had stopped working, and I needed a replacement. As I walked through the aisles of all-in-one printers, single function inkjet printers, and laser jet printers, I was still unsure which model to select. I didn't want to invest a great deal of money, but wanted a printer that would last  a few years.

Not feeling satisfied with the models available at the store, I walked towards the exit. That's when I saw the printer sales table. There was a brand new small, white printer, but for some reason on sale. It was listed for $50.00. The printer, a Hewlett Packard Office Jet 4300 turned to be an all-in-one printer with printing, faxing, copying, and scanning capabilities.

After Hewlett Packard stopped supporting the printer, I was no longer able to use it as a scanner. Faxing is not possible for me as I don't have a landline phone. Additionally, more recently, most printers have wireless capabilities, which allow printing from mobile devices as well as computers. For that reason, I decided, I would purchase a new printer when the ink cartridges ran out of ink. I began a relaxed search for a new printer.

Unfortunately, while in the middle of relocating my home office from the bonus room to vacant bedroom, I inadvertently knocked by printer off a tall dresser. After plummeting about four feet, the printer crashed to the floor, remaining in the location when photographed (see above picture).

I reconnected the printer. It cycled as though it would still work. However, although I heard the print heads moving as part of the initial power-up process, the printer displayed a jam message. Several times I tried to start the printer, each time with the same result.

After many years of excellent printing, I placed the printer in a bag for recycling. Office Jet 4300 served me well, and I definitely got my money's worth, at the tune of $0.42 per month, excluding printer cartridges, but that's another post.