Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Update - Jan 22-28

Blog Posts

Webinar Review: Shortcut to Creativity
This is a summary of a webinar on creativity. The webinar was based on the six thinking hats developed by Edward De Bono.

Creativity Blogs to Follow
In this post is a list of creativity blogs I follow on a regular basis.

Genius Scan App
Use the Genius Scan app to scan from anywhere and share the files as images or PDFs to the cloud or others.

Writing 365

With an end-goal of writing 365,000 words in 2016, my daily goal is to write 1,000 words per day. I exceeded this goal every day this week, setting a new record of 1,840 words on January 27. Although writing blog posts is one of my four categories of writing - the others are journal, devotional, and e-book - I have decided to post less frequently rather than daily. This simply means I will need to write more words per day in the other categories if I don't write a blog post. I also hope to write longer posts, perhaps splitting up the writing over multiple days.

At 1,000 words per day, the target for January was 31,000, which I exceeded on January 27.

Bible Project

As I wrote last week, I am still trying to incorporate action on the Bible writing project into my daily routine. I completed three chapters this week. Currently I am working on chapter 22 of Joshua, almost to the end of the book.


It doesn't seem possible that I have already been writing consistently for a month. January seemed like it went by quickly. I am happy to have reached the first month milestone.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Webinar Review: Shortcut to Creativity

This is a summary of a webinar on creativity. The webinar was based on the six thinking hats developed by Edward De Bono.

In my book list review for 2015 I included the book, The Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono. I was surprised when I participated in a webinar on creativity and discovered that the primary content covered was the six thinking hats approach as a way to respond to change.

In a rapidly changing environment, creativity is a key attribute needed to recognize opportunities and be ready to adapt.

What do you see?

In the webinar, we were asked the question, "How creative are you?" After rating our creativity levels, the presenter shared several images to solicit our input on what we saw. Here are the images that we studied:


The presenter used this exercise to introduce the paradigm of different perspectives. Each participant noticed different details, and we could not agree on the number of faces in the third image. How many do you see?

Another exercise was also simple: how many uses can you think of for a paperclip? Obviously, a paperclip is designed to fasten papers together, but it can also be used as a key, to clean out your ears (as more than one person responded), a temporary fastener for clothing, a tool to open CD/DVD drives (and the SIM card tray on your smart phone).

The presenter used these examples to illustrate that each of us is creative and able to see the same situation from different perspectives. This was an excellent transition into the six thinking hats.

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono developed the concepts of hats, probably based on the saying, "She wears a lot of hats," meaning that one person can hold many roles. The six hats approach quantifies perspectives about a particular situation into six hats, each represented by a different color.

Designed for individual thinking and group interactions, the six hats, when taken as a whole, allow a group to think about all aspects of a problem, situation, or opportunity. When "wearing" each hat, consider the situation only from that perspective.
  • White refers to the objective analysis of facts.
  • Red refers to feelings and emotions. Intuition, exploration of positive and negative emotions should be discussed while wearing the red hat. Especially in business situations, there may be a tendency to minimize feelings, but it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of feelings about a particular situation.
  • Black refers to the evaluation of risks and barriers, a critical judgment while keeping a holistic view. Think about the hazards and other negative connotations to identify potential problems before they arise.
  • Yellow refers to an optimistic view where opportunities and benefits are explored. Analyze the benefits of options to improve a situation.
  • Green refers to new ideas. Brainstorming without censoring ideas helps get additional input from the group. As always with brainstorming, quantity is better than quality. Once many ideas have been generated then they can be reviewed for quality.
  • Blue refers to the big picture. Focus on the goal. In the 7 Habits paradigm developed by Stephen Covey, this is Habit 2, "begin with the end in mind."

Whenever you are evaluating an opportunity or problem, take some time to try the six thinking hats approach.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Creativity Blogs to Follow

In this post is a list of creativity blogs I follow on a regular basis.

For me, reading online often leads to other websites and blogs. While is my primary blog, I also maintain a couple of private blogs. On one of those I keep a list of favorite blogs. Blogspot's list functionality displays the last update for a blog, and also sorts the list by the most recent post.

Blog | iMindMap

iMindMap is the software and training site for Tony Buzan, creator of the term mind map and evangelist for visual techniques to improve memory and brainstorming. While the iMindMap blog  often focuses on features of the iMindMap software, there are also articles on creativity and how others creatively use iMindMap.

eLearning Learning

This blog features articles and posts from experts on the topic of e-learning. The blog usually provides summaries and links to 8-10 articles. eLearning Learning is updated every day.

Presentation Zen

Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen and The Naked Presenter. His blog, titled after his book, focuses on issues related to professional presentation design. He frequently includes posts on storytelling techniques as well as design tips.

Austin Kleon

Author of Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes about creativity and design.


The company Anecdote is an Australia-based company specializing in business storytelling. The blog features articles written by the company's principal partners.

Sacha Chua :: living an awesome life

I first came across Sacha's blog while learning about sketchnoting, creating visual notes. Sacha is in the middle of a five-year experience where she is exploring personal interests without working. She posts on life hacking, computer programming, visual design, and other interesting tidbits. Sacha usually posts every day.

Nieman Storyboard

Nieman Storyboard is a publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. It explores the use of nonfictional storytelling. I discovered this blog while searching for articles on storyboarding, a the visual technique created by Walt Disney. However, this was a serendipitous find, and I learn something whenever I visit this blog.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Genius Scan App

Use the Genius Scan app to scan from anywhere and share the files as images or PDFs to the cloud or others.

My family tells me that I am extremely organized when it comes to my planning journal, but far less organized and unstructured (aka messy) when it comes to the physical world. It is true, I have to admit. I have a tendency to allow papers and projects to pile up on my desk. When my desk gets too cluttered, I will expand my collection to the drawers. However, recently, I have really made an effort to digitize as much as possible and minimize the need for physical organization of files and paperwork.

Genius Scan

One of the tools that I use to help with in the process of digitizing information is an app on my iPhone called Genius Scan. I have used Genius Scan for years as a way to scan on the go. The quality of smart phone cameras is excellent, and you can obtain high quality scans of documents quite easily.

Genius Scan, developed by The Grizzly Labs, promises to be "a scanner in your pocket," and it is actually that convenient. Some of the examples provided by the developers for the use of Genius Scan include:
  • Equipping employees for scanning from remote locations for contracts, training handouts, and brainstorming documents
  • Providing a convenient way to scan receipts from travel
  • Decluttering work areas (as I discussed above) by digitizing paperwork

The export screen for PDF

How to use the app

To use Genius Scan, simply take a photo of a document or select an existing photo. The app will prompt you for the boundaries of the document. The document will corrected with options for a black-and-white scan or a color scan. Once scanning is complete you can share the document with others via e-mail or text or upload the document to a cloud storage solution like Google Drive or DropBox.

How I use Genius Scan

Usually, I save documents to folders on DropBox. I have a folder for maintenance so I no longer have to save the multi-page paper receipts from the car dealer and the exterminator. I also have a document saved within the Genius Scan app to capture any business cards given to me. When my daughter's high school grades arrived in the mail today, I scanned the paper and tossed it.

At the end of each year, I review my journal and use Genius Scan to capture any notes from both the weekly pages and the notes section if I believe I will want to reference the information later.

While many apps exist for scanning documents, I encourage you to check out Genius Scan. The full version of the app is $6.99 but it is worth it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekly Update - Jan 15-21

This week went by quickly. Because Monday was a holiday, I enjoyed a three-day weekend. I wish I could say I was more productive as a result, but at least the week itself was, for me, a successful accomplishment of my writing goals.

Blog Posts

Writing 365

This week was the first with all green indicators for daily progress. Using Excel conditional formatting, I created a rule to change the indicator from red to yellow when any words are written for a specific day, and from yellow to green when the 1,000-word threshold is crossed. This week also marks by highest number of words written on one day, 1,739 words on the 18th.

In the My 500 Words challenge, I wrote over 500 words per day, but stopped writing when I reached my goal of 60,000. For the Writing 365 challenge, my goal is to write 1,000 words per day for a total of 365 days, slightly different than just writing 365,000 words. The cumulative total will, I believe, be over 400,000 words. For me, the key is to continue a daily writing habit.

Bible Project

Since initiating the Writing 365 project I have not spent as much time on the Bible project, writing out the Bible in it's entirety. I am still working to find the time balance to keep the momentum going here as well. When I conceived of the Bible project, my goal was to write a minimum of ten verses per day. Most of what I'm writing about now is the plot map of the tribes of Israel; the texts mostly contain geographical markers. Once I can press through the middle part of Joshua, the story aspect of the Bible picks up again.


I have often read that engaging in the same activity for 21 days locks it in as a habit. While there are other factors to consider before something becomes a habit. As I have been writing daily for 21 plus days, at least one milestone has been reached.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Flicker and Creative Commons

Use Flickr to find images with a Creative Commons license.

In yesterday's post I shared about Canva, an easy-to-use design application, to create header images for my blog posts. Part of my process involves locating images with Creative Commons licenses so that I can use them without having to pay royalties or purchase images.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing structure designed to help you share your artistic work with other while still reserving some rights and control. Basic levels of licensing include:
  • Commercial use allowed
  • Modifications allowed
  • Commercial use & modifications allowed


Flickr is an online photo and video sharing site. Members can upload photos and specify a number of settings for each image, including visibility and licensing. Members can add other members as contacts and share images to groups. Flickr also provides additional licensing information:
  • No known copyright restrictions
  • Flickr Marketplace
  • U.S. Government works

Advanced Search

To find images with open licensing, you will need to utilize the advanced search feature.
  1. Type a term into the search box.
  2. Click Advanced Search.
  3. Select the desired license type, in my case "All creative commons."

After browsing images, I usually find one that will work for my purposes. After clicking on image to view it, I download the appropriate size using the displayed buttons.

At Canva, the Twitter size design is 1024 x 512, so I look for an image size larger than the Canva specifications. I save the image to my Downloads folder and upload to Canva.

Finally, at the end of posts, I try to give credit to the photographer by adding Photocredit: Flickr Name "Title of Image" with a link to the image.

Flickr is free to join. Even if you never post images, I encourage you to use it as a source for images.

Title image created with Canva. Photo credit: Bill Rice - "Video Shoot."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Create Blog Headers Using Canva

In this post I describe how I use Canva to create headers for blog posts.

Headers with images

If you look through the design style of my posts from 2011 until now, you will see some changes through the years. Currently, I am trying to add image headers to each post.
  • You can only share to Pinterest if a post contains images. 
  • Including an image on a post ensures that Facebook will recognize the correct image when you share a post. 
  • Using headers can be a way to grab attention while conveying the theme of the post.


Canva is mostly free graphic design site created for those with limited graphic design experience. The motto of Canva is "empowering the world to design." At the time of this writing, over 54 million designs have been created by 7.3 millions users since Canva launched in 2013.

Canva contains libraries of designs, fonts, images, and layouts. Additionally, Canva features photo filters and icons/shapes. Canva is "mostly free" because a small charge is leveraged for certain design elements such as photos and other graphics. There is also a Canva for Work option, a subscription service.

The different types of designs are categorized as follows:
  • Social media posts
  • Documents
  • Blogs/e-books
  • Marketing materials
  • Social media/e-mail headers
  • Events
  • Ads

Basic layout

Canva is easy to use. For my blog headers, I simply navigate to the Canva website and select the Twitter Post. Once the blank canvas opens up, I import my selected background photo (usually from Flickr), find a select text style, and modify the text.

Downloading designs

Once I have designed to my satisfaction, I save the download the image as a JPG. Four options are available for downloading. If you use any Canva-provided images that must be purchased, the downloaded versions will include a watermark prior to purchasing the images.

For my blog, I upload the design while creating the post.

Have you used Canva? If not, I encourage you to give it a try.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Webinar Review: Talking About Change

Summary of a webinar on communicating about change.

Recently I attended a webinar focused on how to communicate most effectively about change. As you have heard before, the only constant is change. Whether it in business, school, or personal life, something is always changing or in transition. This webinar focused on crafting clear and concise messages about change within a business setting.

1-2-3s of Influence

1 Golden Rule
The 1-2-3s of Influence was the structural model used during the webinar. Step 1 is the golden rule of communication, always focus on the audience. In thinking about who we need to influence, ask the following questions:
  • Are the various audiences to whom we need to communicate familiar with the change initiatives?
  • What do you want your audience to do differently after hearing your message about change?
  • How will the upcoming changes benefit them?
  • How well do the various audiences know you?
  • Where will you meet resistance?

Write out responses to these questions for each audience you hope to reach. Once you have taken a few minutes to analyze your audiences you can begin to craft your message.

2 Commandments
The two commandments for communicating about change are to (1) create clarity and (2) connect personally. Start by writing out three points that you hope to communicate to your audiences. Next craft a message using analogies and metaphors to help your audiences better remember your message. Ideally, if you can incorporate stories of successful change into your message, you increase the likelihood of buy-in.

3 Powers of Persuasion
While the two commandments focused on crafting the message, the three powers of persuasion are all about the delivery of your message. The three powers are (1) presence, (2) reason, and (3) inspiration. To change the way people thinking and behave you must reach them using both facts (reason) and emotion.

An excellent example that the facilitator showed during the webinar is Martin Luther King, Jr's "I have a dream" speech.

Presentation design expert Nancy Duarte spoke at an independent Technology Education Design (TEDx) conference several years ago. In her talk she presented her analysis of King's speech. She identified an alternating pattern between "as is" and "what if."

Our final exercise of the webinar was to take our metaphor-filled three points and redesign our messages to reflect the pattern identified in Duarte's talk.

Are you undergoing any type of corporate change? If so, try following these steps to create an audience-focused message that will help you talk about change.

Title image created using Canva. Photo credit: Ed Uthman "HSCP 2009 Seminar 078"

Monday, January 18, 2016

What's in my bag?

The contents of my travel bag serve as my office away from home.

Back in the days when I occasionally toured with a small contemporary Christian trio, I learned that I need to take everything with me that I might need. I hauled keyboard stands, amplifiers, keyboards, cables, and power strips. The only provided service that I expected was power. Once I played for a wedding out in the woods and had to wire up a small lawnmower battery in order to provide power.

I have applied the same lessons to my office travel bag. Over time I have accumulated the various items that I use in my home office. It is nice to just grab my travel bag and go.

A bag story

A few years ago I decided that I wanted a leather travel bag. I wrote out all of the requirements: leather, cost less than $200, plenty of pockets for cables, pens, and storage, a zip top instead of a messenger-style bag, and a few other specifications. I found a manufacturer in China that sells directly to consumers. I ordered my bag and thought I was fairly happy with it.

However, my wife didn't particularly care for it, so she gave me what was, admittedly, a much nicer Coach men's bag. It was smaller than my Chinese leather bag, but I really liked it.

After a while, though, I realized that I needed something with more storage. I sold the Coach bag on eBay and bought an Alpha Bravo Andersen Slim Commuter Brief from TUMI. Instead of leather, I selected the ballistic nylon.

This bag has worked well for me, and has accompanied me on trips across the United States.

The contents

The version of the bag that I have has two small pockets, a large pocket for papers, a second large pocket designed for a laptop, and a back pocket for flat items. Inside the bag, there is also space for a tablet and a series of pockets for pens and business cards.

I keep the following items in my bag:
  • Mac computer with small mouse and power cable
  • iPad with power cable
  • Adapters for both Mac and iPad for VGA and HDMI
  • Notepad for brainstorming
  • Moleskine journal as my planner
  • Watercolor pencils for my planner
  • A random collection of pens
  • Earbuds

Do you have an office travel bag? What are the essentials that you must take with you?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Update - Jan 8-14

After viewing the blogs of others, I have been inspired to include a weekly update of blog-related activities. While this may be helpful for others, I hope that it will keep me motivated to continually writing regularly.

Blog posts

Writing 365

One of my goals for 2016 is to write 365,000 words, 1,000 words per day. I have completed two weeks of writing everyday. For the most part, I have consistently met my goal. I created a tracking workbook in Excel where I record:
  • the week number
  • date
  • number of words
  • category of writing (blog post, journal, e-book, devotional). 

From these four data fields I can easily calculate a variety of measurements and create the chart below.

Bible Project

Another long-term project that I have been working on since 2014 is writing out by hand the entire Bible. I started with Genesis and completed several Old Testament books before switching to the New Testament. I am currently back in Joshua. The chart below compares the Old and New Testaments by chapters completed. Looking at this, I feel a little overwhelmed by how much is left. However, several book have short chapters, so it may not be as challenging as it could be.


For both of these writing projects, the key is consistency of regular daily effort. In September, 2015, I wrote about this idea in a post titled, "The start of every journey." While the Bible project has been ongoing for several months, the Writing 365 project is new for 2016. However, it has reminded more than ever of how important it is to work incrementally but regularly towards goals.

What goals have you set for 2016? How are you doing two weeks in to the new year?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book List 2015

This is a list of books I read during 2015 that fit the purpose of the Personal Change blog to become more knowledgeable.

The themes of books I choose read each year vary by whatever projects or interests I have at the time I order the book. A benefit of e-books is that they are usually less expensive than print books.

1. From Word to Kindle: Self Publishing Your Kindle Book with Microsoft Word (Aaron Shepard)
I purchased this book specifically to assist me in publishing e-books on the Kindle platform. There is a lot of detailed information in this e-book, and it is worth the $0.99 to download the Kindle version.

2. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Austin Kleon)
3. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (Austin Kleon)
Both of Austin Kleon's books are fast reads and inspirational. His goal is to encourage your creativity.

4. Mindfulness, 25th anniversary edition (Ellen J. Langer)
There are many definitions of mindfulness. This classic book addresses the psychological construct of mindfulness, referring to alertness and situational awareness.

5. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vol. I. (John L. Stephens)
The author explored Central and South American between 1839 and 1842. This book, the first of two volumes, chronicles his many adventures and explorations.

6. Manga Crash Course: Drawing Manga Characters and Scenes from Start to Finish (Mina "Mistiqarts" Petrovic)
I can barely draw a stick figure, but I still aspire to be a better artist. I like the manga style, and found this book to match my level of interest and ability.

7. 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love (Rachel Aaron)
In conducting research for my book, 60,000 Words in 6 Weeks, I came across this brief e-book on strategies to boost writing output.

8. 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them (Ronald B Tobias)
The majority of stories in the history of storytelling feature similar plots. In this book, the author provides sufficient detail of 20 plots to help you craft stories of your own. There are many examples of each plot.

9. Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Steve Krug)
If you design websites or create websites, you need to read this book. The writing style is comfortable, and the steps to better web usability will improve the experience of visitors to your website.

10. Where Do You Get Your Ideas?: A Writer's Guide to Transforming Notions Into Narratives (Fred White)
This is a book designed to assist writings in finding ideas and building them into stories, both fiction and nonfiction.

11. Lean For Dummies (Natalie Sayer)
12. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles for the World's Greatest Manufacturer (Jeffrey Liker)

For a work project, I need to review the basic concepts of the lean manufacturing philosophy. Both of these book cover the basics. Since Toyota developed lean, The Toyota Way is essential reading.

13. Six Thinking Hats (Edward De Bono)
In this book, the author walks you through his process of organizing analytical thinking into six categories: neutral and objective, emotional, careful and cautious, sunny and positive, creativity, and organizing thinking.

What books did you read in 2015? What books are on your list for 2016?

Title image created in Canva. Photo credit: Barta IV "1800s Library"

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Behind the scenes: Text to Speech Video

This post contains a behind-the-scenes look at apps I used to create a tutorial video.

In yesterday's post, I shared a video that I created on how to enable the text to speech feature available in the Apple iOS operating system for iPhone and iPad. I have found the ability to listen to my written text very beneficial. It helps me catch grammatical and flow errors.

Rather than upload several screenshots to illustrate the process, I decided to record a video which included a demonstration of the text to speech feature in action.

My first step was to make an audio recording of Moira (my selected voice) reading a portion of the Gettysburg address. I recorded this using the Voice Record Pro app, installed on my iPhone. I connected the microphone to my iPhone and recorded while Moira spoke on my iPad.

Next I created two video segments using the Reflector app. The first segment consisted of configuring the settings for enabling text to speech. The second segment was for the demonstration itself. I then created the introduction using IntroDesigner app.

I sequenced the video segments in iMovie, recorded the voice over (several times), and added some background music.


Voice Record Pro 7 (VRP7) is a professional voice recorder which allows you to record voice memos and on-site sounds at unlimited length with configurable quality. It can record in MP4, MP3, and WAV formats. I frequently use VRP7 to record music performances. It is available for $2.99 on the US app store.

Reflector 2 is a wireless mirroring and streaming receiver that allows you to mirror iPad and iPhone displays on a computer. It is available for Mac, Windows, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Once the Reflector app is installed on the computer, it is easy to send the iPhone screen via Air Play with mirroring enabled. Reflector is available for $14.99.

IntroDesigner is an easy-to-use app to create introductions for videos. Designed to work with iMovie, I first create an intro and save it into the camera roll. There are a variety of templates available, and all text is editable. Using iMovie, I insert the intro at the beginning of the video. IntroDesigner is available on the US app store for $3.99.

iMovie, developed by Apple, is the intro-level app for creating video projects on Apple devices. I have it installed on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. However, I prefer to use my iPad for most video projects because I find the interface more intuitive than on the Mac. iMovie is $4.99 in the US app store.


In addition to a variety of apps, I used a special microphone to record the demonstration of Moira reading and also for my voice over. I have experimented with a variety of expensive and inexpensive mics to create better audio for voice overs on my iPhone. The Miracle Sound Deluxe Lavalier Lapel Clip-on Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone is extremely portable and connects directly to a smart phone. It is available on Amazon for $17.99.

Despite owning these apps for a while, this was the first demo video I made in this style. I found the process fairly easy and enjoyable, and hope to make more tutorial videos in the future.

I encourage you to check out these apps, download what you are comfortable purchasing, and start creating.

Title image created with Canva. Photo credit: Bill Rice - "Video Shoot."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

iOS Text to Speech Feature

Use the text to speech feature built in to the Apple iOS accessibility options to play back written text in a variety of voices.

Text to speech

Recently I posted on how to improve your writing in ten easy steps. Step number 8 on my list is to use a text to speech application to play back your written text. When proofreading your own writing it is very easy to skip over grammatical errors. You could also read your own writing aloud, but you may still miss a variety of errors. Finding someone else to read your writing back to you may also be challenging. The best solution is to use an app of some sort to do this.

Once I learned that text to speech was an option, I searched the app store to see what apps existed. Several different apps can be downloaded. While many of these are free to install, they frequently include desirable in-app purchases.

While searching online, I discovered that the Apple iOS operating system for iPhone and iPad includes a text to speech feature under the accessibility options. Accessibility is designed for those who are visually or hearing impaired. For the hearing impaired, options exist to flash the light when the phone rings. For the visually impaired, options exist to speak menu options and read back text.

Activating text to speech

Enabling the Speak Selection feature is easy. First, open Settings and then choose General. Select Accessibility and press Speech.

In the Speech section, ensure that Speak Selection is activated (switched to on). Use the slide in the Speaking Rate section to adjust the playback speed of the text. Select the Voices option to choose voices for different languages. For English, I downloaded the Irish voice, Moira. Siri, the iPhone's voice, is capable of switch languages. My wife and I experimented with paragraphs of text in English and Korean; Siri switched languages seamlessly.

Text to speech video

Image designed on Canva.
Photo Credit: David Goehring "Listening to music on the train."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quiet Time, Part 2

Take some time each day to unplug and think without distractions.

In Quiet Time, Part 1, I set the stage for why taking time each day is important. Here are some different ways you can unplug for a little while every day.

Get back to nature
Get up from your desk and take a walk around your block or your neighborhood. Leave your ear buds at home and your phone in your pocket. This is a not a walk for exercise, but just to let give your mind time to wander and make subconscious connections. I find that taking a thinking walk is extremely useful when I am wrestling with some problem or need time to compose a response to an e-mail.

Flipped Classroom Teaching on YouTube advocates this approach for teachers to help students process learning.

The gym that I visit to workout has large televisions prominently displayed for viewing from almost any position. Each of the treadmill and elliptical machines each feature their own small televisions; they also include a small shelf to place your smart phone. There have been times that I watched something on the television with the sound muted while listening to music on my iPhone.

However, more recently I have committed working out without watching television or listening to music. Like the thinking walk, exercising provides an excellent opportunity to increase the oxygen flow to your brain while providing a space for problem-solving.

Take a shower
The advantage of taking a shower or bath, or swimming in a pool, is that electronics and water do not mix. Thus, you must be disconnected in order to be in water. While more BlueTooth, waterproof speakers are available, I encourage you to take silent showers in order, once again, to provide your mind some time to process your studies, writing, or work.

Take a nap
I once read a book that described a technique used by Thomas Jefferson to discover new ideas. According to the book, Jefferson would sit in a chair while holding a metal ball in each hand. As he drifted off to sleep, the ball would drop from his hands into a metal pie plate; the noise would startle him awake. Whatever Jefferson was dreaming when startled is what he would evaluate for future development.

Even if you don't go to the effort that Jefferson did, simply taking a nap can renew your energy and provide a break for mental processing.

I encourage you to try one of these techniques to see if it improves whatever it is that you are working on. What other ways have you tried to achieve some quiet time?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Impact of Word Counts

What writing different numbers of words per day looks like at the end of one year.

A few months ago I visually illustrated the impact of daily, consistent effort. Regardless of what you do, taking action on a regular basis will result in some change.

In thinking about writing, I put together the infographic above. As I mentioned in a previous post, my goal is to write 1,000 words per day for all 366 days of 2016 (this is a leap year).

Each year I use a Moleskine journal for my yearly planner. The hardcover version of the Moleskine journal that I use has 240 pages. For several years I have had the same thought: I would like to write one full page per day (approximately 275 words for me), which would result in a 66,000 words. Think about it ... only one page per day, but a huge result at the end of the year.

In the infographic, you can see the same type of effect. Writing 250 words every day would result in 91,250 words, approximately the same length as The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Similarly writing 1,000 words per day would be slightly more than the word count for Bleak House by Charles Dickens, 360,947 words. These word counts come from the Word Counts of Famous Books infographic.

Of course, there is more to a successful book than simply a large number of words. The story must be compelling, and the writing descriptive and powerful. However, what keeps many aspiring writers from actually becoming writers is the production of words. If you are already writing, keep writing on a regular, consistent basis. If you have only dreamed of writing, get a journal or start a new document in your word processing program and writing something every day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Quiet Time, Part 1

Take some time each day to unplug and think without distractions.

My first cell phone

In 1997, while returning from visiting friends in Chattanooga, my car skidded on a patch of ice and I "failed to negotiate a curve" (according to the police report). My car careened off the road and down into a ravine, bumping trees along the way. The car came to a stop when it collided head-on with a  large oak tree. By this time I had already lost control of the car and was just along for the ride. When the airbags deployed, I was pushed back and momentarily disoriented. Once I came to my senses, I climbed up the hill, and was fortunate to be within walking distance from my dad's house. After this incident I decided to purchase a cell phone.

Prior to my accident I had never felt the need for a cell phone, but for the sake of safety, I thought it would now be a good idea. I found a plan with thirty minutes of talk time per month. I thought to myself that I would never need any more time than this. However, after a few days, I began to use the phone for occasional calls to my family and a periodic pizza order. It was not too long until I had to increase my monthly number of allocated minutes. Of course, today, most plans feature unlimited talk and texting while focusing on data plans as the primary source of revenue.

The first smart phone

Ericsson Mobile Communications launched the first cellular phone marketed as a "smart phone" in 2000. Since then the market for phones has exploded. When the latest Apple iPhone model was released in October, 2015, millions were purchased around the world.

If you walk down any street or shop in any mall, you will find individuals using their phones for talking, texting, gaming, taking photos of themselves, and listening to music. What did everyone do before smart phones were so cheaply available?

I can still remember as a child our landline phone in the house. It wasn't even a cordless phone. It was a phone mounted to the wall of our kitchen, and had a rotary dial. If you left the house, you were without a communication device. I would play with my friends in the wooded land and run around the neighborhood; my mom used a bell to call us home.

Is it possible to disconnect?

It probably seems like I am reminiscing in this post, but I am coming to a point. We need to get back at least some of that disconnected time every day. We are constantly bombarded by information from every direction through out the day. Even while exercising, many listen to music, or watch television, while walking on treadmills or at the gym.

Image created with Canva. Photo: Daytona Beach by Doug Pratt

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Writing 365, Part 2

My goal is to write 1,000 words every day in 2016.

In yesterday's post I wrote about Jeff Goin's My 500 Words writing challenge and how participating helped me discover writing process.

After writing my memoir, which was for personal satisfaction only, I decided to write a brief e-book on my writing process. I primarily did this in order to experiment with Amazon's Kindle publishing. The book is 60,000 Words in 6 Weeks.

While researching some topics for my book, I came across a book by Katharine Grubb, Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day. I also discovered the associated Facebook page, 10 Minute Novelists. It was on this Facebook page that I first read about the 365K challenge: writing 1,000 words per day for 365 days. Considering that most novels are between 80,000 and 100,000 words, 365,000 words is essentially four novels.

For several weeks I wondered about this challenge. Could I do it? Could I write 1,000 words every day for an entire year? I had thought before about the idea of writing 250 words per day, resulting in a cumulative year-end total of 91,250 words. After deliberating for a few more days, I decided that, yes, I would try to sustain consistent output for 2016. The next logical question then became, what should I write?

At first I decided that I would come up with a series of e-books, one per week, at 7,000 words per book. I created a list of topics and developed a seven-point outline, so that I could cover one point per day. However, after thinking about this process some more, I opted for a different approach: a smaller number of words in different categories of writing.

My goal is to write 250 words per day in each of the following categories: personal journal, blog post (what you're reading now), e-book (using the outlines I developed), and a daily devotional. I like this approach because I can spread the writing out across my day. In the morning I hope to write my devotional entry. Just prior to bedtime, I will type out my personal journal notes for the day. Sometime between morning and evening I will fire off a blog post and continue working through the e-book in progress at the time.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Writing 365, Part 1

My goal is to write 1,000 words every day in 2016.

In the fall of 2014 I read about a writing challenges by Jeff Goins. The My 500 Words challenge is to write 500 words per day for 31 consecutive days. Somewhere along the way I translated the challenge into 500 words per day for 120 days, a total of 60,000 words.

In Jeff's challenge you can write about anything, and each day's writing can be independent from the day before. However, I decided that I wanted to write a more cohesive narrative over of the course of the challenge. I decided to write a memoir, even though—hopefully—my life is far from over. I made a list of various stories from my life, including childhood, college decisions, professional experiences, and personal mistakes that I overcame. I never planned to publish what I wrote, but it was nice to have a written narrative. Using Lulu's book printing service, I created a print version, which came out to over 200 pages.

During the process of writing, I discovered a system that worked for me. The process included creating short-term goals to keep me focused and coming up with incentives to keep me motivated. Most importantly, I really saw for the first time the power of what regular, consistent activity can achieve.

I had hoped to keep writing after completing my own version of the challenge, but didn't have any ideas of what to write on a regular basis. Later in 2015 I learned about the 365K challenge, writing 1,000 words per day for an entire year.

Illustration designed using Canva. PC: Writing? Yeah. by Caleb Roenigk