Sunday, September 29, 2013

Consolidating "My Documents" into SkyDrive

If your hard drive crashed today, what would you lose? That's a question I have posed for years during workshops. The "train wreck" picture invokes a reaction not unlike the one you or I would have if suddenly finding everything gone. Having a backup is a necessary insurance policy. Like everything else, the available tools make the process easier.

My Pre-Cloud System
For many years, my digital filing system has centered around three folders on my desktop:
  • My Documents
  • Current Projects
  • Fingertip
The "My Documents" folder has served as my digital filing cabinet. Open it, and you see neatly-labeled folders containing reference material. No action is required on the documents which reside there. Just like the metal filing cabinet which houses reference papers, the "My Documents" is where I can go when I need to find information. My practice has been to backup everything in this folder once per month on an external hard drive.

The "Current Projects" folder served as the place for anything classified as a work in progress. The report on which I am working, the unfinished term paper for the class I am taking, and supporting documents for open projects will be found there. In fact, just opening that folder provides a clue as to what is on my plate. My procedure had been to backup this folder weekly on that same external hard drive.

The "Fingertip" folder is for those few items I use regularly. The school letterhead would be one example. Rather than having these items nested in folders requiring multiple mouse clicks to access, I have them in a folder on the desktop. I included this folder in my monthly backup.

The upside of the system was that I was creating a backup on a regular basis. If the hard drive crashed, I would not lose everything. At most, I would lose what had been created or changed during the past week from the Current Projects folder and whatever had been created or changed during the past month from "My Documents."

The downside was I could still lose some data. In addition, if something happened to both the computer and the external hard drive, all of my data would be gone.

Enter Dropbox
Dropbox offers me two significant advantages:
  • What is saved to it is available from anywhere.
  • What is saved to it is immediately synced to the cloud. If my hard drive crashes, anything in Dropbox is safe.
Dropbox became my "Current Projects" folder. I dragged all the documents and folders that were in the Current Projects folders into Dropbox and deleted the old folder. My rationale was that anything which was a work in progress was something I would want to be able to access from anywhere.

Likewise, the items in the "Fingertip" folder also need to be accessed from anywhere. To accomplish this objective, I dragged that entire folder into the Dropbox folder. So that I could still have the "Fingertip" folder on the desktop, I created a shortcut to the Fingertip folder and dragged it to the desktop.

Now, I had a system which would provide an instant backup for those items which are works in progress. In addition, I could get to them from anywhere.

Enter SkyDrive
The final move was to put "My Documents" in the cloud. When SkyDrive became available, I was one of the early ones to create an account. Back then, the account came with 25GB of free storage. That number has dropped to 7GB for those who sign up today.

My idea was to have everything in the "My Documents" folder sync to SkyDrive. Here is how I accomplished that objective:
  1. Download the SkyDrive desktop application.
  2. Open Windows Explorer, and click the arrow to the left of "Libraries," so that you see the various libraries (Documents, Music, etc.)
  3. Click the arrow to the left of "Documents" to reveal the "My Documents" folder.
  4. Right-click on "My Documents."
  5. Choose "Properties."
  6. Click the "Location" tab.
  7. Click the "Move" button.
  8. Browse to "SkyDrive" and select it.
Do you have a laptop or other computer from which you work? If so, download the SkyDrive desktop application there and perform the same steps to have the "My Documents" folder move to SkyDrive. The documents from each computer will now be available from each of the other computers. In addition, you would be able to log into SkyDrive from any computer which has Internet access.

My "filing cabinet" is now stored in SkyDrive and instantly backed up. If the hard drive fails, I lose no data. If my external hard drive is stolen or damaged, my data is still safe in SkyDrive.

I continue to perform a monthly backup of SkyDrive to that external hard drive. Just in case something was to happen to delete items from SkyDrive, and hence delete them on my computer, I want one more level of protection.

Safeguarding our important data has always been important. That's why people purchase a fire-proof safe or rent a safe deposit box. Our tools have changed, but the vigilance in protecting our data remains the same. SkyDrive for my reference items and Dropbox for my current projects and commonly-accessed files gives me the peace of mind and the convenience I seek. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Follow Up

In our busy lives, a to-do list keeps us focused on what we need to be doing. Wouldn't it be great if everyone operated that way? What if everyone followed through on his or her responsibilities without reminders? While it would be great, it's not reality. We all know people we must stay behind, remind, and remind again. Moreover, we need a system to make it easy.

Consider the following scenarios:
  1. You are working on a project with other people and have delegated certain tasks to them. How do you make sure everyone comes through with the deliverables?
  2. Someone borrows books or other belongings from you. How do you keep up with what you have loaned? What sort of trigger will cause you to mention something when an item is not returned?
  3. You have placed an order with a company. How do you keep up with what you have ordered? At what point would you call to ask about the status of the order? What is the trigger that would cause you to make that call?
As long as we live in a world where our happiness, success, longevity, or whatever else is in part dependent on someone else, we need to have some system that will allow us to hold others accountable.

At the start of my career, my organizational tools consisted of  a pocket memo pad and a set of tickler files. When someone borrowed something from me, I immediately made a note in that memo pad, something like "Expect to receive XYZ book from Steve. Loaned on Oct. 3." After asking myself when I wanted to see that reminder, I would drop the little slip of paper into the appropriate tickler file.

When I placed an order with a company, I would take a copy of the order and write "Expect to receive" on the top of the form, ask myself when I should expect for it to arrive, and throw the form in the tickler file for around that time.

When someone was supposed to handle a task and then get back with me, a little note saying "Expect to receive reply from John" went in the tickler file for around the time I wanted to check on progress.

Over time, "Expect to receive" was shortened to "ETR," and although the tools have changed, that acronym has stuck. Instead of a slip of paper thrown into a tickler file, most of those "ETR" items become tasks on my digital to-do list. When the ball is in the other person's court, I have a to-do beginning with "ETR," containing the name of the person, what I am expecting, and has an appropriate due date assigned. I can forget about it. The system does my remembering.

When the due date arrives, I am looking at the "ETR" item, and there is my trigger to take action. What if I want to see at a glance all of the things that I am expecting from other people? On my digital to-do list I search for "ETR." The result is a complete list of everything I am expecting from someone else in order by due date.

The further we advance in our chosen professions, the more our success depends upon getting work done through other people. Training is important. Having confidence in those with whom we interact is important. However, in spite of training and confidence, people drop the ball. When that happens, the consequences are often felt far up the chain of command.

When we delegate, it takes only a second to decide when we should expect completion of the task and make the appropriate entry on the digital to-do list. That simple habit provides peace of mind. You develop the reputation of being someone who follows up.

Relying on memories for all of our responsibilities does not work. Adding to that trying to remember what we are expecting from others makes the whole thing a recipe for disaster. Our lives are complex, and the complexity requires simple systems.

What are you waiting on from other people? Take a few minutes to identify those tasks, put them on your list, and assign due dates to prompt you to follow up. It's too simple not to do.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Not an Evernote User? Now is a Good Time to Join

If you are unfamiliar with Evernote, it is a web-based service allowing you to store information and access it from anywhere: your computer, tablet, phone, or any computer in the world with Internet access. That's the best one-sentence explanation I can offer. Not only can you access the information from anywhere, but you can also make changes to it from anywhere.

Time Management We are used to storing "stuff" on our computers: documents, presentations, pictures, music, etc. Only a few years ago, the computer was the hub of our digital lives. The model has shifted to one where our information is stored in the cloud and we can access it from many devices. The more that model becomes the standard, the more important Evernote becomes.

I started using Evernote a year ago and wrote about it in this post. The ability to create a new note and include text, audio recordings, and photos, all stored in one note, was the selling point for me. The note I create on my phone shows up in Evernote on my computer desktop. Evernote has taken the storage of reference information to a whole new level.

Evernote has both a free account and a "Premium Account," for which you gain more resources. I have the free account, which allows me to upload 60MB of information a month.

The purpose of this post is to invite you to create your own account in Evernote. I will admit that there is something in it for me. Evernote has started a "refer a friend" program. If you use the link I provide to you, not only will you be creating an account, but you receive the Premium version for a month. After that, you can pay for the Premium account, or your account will revert to the free version.

What do I get out of the deal? Well, when enough people use my link to create accounts, I get addition storage. To get started, click on the link below and create your account. Once you understand Evernote, you will be glad you did.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Here Is How Email Starts Fights

E-mail is great, but not for everything. This short video tells us when e-mail should not be used.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ordinary People...Extraordinary Things

What can you and I do that is a little extraordinary? What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Your Phone Tree Outdated?

In the last post, we examined the value of using your voice mail's "temporary greeting" function to give callers accurate information as to when you are available. Far too many people record a greeting and then forget about it. A second common area of neglect is the telephone tree. Since the people who work  in a business day-to-day are not the ones who call in and hear what customers hear, they may miss information which is no longer accurate.

time managementChange of Hours
Has your business changed its hours of operation? In particular, does your business change its hours during a particular season of the year?

The most common situation I run across, due to my connection with the education world, is school systems which are closed on Friday during the summers. They work extended hours Monday through Thursday and are closed Friday, realizing a cost savings in air conditioning and employee gasoline consumption, just to name a couple of advantages.

The problem becomes that the telephone tree, which was accurate from September through May, is now inaccurate from June through mid-August. Anyone who calls the school or school district on Friday hears a greeting which indicates today is business as usual, yet the person cannot get through to anyone. No matter what extension one selects, voice mail is the result. Leave a message early Friday morning, with the expectation of having the call returned later in the day, and you will be sadly disappointed.

Does your business change its hours during a particular season? If so, has your organization assigned one particular person to be responsible for updating that greeting? Do you even know how to update the greeting on that telephone tree? Typically, the focus is on setting up the tree when a new phone system is installed. Once the initial setup is complete, maintenance of it is forgotten.

When people call your business, do they hear a list of extensions which include people who haven't worked there for four years? Change of Personnel
When people call your business, do they hear a list of extensions which include people who haven't worked there for four years? Has your company reconfigured departments, yet no change has been made to the telephone tree? From your end, you are frustrated with people who keep calling your department when they clearly need to be talking to someone else. From their end, they did exactly what the outdated telephone tree prompted them to do.

When someone is hired or someone leaves the organization, who is responsible for updating that extension in the message customers will hear? What is the procedure for keeping that person updated on personnel changes?

Call Your Own Business
One of the best tips I received as a new school administrator was, "Call your own school." You then see how long the phone rings before someone answers and the manner in which the call is answered. In addition, you get a chance to work through your own telephone tree and see how accurate it is.

"Call your own school." Checklists are the Answer
We are busy people. We are often too busy to put in place the systems which will maintain our work. Simple checklists serve as the vehicle for identifying the tasks which must be done, by whom, and when, in order to keep the the system maintained.

What are the steps to be taken when someone is hired? For those who handle hiring, does the list of steps include informing the person who updates the voice mail extensions? What are the "to-dos" when someone leaves the organization? In addition to being sure you get their keys, does that list include notifying the person who will remove this person's extension from the telephone tree?

Do the hours of business change seasonally? If so, does a particular person have as a repeating task to update the greeting on the telephone tree? And, since changing that greeting involves a number of steps, is the list of steps readily available when it's time to update the tree?

The first question for some businesses will be, "Where is the manual explaining how to do all of this stuff, anyway?" My question is, "Who will be the one responsible for finding it or making the phone call to secure a new one from the company which installed your telephone system?"

Our technology needs to work for us. But for the technology to work, we must be serious about maintaining it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Do You Know How to Set a Temporary Greeting?

"Hi, this is Penelope. I am away from my desk right now. If you will leave me a message, I will call you back just as soon as I can."
time management

So, you leave a message for Penelope and assume your phone is going to ring later that day. It doesn't. And it doesn't ring the next day either.

You call again, get the same outgoing message, and leave the same request for a call, although probably not in the same chipper tone as last time. The day passes with no response, as does the next day.

You call again, but this time you navigate the telephone tree to a receptionist. Your conversation begins with, "I left a message on Penelope's voice mail last week and left a second message earlier this week, but she has not returned my calls."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Penelope has been on vacation and will not be back until Monday of next week," is the response. Wouldn't it have been nice to know that last week?

...find the manual which came with the phone when the system was installed. Technology has the capability to make our lives easier, such as being able to offer helpful information through our voice mail greetings. Yet when poorly used, it creates a frustrating experience for those who are getting old and inaccurate information.

If you have the ability to create an outgoing voice mail message, you more than likely also have the ability to create a "temporary greeting." The temporary greeting allows you to record, "Hi, this is Penelope. I will be out of the office from August 4 through August 16th. If you need assistance, please call Jane Doe at 555-1234. If you would like to leave a message here, I will return your call on August 19th." Your system will even allow you to specify a date when this temporary greeting will expire and your normal greeting will magically return.

If you do not know about this capability, find the manual that came with the phone when the system was installed. It will explain helpful features about which you may not know, features that will make life easier for you and those who will be contacting you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Save Time for What?

In a blog all about saving time and getting organized, one of the questions we must keep ever present is, "Save time for what?" The answers differ for each of us. For many of us, the answer is that we can save time on the mundane and direct it to the creative aspects of our lives.

By the way, in this performance, it's not a band with a choir behind them. It's the band that's also doing the singing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Productivity is Not Just for Adults

Talking with elementary students after
a workshop on student planners.

A child's to-do list
via Carissa GoodNCrazy
While we see examples of successful adults who did not experience much success in their formative years, those stories are the exception rather than the rule. Even then, success did not come because of the mistakes made early on, but in spite of them. Success in one's youth opens doors and puts a young person in a position for later success.

Teachers will tell you they see their share of students who have more than enough ability, yet poor organization holds them back. At the same time, many other students of lesser ability make school look easy. Organization is a gift we can give young people that will benefit them long after their school days are behind them. In fact, how many times do we hear adults talk about being thankful for good habits, instilled early, which pay dividends now. 

Writing things down, and having one place to record them, is the single most important step for a person to get organized. When it's all written down in one place, it's easy to decide what needs to be done next, regardless of your age. The excuse of, "I forgot" becomes a thing of the past. Prioritizing becomes easy, planning becomes easy, goals start to be accomplished, productivity goes up, and stress goes down.

It Starts in Elementary School
As a former elementary principal, providing students with a planner (starting in first grade) was a priority. That single notebook was the one-stop-shop for students to record homework, tests, school events, and happenings outside of school. It also served as the perfect place for writing communication from school to home. Parents only have to look one place to see everything.

Does your child's school use student planners? If not, purchase your own in the school supply section of most any store. Encourage its daily use and take a moment to look at it each day. That one tool, used consistently, makes a huge difference. 
The to-do list from a younger child.
via tumblrisforlulz

Too Cool for High School?
The high school years bring a flurry of activity. For a planner to work, it has to be with the person, and teenagers often don't want the bulk of a notebook-sized planner. Day-Timer and Franklin-Covey manufacture excellent spiral-bound pocket-sized planners that fit in a back pocket or purse.The best style is one which features two pages per day. The left-hand page features a spot for appointments and a section for to-dos planned for that day. The right-hand page provides a place to record anything which comes up during the day: homework, announcement of long-term projects such as term papers, or pertinent items from the daily public address announcement.

After school, the student has one responsibility: handle what is written on those two facing pages. Do what is in the "to-do" section on the left-hand page. Clarify what has been written on right-hand page. If the teacher announces a term paper will be due two months from next Wednesday, the student quickly jots that announcement on the right-hand page. That evening, the student breaks down that big project into its components and puts dates and to-dos on the appropriate pages.

Smartphones are Way Cool
For those of you who don't read "5-year-old," the list reads:
"Find a Bad Guy" and "Be Wolverine."
via imgur for werewolf
Not only are they cool, but smartphones serve as fantastic organizational tools. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous, and sales of smartphones now outnumber those of other cell phones. A smartphone does not magically make one organized, but it makes organization easier, allows for far more detail about any responsibility, and makes retrieval a breeze. I keep my calendar on Google Calendar, store a very-complete contacts set on Google Contacts, house a wealth of reference information in Evernote, and keep up with every single to-do for now or the future in Toodledo.

The great thing is that every one of these items synchronizes across devices. A student can add to or retrieve information from these sources from a smartphone, tablet, or any computer that has Internet access.

I wrote about Toodledo in a six-part series on my blog beginning with this post. Having been an Outlook user for 10 years, Toodledo gives me all of the power I enjoyed in Outlook, and will handle the workload of the busiest executive. Yet,it is simple enough a student can use it. Toodledo offers two types of accounts. I use the free option, and feel that will suit the needs of most people.

We want students to acquire skills which are relevant for later life. Organization is one of them, and it's an amazingly simple one to acquire.

"Planning is bringing the future into the present
so you can do something about it now.
                                                       --Alan Lakein

Monday, September 09, 2013

Saying "No" Isn't Just OK; It's Imperative

During one presentation, participants and I talked about how to organize the task list to get the most done in the shortest amount of time. One participant asked, "Is it OK just to not do something?" - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and moreWhat a great question, and what an important question! The answer is not only "yes," it is OK to leave certain things undone, it is essential. Today's world presents unlimited choices and finite time. We could easily spend all day watching YouTube. One diversion blends into the next and all of them are "nice."

There is nothing wrong with a little diversion, but I think there are two important points to be made:
  • We must recognize when we are engaged in diversion.
  • We must recognize that if important tasks are not being handled, minimizing what does not need to be done in the first place is a prime place to start recouping some time.
Take a good look at your to-do list. Is it longer than you would like? If the answer is "yes," start looking at what could simply be eliminated with no harm being done. This sentiment was echoed by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, in his keynote to educators several years ago at a national conference. Collins advocated having a "stop doing" list.

Examining your to-do list will help in another way. When you realize the volume of what you have on your plate, you are less likely to take on trivia.

When we say "yes" to one thing we are by definition saying "no" to something else. In these busy times, let's make sure we are saying "yes" to the right things. Learning to say "no" to the others is a good place to start.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Control Without Being Controlling

TED talks are lectures of 18 minutes or less heralded as "ideas worth sharing" in the areas of technology, entertainment, or design. For a little more background on the series, you may want to read this entry on Wikipedia. This particular talk should be of interest to the musicians reading this blog. The speaker and former conductor Itay Talgam uses video of six twentieth-century orchestral conductors to illustrate the concepts of control and collaboration. I found it to be a very interesting piece.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Peter Drucker on Focus

time managementCell phones ring, visitors drop in, e-mail comes rolling across the screen. Maintaining focus can be a challenge, and the challenge is only become worse in this age of constant and instant availability.
One of my favorite books is The Effective Executive by management guru Peter Drucker. Despite its 1966 copyright date, it remains a hallmark book on time management. One of my favorite passages is this one:

"To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, therefore needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours." (Page 29)
While opportunities to fragment our day increase, the fact remains that nothing of much worth is going to be accomplished without some degree of focus. How can we create the "chunks" of time in an age that so desperately tries to fragment our lives? Below are five suggestions:
To have dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.
  1. Allow things to "pile up" and handle them in one group. This technique applies to such things as e-mail, voice mail, and the U.S. mail.
  2. Stay ahead of deadlines. When we bump up against deadlines, we are invariably causing problems for other people. Naturally, they call, e-mail, and drop by for a "status report." Staying ahead of the game eliminates the need for others to "check up" on you, and provides more time to focus on the project at hand.
  3. Visit other people on your own time schedule. If drop-in visits from the same few people are a problem, drop in on them first. In this way, you are doing it on your schedule. As a principal, I made it a point to be in the halls before the start of school and circulate through the building. If a teacher had a quick question, my presence coming down the hall provided the perfect opportunity. Those quick interactions in the hall reduced the number of interruptions throughout the day.
  4. Plan your work, and make it easy. We interrupt ourselves. We often do so by turning from the difficult job at hand to some diversion that is easier and more fun. To combat that temptation, make what is at hand easy, and hopefully make it fun as well. Break the overwhelming goal down into manageable tasks that are clearly worded. All to often, the to-do list contains items which have rolled from day to day simply because they are ambiguous. Clear up the ambiguity by making decisions and asking questions.
  5. Group related tasks. Grouping applies to more than e-mail and voice mail. When a few quick face-to-face meetings are needed, handle them all in a group. Go from one person to the next as you make your way through the building. Do the same with errands. Once you get in the car, go from one to the other.
When our work is easy, interesting, and fun, there is less temptation to succumb to the interruptions in our lives. Focused or fragmented? It's a choice. Nobody is going to protect our time for us. That one is up to us.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Clever Way to Escape from a Bad Meeting

Last week, we learned how to create a recipe in IFTTT that calls your phone when your favorite team scores. (Well, there is some lag time. You actually get a phone call at the end of each quarter.) Today, you will learn a clever way to escape from one of those bad meetings.

Read any time management book, and you are sure to mind discussions about meetings. Most of them are bad. They are ill-planned. They drag on for too long. Little thought is put into who really needs to attend and at what point some members may be dismissed. Does this description sound like what happens in your organization?

 How many times have you been sitting on one of these meetings wishing you would get an urgent phone call, one which would require you to excuse yourself from the meeting? Let's set up a recipe with IFTTT which will do just that.

If you have not already done so, go to and create a free account. You will then be ready to create your first "recipe."

On the dashboard, click on "Create."


On the next screen, click on the "this" link. You are creating the "trigger."


You will now see a list of "channels." In this case, we are going to choose "Email."


You may get a message to "Activate" the channel. When you use a channel for the first time, you will generally be asked to activate it. It takes only a couple of mouse clicks.

On the "Choose a Trigger" screen, select "Send IFTTT any email."


On the next screen, click "Create Trigger."

We move on to the "that" part of the recipe. Click on the "that" link.


I see another list of channels. Choose "Phone Call." 


On the next screen, you have only one option. Click on "Call my phone." IFTTT will use whatever phone number you gave it when you created your account. You will want to use your cell pone in this trigger, so be sure your cell phone is the one IFTTT has in your account settings.


On the next screen, click "Create Action." You can customize your messages. Highlight and delete the fields which appear be default in the message box and write your own, such as the one I composed for my recipe: 


After clicking "Create Action," the next screen presents our recipe: "IF Send any email from (your email address) THEN call my phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx." If you wish, write a description in the space provided. Click "Create Recipe."


One small task remains. In your phone's contacts, create a new contact. Call it something like "IFTTT" and for the email address, enter "" You are ready to put the plan into action!

The next time you are in a meeting from which you need to escape, take out your phone and create a new email message. Choose "IFTTT" and cllick "Send." You do not need to compose a message nor even a subject line. When your phone rings, you hear your "urgent" message, offer your apologies, and make your escape!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Keeping Your Blog Going, and Going, and Going

This blog began on August 30, 2004. The primary reason for starting the it was to serve as a follow-up for people who attend my workshops. Nine years and over 1,200 posts later, that primary focus remains unchanged. At the same time, I realize there are many who visit who has never met me, yet are enjoying what they are finding.

Starting a blog is easy. Keeping it up, for many people, is the tough part. The newness wears off. We get busy. We run out of things to say. Pretty soon, the blog has gone the way of most of our New Years resolutions.

What has kept this blog going at a fairly regular pace for nine years? What has kept it fresh and fun to write? In this post, I am going to share what has made a difference for me in hopes that it will help other bloggers.

Compose posts now. Post them in the future.
The posts you are read on any given day are not composed that day. They are sometimes composed weeks ahead of time. They are composed when the thought occurs and schedule to post on a day which seems appropriate. Blogger allows me to schedule a date for the post to appear. I can write the post when the thought is hot, schedule a date, and let Blogger handle the rest.

I generally post three times per week. It's not that I have been writing at that interval. Sometimes I will write three or four posts in a single day. Sometimes I will go a week without writing anything. We all get busy and at other times, we all have "down time." I use some of that down time to compose material that will automatically appear during the busier times.

What I write has to matter to me, and if it matters to me, maybe it will somehow touch you as well. Remind yourself to post.
Anyone who knows me well knows how important my "Repeating Task List" is to me. I wish I had a nickel for every time I hear someone say, "I do it when I think about it." The same holds true for me. The only difference is that I set up a system that causes me to think about it when I need to be thinking about it.

I have a repeating task in my digital task list reminding me to compose new blog posts. This reminder appears every Monday. My goal is to compose five new posts that day. I believe in "batching" my work. When I get into the blogging mindset, and am "on a roll," I find my self more successful than if I write a single post at more regular intervals. Once a week, a task stares me in the face reminding me to post.

Material does not have to come exclusively out of our heads. Responding to the thoughts of others and putting a different twist on those thoughts makes for interesting material. We can also take current topics and combine the viewpoints from different sources into something that is fresh and interesting.

Take notes on the fly.
Good ideas occur at unlikely times. They come to us in the middle of meetings, sitting at a traffic light, during conversations, and reading the works of others, just to name a few. My phone is never more than an arm's length from me. A memo pad (that also holds my drivers license and credit cards) is always in my shirt pocket. I realized back in high school that good ideas, like opportunity, sometimes knock only once. Getting it from the brain to paper (or in recent years, digitized) is one of the best habits I ever acquired. When the idea occurs, I create a new task in my digital system, enter the basic idea, and include the word "blog" somewhere in the task. The search capabilities of that digital list allow searching for the word "blog" and seeing a list of all of the blog ideas accumulated.

Make it matter to you.
I enjoy going back and reading my own blog. I hope that does not come across as egotistical. If I don't enjoy it, I shouldn't think that you will enjoy it. What I write has to matter to me, and if it matters to me, maybe it will somehow touch you as well.

Comments matter.
For those who comment from time to time, thanks! From my end, I can never be sure what resonates with others or where I need to go into more detail. Your comments help steer the ship. They also remind me that my time putting this blog together does make a difference.