What does it say about me that I’m anxious for the weekend to start so that I can … read a book? I know, the weather has been sunny and pleasant, and instead of thinking of outdoor activities, I’m thinking of homework. I could make the excuse that rain is predicted both days anyway, or even say I will be reading it on a deck or beach somewhere. But that would not be true.
Does telling you that the book is The Will to Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding by Robert Herjavec from ABC’s Shark Tank second book make it any better? For some, maybe. I’m looking forward to reading this book, because I’m curious about this race car driving shark. I received this book after attending a webinar hosted by PNC where Mr. Herjavec spoke about driving business. His talk was entertaining and informational. I came away from the 40 minute session with added inspiration. I nearly missed the announcement about the contest to receive his book and assumed, wrongfully, that I’d responded too late.
Ok, so I tried out a bit of alliteration with the title. Creating content for your blog can sometimes leaving you blank. Often the issue is not that you don’t have anything to say, it just when you sit down to say it, the words don’t come. I see this with my clients with telltale signs of blank stares, phone silence or unanswered requests for content.
Here are my 5 tips for beating blog block:1.) Embrace itYou’re stuck trying to string words together to create coherent sentences. Just stop. Write down any words that come to mind, it could be your to do list, grocery list, random movie quotes. Write down how you feel at that moment. Pick a letter on the keyboard and hold it down to fill the page. The point is to lessen the pressure to create a perfect post and just start writing and get out of your head.2.) ReadYou probably have trade journals/magazines, newspaper (digital or otherwise), gossip sites/magazines that you enjoy reading. Read an article or two, write down your thoughts or do a review. If it happens to relate to your industry or business, perfect. Now edit and post. If not, then it was a great exercise for your writing chops.3.) Update Content MapYou may call it a Content Calendar, Editorial Calendar or Social Media Marketing plan. Whatever the name is, the purpose of it is to provide a roadmap for developing your content. Look it over. When you put it together the topic, timing and tags made sense to you. Do they still? Are there new topics you’d like to add? Change it, the content map is meant to be a “living” document. 4.) TalkOne “trick” I use with my clients is just get them talking, about anything and everything. During a lunch meeting where we chatted about their family, their work, their hobbies, we came up with several “easy” topics for them to write about related to their business and customers. Sometimes the mere act of verbalization spurs ideas.5.) ShareShare an anecdote, funny quote, or image. If something made you laugh, got you thinking or was perplexing. Share it along with why you felt the way you did. Others probably had a similar experience. You know what I’m talking about. How many times have you seen a funny image that someone else has shared and found yourself chuckling. Pass it along. These are a few I use, there are many more out there. What works for you?
So in The Art of Check-in, I touched on tech at events and promised to get back to it in another post. Well, that is has turned into two. A discussion of the Hybrid Approach and Full Tech Approach.
With all the different ways tech is apart of my everyday life some think I would be gung-Ho for a fully computerized event. But I'm not.
Take for instance the event that Danico provided registration and check-out services for on March 15. The event was for The Bridge Youth and Family Services, it was their annual gala. For this event the Hybrid Approach was used for the the guest check-in, donation entry, auction tracking, and guest check-out. The evening was structured in a way where except of a few guests who needed or wanted to leave before check-out officially opened, that by the time things wrapped up from a program perspective and moved to more entertainment, everything was entered and ready for the guests.
So, let’s talk about event check-in. I know it’s not a “sexy” topic but it is one that needs a discussion. And no, I’m not talking about checking in with Foursquare, Facebook or any of those social media things. I’m talking about the “Welcome, to our event. May I have your name please” kind of check-in. (I will discuss the pros and cons of using technology during your event in future posts).
Someone recently reminded me that I’ve in working registration and check-out for 14 years either as a volunteer and/or professional. Man, that’s a long time! As a tech enthusiast, a process tinkerer and problem-solver, I keep massaging my team's check-in process, all with the goal of getting guests in quickly, while meeting the stated needs of my clients.
These last few cold days have inspired a lot of "house cleaning". Anything that prevents me from bundling up like a zombie in order to prevent frost bite is what I've been up to. This time is not reflective time where I ponder the meaning of life or Danico for that matter, but time to clear the decks of the pet projects. Those should have been done a long time ago projects and jus' cuz stuff that goes onto a "someday" list somewhere.
We all have them. Those things we think of that don't really have an immediate application but are fun to work on. If you are like me you have your client work, your volunteer work, your family work, and your personal work. With all of that work, sometimes it is hard to find time for the fun-jus'-cuz stuff.
How timely was it that the article by Jane Porter, How To Turn Your Insomnia Into A Productivity Tool in Fast Company's Business + Innovation section appeared in my Twitter feed? Recently I've been having trouble sleeping. I'm not quite sure why but so far this week it not been unusual to find me roaming my home at some odd hour. I don't sleep much as it is, I wake up automatically after 6 hours regardless of what time I go to bed. I also tend to wake early if it is bright sunny day even with light blocking curtains covering the windows. I just sense that the sun is up and that I should be up as well.
The past week or so, I get into bed and.....nothing. Can't drift off. This is odd for me, I tend to fall asleep soon as I burrow down under the covers. On the rare occasion that automatic sleep eludes me, I play a few rounds of one of the games on my smartphone, sometimes falling the sleep in the middle of a turn. However, these last few days that has not been working. I don’t know the exact cause, but there are some many exciting things happening all at once here at Danico. Between work on new service offerings being considered for launch soon, new website design and meeting so many new people (some of whom I'm happy to say are now clients), I’m finding it hard to sleep. I shut down all devices, do some stretches and crawl into bed. Just as my eyes close - wham! A few ideas flit through my brain, I grab my tablet or notebook, which ever happens to be next to the bed to hurriedly jot down my thoughts. With that out of the way, I try for sleep again. Nope, not coming. A couple of times recently, thoughts were so strong I was compelled to get out of bed, return to my office and work. The session was short, but only then was I able to sleep. Lucky for me my office is just down the hall. Not sure if I would have been compelled to drive to an office or just be awake all night. I don't want to find out. In the article, Michael Perlis, associate professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, posed the the question, "What is insomnia, but the gift of more time?” For the freelancer/small business owners/dreamer, there never seems to be enough time get all the things that need to be done and all the things you want to do. So, maybe Professor Perlis has a point. The moments where I give in and work at some odd hour, which seems for me to be 4:30 am, solutions/designs/code snippets, that have eluded me, flow freely. I race to grab them all fearful that they will vanish. I won't say that they are all brilliant but they definitely move me down the path of the right answer for that client or situation. This temporary insomnia is causing an internal war. The analyst in me wants to launch a study of the frequency, triggers and length of the episodes. The problem solver wants to just get it solved and get to sleep. The designer/developer in me wants to roll with, excited by the thoughts that spring forth, ready to harvest them and share with the world. So, who’s winning? I’ll give you a hint, is not the analyst (*wink*). Seriously though, I’ve learned to treat this temporary insomnia like “thinking out of the box” moments. Sometimes you just have to turn things on their head to find the right solution. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes that means doing the same with your sleep cycle. Hey, isn't there a saying about finding inspiration at the oddest moments? I thought there was or maybe I was just dreaming. Maybe those oddest moments are your sleepless periods. Why not run with them and see what greatness comes of it.
Reading Work From Home? A Phone Call May Be a Rare Thing by Teddy Wane, it got me thinking about my own transition out of a traditional 9-to-5 corporate job. I had a similar issue. My non-talking stretches were not quite as long as described in the article but I get the point. As I began writing more, I started to read out loud while editing. I found that the action of reading aloud not only improved my writing but also exercised my talking muscles. This change in my routine, I found it easier to converse the next time the phone rang or I was out with others, my mouth didn't have to try to remember how to move. The post brings up a good point about oversharing. I can't say that I don't overshare when I speak to a friend or loved after a quiet period but I haven't subjected a random person - yet. Since I've never really been all that into texting, I do tend to call after the second round of text conversation or if I need my hands available to multitask. Mr. Wane references the upcoming movie, Her, with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson and how they become "closer" through a series of long phone calls (am I the only one that thinks Her is reminiscent of the 2002 movie S1m0ne with Al Pacino?). It is rare that calls last longer that a few minutes in most cases. I do have a couple of exceptions in my life. How many times have you or someone you know jokes about the last time their cellphone is used as well - a phone?
Somewhat embarrassingly I admit that until recently, I didn't recognize my ring tone. My excuse is that there were so many gaps between calls. That has changed now with my days including more conference calls, online meetings and -ugh, spam calls. I think for a normally quiet person working from home could mean lapsing into a more hermit-like state of contentment. Scheduling time out to meet up with others, getting a change of scenery or starting a new hobby keeps those talking muscles working, lessens the friend/family dumping and yields a greater appreciation for the quieter moments.
OMG, where did the week go?! This week has been a great lesson on contingency planning. In between client work, I've been working on improving my master bathroom - myself, somewhat. I have help for the big stuff like installing the new countertop and connecting the plumbing. The project manager in me, planned and planned again before jumping in. I did research and even picked out alternatives - just in case, but…still I needed a plan c and a plan d. All of this re-planning reminds me of web projects. Think about it. How many come out the way you thought it would from the beginning. When you go in you think you understand what the client is looking for and the client thinks they know what they want, but in the end usually it is something different, a better different. However, to get there you have to be open to the possibilities and understand/know your limits. In my case, knowing I was not ready to do my countertop and connecting the sink. For a client, it could be knowing and admitting that despite "everyone being on Facebook" that they will not post enough to hold the interest of others. From this home improvement experience, I've learned to be an even more creative problem solver. I've learned that my contingency planning process works for more than websites :-)
When I was younger and fantasized about becoming a business guru, I'd planned to own an empire with offices in popular cities like Chicago, New York, London, and the like. I also was under the impression that business would be steady, predictable and linear.
As I sat down to write this blog I had something different in mind but this one kept coming up. How I got here, is that I've had a couple of client lately ask for ideas on implementing major changes within their organizations. As you might imagine a major concern was to not cause a prolonged disruption of the services they provide to clients and they didn't want to frustrate their team as well. I am a big fan of incremental approaches with small wins all along the way. The small wins allow for quick encouragement as well as an opportunity for adjustments.
So a couple of weeks ago I read the articles about laptop hobos and coffee shop etiquette. I'd even writing a lengthy post of my own, that I didn't post. I'd decided to shelve it, that is until today. I was meeting with a client at my local Panera. We'd chosen a non-rushhour time and purchased snacks to nosh on as we caught up. There were many people hanging out chatting - in person, along with a good number of those meeting or working on their laptops. I even saw a Panera employee helping a customer get their tablet connected to the free wifi. The whole scene brought me back to the laptop hobo article.
Sometimes we have too much technology….When is the last time you met your client in person for some old school face time? Email is great, online tools that work with your computer's camera are awesome, but sometimes it is just great to sit down for coffee or meal and really communicate with each other. I know this sounds weird coming from a techie but its true, I do schedule coffee meetings with my clients just to catch up, review major changes, etc. It is hard sometimes but is so worth it. I was thinking about it today as I am looking forward to meeting with a couple of clients next week. There aren't any issues, we are just touching base. I like talking with them and understanding their business goals, likes and dislikes. Just talking to them, helps me to understand if the solutions I'm creating are helping or not. It also helps me to know them as people. I have some really cool clients, if I do say so myself. It just so happens I saw this article on Inc.com Timeless Business Lessons from Don Draper, and it basically talks about how taking time to meet in person helps to identify the core problem which enables a true solution. Now, that's just my 10 second overview, you may want to read it yourself, it's a quick read. Does it convince you to do some old school face time?