How To Plan for a Blog Hiatus

A while back, I took a bit of a blog break. And during the month or so of not posting consistently, everything that could have turned my world upside down, did. Fortunately, among the bad, there was a lot of good. My little sister got married, I have some exciting new things potentially happening on the career front and my loved one was released from hospital and is doing really, really well.

Throughout that time, the biggest thing I didn’t do was continue to post regularly. Any content manager will tell you that consistency is one of the most critical indicators of success. And I’ve been guilty of just the opposite. To remedy that should I find myself in a month-long, seemingly endless round of life making my plans on my behalf, I’ve decided to prepare myself using a few content “cheats.”

Pre-writing a few posts

I plan to pre-write some “evergreen” blog posts to put up for when I my focus can’t be with my readers. It’s not fair to my followers who count on weekly content to not read a post in more than a month. And it also undermines my credibility – I can’t be telling people to post consistently if I’m not doing so. Evergreen posts are posts that have a timeless appeal – they’re just as relevant when they’re written as they are a few weeks or months later.

Posting “Lean”

If I don’t have time to compose a full length post, concentrate on writing a short one – even a few well-chosen words is better than no post at all.

Putting myself on a schedule

I schedule my writing time for others. I schedule my social media posting times. I schedule everything else about my life… except my writing. It’s time that I should be guarding just as fiercely as I guard the time for my morning runs. Right now, I’m shoe-horning it in between all the other stuff I do, and that’s not okay.

What’s Happening

If I’m at a loss for a topic (hey, it happens to everyone) and that’s what’s holding me back, I’ll check out what’s happening in the world and comment on it. (and there’s always something happening in the marketing world to comment on).

Experimenting With Other Mediums

Podcasting, vlogging, infographics – there are so many other ways besides writing to create and distribute content, and I’m certainly exploring alternatives to writing a post. The bonus? Visual content is shared much more frequently than written content on the web.

I’m curious about how you schedule your writing time, readers. Let me know in the comments how you work consistent posting into your schedule.


My Rebuttal to the Seven Rules For Managing Creative People

Last week, this article, Seven Rules for Managing Creative People by Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic from the Harvard Business Review blog caused quite a reaction online. To put it mildly, most commenters found the condescending tone off-putting, and many wondered if it was an April Fool’s Day post posted a day too late. Indeed, if any employer were ever to follow these seven rules to the letter, I doubt they’d have anything to show at the end except an exceptionally high staff turnover rate.

I read the article and was dismayed at the way creative types were portrayed. The words “egotistical,” “anti-social,” “eccentric,” “erratic” and so on were associated with those that create. But to me, that’s like stating that every single senior executive is a sociopath – it’s just not true. Creatives, just like everyone else, can’t be painted with a single swipe of a condescending brush. We’re not all a homogeneous group of unreliable, rebellious, management-shunning free spirits who disdain the feelings of others. But, there were some points that were hidden within Chamorro-Premuzic’s post that had some validity. I decided to find those points and re-write Chamorro-Premuzic’s seven rules; albeit with a more positive tone.

  1. Spoil Them And Let Them Fail: It’s fine to encourage the creatives in your organization to take risks, but it’s not okay to treat any employee – creative or not – like a child. Unconditional support is great, and people do learn from failure, but the fact that Chamorro-Premuzic suggests letting people do the absurd and then celebrate it is short-sighted. Yes, innovation is born from risk, but risk does need to be tempered with common-sense in the business world.
  2. Surround them by semi-boring people: Why would anyone want to be surrounded by semi-boring people? Pairing creative types with other creative types will encourage more thought-sharing behaviour – and will encourage innovation. I do agree with the author when he states that diverse teams are critical to moving things along, but I do not agree that a creative will refuse to work with like-minded individuals and that nothing would get done if they put a room full of creatives in charge of a project.
  3.  Only involve them in meaningful work. I agree that innovators want to be involved in work they feel is meaningful, but doesn’t everyone? Of course, there are people who go to work, collect the paycheque and go home, but they’re hopefully the exception in most organizations. And calling creative types bi-polar in this point was just insulting, Mr. Chamorro-Premuzic. And, to your other point, I can explain exactly why my work has meaning – and so can most others. Telling creatives that they don’t have the words to state why their work is meaningful is quite a bold, incorrect statement.
  4. Don’t pressure them: Freedom and flexibility is a good thing in the workplace. Time and again, studies have shown that most employees will work better and more productively in such an environment. It’s not just those who are creative that appreciate such things in a workplace.
  5. Pay them poorly: Excuse me?! This is where the author lost me completely. I’m sorry, but “job satisfaction” does not pay the bills. I value my time and my work at a rate that I think is fair for what I do (see my previous post, What Are You Worth?). And I certainly wouldn’t accept poor pay because I feel like I’ll do a better job because I’ll get genuine praise instead. I have commercial needs – a mortgage and bills. Last time I checked, a genuine ‘thank you’ from a supervisor isn’t a currency I can use to keep a roof over my head.
  6. Surprise them: Not every creative I know will take a different route to work daily or never order the same thing twice. People come in all stripes – creative people included. Not every creative thrives when things are complex. But I agree with the author on this point: chance are, if you present a problem to a creative type, they’ll likely give you a considerable number of potential solutions in return.
  7. Make them feel important: Okay, this is one area where the author and I agree. If you treat every employee just like the other employees, the superstars won’t shine and they will go elsewhere, and the ones that are chugging along will keep with the status-quo and won’t do anything but the basics. Treating employees as they deserve to be treated makes sense. A poor performer shouldn’t get the same rewards as a great performer and vice versa. But not every creative employee is worth that recognition. If they’re not a star, don’t treat them like they are because you think your “temperamental creative” might get upset if you don’t break out the kid gloves to handle their fragile egos.

Chamorro-Premuzic’s final caveat, that creative innovators are rarely good managers or leaders because they’re too focused on themselves, rebellious and anti-social, is crazy. I may be generalizing here, but the creative types I’ve had the pleasure of reporting to challenged me to be better. They would question my decisions, provide additional perspectives that I may not have thought about and generally, push me to do my best each and every day.

I think every creative would agree – we’re not all the same. Just like you can’t generalize that every accountant is boring and unwilling to innovate, you can’t assume that every creative is one step away from being a self-important psychopath who will work for peanuts. You may be a thought leader, Chamorro-Premuzic, but this is one area where I really hope that your advice is not taken as fact in every situation.

Making Time for Fitness – Four Reasons Why It’s Worth It

fit_womanI went to the gym today for the first time in a week due to a tonne of obligations (I usually aim to do something physical three to five times a week). It felt good to move. It’s time that requires me to be ‘in the moment’ because, during a Kettlebell class, I could get seriously hurt if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing. My last two posts talked about productivity. This post is different – we’re going to talk about how taking a “time out” FROM work each day can help you be more productive AT work – and may even earn you a little extra cash.

What? Wait a second. How can taking time to work out make you more productive? And how can taking time AWAY from work help you earn more money?

Here’s how:

  1. Increasing your blood circulation during exercise increases blood flow to the brain – making you feel more alert. Not only that, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that regular exercise also helps keep your critical thinking skills and learning ability sharp as you age. Even 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity will help you feel more awake, and thus able to better focus
  2. You sleep better. Getting enough sleep is something most adults struggle with, especially when juggling everything they have on their plates. Working out will help you get a good night’s sleep – and a good night’s sleep will help you be better able to focus during the day. Aim to try to work out earlier in the day if possible – if not, try to ensure that you leave at least three hours between your workout and bedtime. Otherwise, that better sleep will be elusive because your mind, heart and muscles will be primed for more movement
  3. Your mood will improve – exercise releases all these great chemicals into your body – Seratonin (a natural mood enhancer), Endorphins (the body’s “natural painkillers”), Dopamine (balances ones sleeping and waking cycles) and Epinephrine (our “fight or flight” nerochemical). Exercise balances out these neurochemicals and those that regularly move are less prone to stress, are better able to deal with daily pressures, have less chronic pain and are generally, happier people. Some studies have also noticed that people with mild symptoms of depression can see an improvement in these symptoms with regular exercise (but if you think you are suffering from depression, please see a doctor before starting an exercise regime)
  4. You may get earn more. A recent study by Cleveland State University professor Vasilios Kosteas noted that people who regularly hit the gym were likely to be making about nine percent more than non gym-goers. The study showed that the increased productivity that regular exercisers brought to their jobs made them more valuable to their employers. Add to that that people who work out tend to be healthier than their sedentary counterparts and employers may also see a decrease in health benefit costs from their fitter employees

So, when are you going to start taking time away from work so that you can be more productive when you’re in your office? Just promise me that if it’s been a while since you worked out, that you start slow or check with your doctor – getting injured isn’t productive for anyone.

Increasing Daily Productivity

In my last blog post, I talked about what happens when the dreaded Unproductive Day happens. We looked at how to get your day back on track when you’re going down the road of sloth and the final point was to take a moment at the end of your day to plan the next. But that’s only the start. By planning to be productive, you can increase your daily personal efficiency. Here are some tips to help you get there:

  • Make the ultimate to-do list. Take some time (usually about two hours is enough) and write down everything you need to do in the next month. Everything from calling suppliers to making a dentist appointment should be on the list. After you’re done, sit back and look at your list. Overwhelming, isn’t it? Not sure when you’re going to accomplish is all, huh? I can see you nodding. So let’s keep going.
  • Classify the tasks on your list. Which ones are critical? Which ones are unimportant but would be nice? Which ones can you delegate? Which ones look so big you’re not going to finish them in the near future? I personally colour-code my list. Red items are must-dos, yellow items are nice-to-dos, blue are delegate and so on. Choose a system that works for you. It could be sub-lists, colour coding or some variation. Are things looking a bit more manageable now? Great! We’re moving on.
  • Take those too-big tasks and break them down into chunks. “Create a website” is so much bigger on paper than, “write two paragraphs about my business for the website” and “choose three possible images for the home page.” Breaking down the big items makes them far more manageable
  • Delegate what you can. Ask your friend if she’s willing to car pool your children to soccer. Sit down and chat with your spouse or partner about sharing cooking duty. Assign a project to a junior at work (bonus points if you assign the whole task start to finish so the person gets a chance to lead a project). Any projects you can move off your plate to someone else’s makes your to-do list more manageable
  • Just do those critical items. To borrow from Nike, Just Do It! Schedule the critical or difficult items first. They may not be your most pleasant tasks, or the ones that bring you personal satisfaction, but they need to be done. No, now is not the time to do the 35 unimportant items because they’re easier. Do the critical things and get them out of the way
  • Continue the process. Take time at the end of each day to review your list. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes or so to cross of completed tasks, add new tasks for the next day and to evaluate if anything needs to change

Once you make productivity a habit, you’ll find that good things start happening. Your stress level will dissipate (I’m not promising that you’ll never be stressed again, but the stress will lessen), you’ll have more time to focus on the projects that you do enjoy, you’ll create more time to think and perform tasks with more care and, best of all, your system will allow you to be more flexible when you do need to make room for last-minute demands on your time.

Wrestling With Productivity – Four Ways to Salvage An Unproductive Day

I woke up this morning full of ideas and ways that this was going to be the!) in terms of productivity. And then I sat down at my desk. And checked email. And checked my Twitter feed. And checked Facebook. And logged into my LinkedIn account and read a few articles. And then watched the video for a song I have not been able to get out of my head for days (and fantasized about singing back up with Pearl Jam – don’t judge). Then checked the weather forecast. Oh, and I made myself a coffee and hey – is that leftover cupcake batter in the fridge? Which meant I also made cupcakes. And before I knew it, it was noon and I’d done nothing except start and re-start the same “serious” blog post three times.

I know I’m not the only one who has had a day like this (even those who would never admit it out loud but are sheepishly nodding at the first paragraph). So, how can we rescue our days and salvage some productivity? Here are a few tips.

  1. Stop! Just stop! No, I’m not saying to call the day a wash, walk away from your desk and leave your office (as tempting as that may sound right now, it’s just going to make you feel worse). I’m saying to get the heck off Facebook, close that gossip site tab and get to work. It’s not easy to stop an unproductive day cold turkey, so on we go to step 2.
  2. Pick a small task and complete it. You know, answering that email that will only take you a minute, making that phone call that you need to make, filing that document that needs filing. By doing something small, you’re already getting there. You’ve done something productive!
  3. Keep that momentum going. Step 2 – completing a small task felt pretty good, didn’t it? Do another one. Keep doing them and soon, you’ll be back in a rhythm of productivity.
  4. Set yourself up for success. At the end of your day, make a to-do list. Jot down a few things that you know will need to be accomplished the next day. It’s easier to start being productive right away when you have a plan. And it’s positive reinforcement when you see crossed-off tasks on your list.

Four easy steps will put you back on track for the day. Just four. So, step away from this blog post and get to work, already! And when you do, I promise I’ll turn down the Pearl Jam and do the same.