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Have you abandoned your New Year’s resolutions yet?

Chances are that you will abandon your resolutions by the second week in February if you haven’t already done so. Yes, most of us will keep procrastinating as the year progresses.

It makes sense, since people who make New Year’s resolutions are usually those who are least motivated to follow through with their plans. They have procrastinated already by saying they will change in the New Year. If they were really committed to lose weight or stop smoking or save money or whatever, they would have started when they made that decision.

After all, there’s nothing magical about New Year’s or any other date for that matter. M.J. Ryan, in her book This Year I Will claimed you really have to want to change. The motivation comes first and then the self-discipline. In her book, she quotes statistics that approximately 45% of us make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% succeed. According to U.S. News, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so certainly the odds are against you.

There are many reasons, including lack of commitment or passion, the lack of self-discipline, the lack of a plan, no accountability, a vague description of the resolution or goal, and so on.

Most of these can be overcome by replacing New Year’s resolutions with goals, which have well-known requirements to ensure success. I stopped making New Year’s resolutions long ago. In fact, my last New Year’s resolution was “I will stop making New Year’s resolutions – effective immediately.”

Any resolution can be expressed as a goal, which brings with it a set of guidelines such as those expressed by the old “SMART” acronym – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-framed. In other words, you don’t say that you are going to lose weight or even that you are going to lose 24 pounds; you write down that starting January 4th you will you are going to lose two pounds per month for 12 consecutive months. You must be confident that this goal is specific (2 lbs. per month) measurable (using a bathroom scale), attainable (by following your plan, which might be a combination of diet and exercise), results-oriented (since others have achieved even greater results than this using similar plans), and time-framed (since you have placed deadlines on achieving the monthly sub-goals.)

I add the acronym “WAYS” to the “SMART,” which refers to putting them in Writing, setting goals in All areas of life, making sure they are Your goal, not what other people want you to do, and Scheduled if they involve specific activities. For example, in this case you would want to block off time in your planner each day (an appointment with yourself) to exercise.

You will still need self-discipline; but structure like this makes it easier to be self-disciplined, and your routines will eventually become habits. For example by forcing myself to go walking before breakfast every morning, within weeks, I developed a habit of walking every morning. A habit requires little effort or discipline on your part. It’s like brushing your teeth, getting dressed or stopping for a coffee. It’s almost automatic.

New Year’s resolutions are like wishes, desires or “To Do” lists; but goals are real commitments. And to make your commitments even stronger, share them with others to add a measure of accountability. Public declarations, sharing with friends or posting your intentions on Facebook are psychological tactics proven to increase the likelihood of sticking to your commitments.

Set and achieve goals throughout the year. Let New Year’s be a time of celebration. The last thing you want to do at the first of the year is burden yourself with New Year’s resolutions.

 

 

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Communicating via e-mail messages.

Email, because of its speed, convenience and low cost, is now one of the most frequently used forms of business communication.

A 2018 statistic revealed that the average office worker receives 121 e-mails per day. The volume of e-mail has increased by 2000 percent between 1998 and 2003 and has been increasing ever since. The average working professional spends roughly 23% of the workday on email, and glances at the inbox about 36 times an hour, according to Mike Byster, in his book, The Power of Forgetting.

The April, 2016 issue of Scientific American Mind described a study of 16 billion emails sent by more than 2 million people that revealed the most likely length of reply is just five words. Also more than 90% of replies are sent within one day, and the younger you are the faster and shorter your reply. The study also revealed that messages sent on weekday mornings got the fastest responses and emails with attachments took twice as long to get a reply.

About 12 percent of executives spend 3 hours or more on e-mail. 41% of small businesses are using email to market to customers, a nearly 25% increase over 2012, according to AT&T Small Business Technology.

According to Debra Black, writing in the Toronto Star, some people are so overwhelmed, they routinely delete everything rather than cope with the growing pile of e-mail and scores of messages left on their voice mail. So if you want your e-mail message to be read, you had better capture the reader’s interest quickly. And keep your email messages brief while still communicating clearly.

Use a heading that reveals the purpose of the message and grabs the reader’s attention. One survey showed that 35 percent of the people open e-mail based on the header or subject line. Yet some people don’t even bother writing a subject line. An e-mail without a subject line could very well be deleted unread. A good idea might be to identify yourself in the subject line as well as indicate the topic of the e-mail. Personalizing a subject line has been shown to increase the open rate by 17%.

Put the most important information in the first paragraph. This is particularly important now that people are receiving so many e-mails. They tend to start reading based on the subject line, and continue only if they find the text of specific interest to them. Managers simply don’t have time to read all their email.

So after grabbing the reader’s attention with the header and quickly telling them the purpose of your e-mail you might take the necessary time to reread your e-mail before sending it. Just because e-mail is less formal than business letters doesn’t mean it should not be written with care.

Sloppy, poorly worded messages filled with typos and spelling mistakes reflect on your organization, as well as on your reputation. Take a minute or two to reread and edit every message you write. You will save time for the reader, clarify the communication, and create a good impression in the process.

 

 

 

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Communication – the glue that holds the teams together

Famous investor Warren Buffett was once asked what advice he would give to new graduates entering the workplace. His answer was to improve their communication skills. He said that honing your communication skills, both written and verbal, would improve your value by at least 50%.

This advice is especially true in this digital age of speed where cryptic messages, frequently reduced to a few words and an acronym or two, leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding. It’s a two-way street – poor communications is the fault of either the sender or the receiver or both. For example, you must be a good writer, a good reader, a good speaker, a good listener, and so on.

Communication is multifaceted. Here are a few suggestions for improvement in the four of the most important areas.

Writing: Make sure your business writing, including e-mail, is clear, concise and credible. Over 90 percent of all meaning can be conveyed with a vocabulary of around 600 words. Keep in mind that one out of four Americans in the workforce are functionally illiterate. Simple writing saves time and makes it easier for the reader. Avoid long, confusing or difficult words, keep sentences and paragraphs short, and make your point quickly. Remember, you are writing to communicate, not to impress.

Reading: The average reading speed is only 230 to 250 words a minute. But you can scan literature at 1,000 to 5,000 words a minute. Don’t simply absorb whatever information hits your eye. Search out the information you require. The title should tell you what the article is about. Turn it into a question and actively search for the answers. For example, if the article is entitled “How to save time at meetings,” change it to read “How can I save time at meetings?” and search for those sentences that provide the information you’re looking for. By reading with a purpose, your mind will not wander and you’ll cover the material more quickly. Even the process of holding the highlighter in your hand as you read will make it easier to concentrate since It makes you a more active participant in the reading and improves recall later.

Speaking: Rid yourself of annoying habits and mannerisms, whether it’s something physical, such as jingling change in your pocket, or the way you speak, such as repeating the same word or ending each sentence with “you know.” Take your time, making eye contact with the listeners. You will gain your customer’s respect faster by speaking more slowly. According to David Niven, author of the book, 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People, people rate speakers who speak more slowly as being 38 percent more knowledgeable than speakers who speak more quickly. When you talk too quickly, you may end up saying something you haven’t thought of yet.

Listening: An important part of the communication process is active listening. There is no greater way of displaying respect than listening attentively to what people have to say. Establish eye contact. Resist the temptation to glance at your watch or smartphone. Devote full attention to the speaker. Don’t interrupt and never make judgmental or negative statements. Focused listening can save time as well as communications and improves interpersonal relationships. Show interest by giving the person your full attention. As you listen, actively seek out the new information, ideas, and the person’s point of view,  and don’t be distracted by the way the ideas are expressed. It will keep your mind from wondering. And above all, have an open mind. When you speak, you only hear again what you already know. But when you listen, you also learn what other people know as well.

 

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Your most important time management tool.

In my last blog article I suggested that the Pareto Principle applied to time management seminars, books and training programs as well. And that 20% of the suggestions actually provide 80% of the value. In this article I will venture to provide one of those high-value suggestions – planning and scheduling.

Scheduling is the part of planning that actually initiates the action, which in turn produces the results. “To do” lists are simply reminders of what you think should be done. Scheduling involves actually blocking off the time to do the high priority items from your “to do” list.

A planning calendar, whether it is paper or electronic, is not simply a tool for scheduling appointments with others. It is also for scheduling appointments with yourself to get those important, goal–related tasks accomplished. It is also for scheduling your personal and family activities as well. What gets into your planner usually gets done. What stays on a “to do” list is usually abandoned.

The “secret” of a successful, happy and productive life is to transform your personal and business goals into accomplishments. You will never write a book by simply putting it on a “to do” list. And you will never spend enough time with your family or take that cruise by doing likewise.

Scheduling is the launching pad for action. “To do” lists are intentions; activities scheduled in your planner are commitments.

Why do most of the priority tasks on a “to do” list remain undone? Because, when given a choice, people have natural tendencies such as those listed below.

  • They tend to do what’s easy before they do what’s difficult.
  • They tend to do what they like to do before they do what is even moderately unpleasant.
  • They tend to work on other people’s priorities before they work on their own priorities.
  • They tend to work on those things that offer an immediate reward rather than those with a more significant but later reward.

When you schedule something in your planner, you have already made your choice. And hopefully you have chosen to do those things that will have the greatest impact on your life.

Fancy electronic gadgets and Smart phones may help keep you busy; but it’s unlikely they will make you effective.

When choosing a planner, select one that is broken into at least half hour segments so you can physically block off time to work on those priority tasks, projects and activities. Preferably it will extend into the evenings and weekends as well so those personal commitments to attend a son or daughter’s sports event or an evening outing with your spouse or best friend do not get overlooked. I prefer a week at a glance planner so you can see how your week is shaping up.

Plan at least a week ahead. It’s much easier to say no to others if you already have a commitment scheduled at that time. Resist the urge to change anything unless the request is even more important or a real crisis.

Schedule blocks of time for any major projects such as writing a book. Overwhelming tasks are no longer overwhelming when you work on them for an hour or so at a time.

And remember that “to do” lists display your intentions while planners display your commitments.

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The 80/20 Rule applies to time management books as well.

Most time management books and training programs explain the 80-20 Rule, at least superficially, emphasizing that 80 percent of your results are obtained from 20 percent of the things you do. Authors and workshop leaders give example after example of this principle. For example,

  • 80% of your advertising results come from 20% of the ads you place.
  • 80% of customer complaints are concerning the same 20% of your products or services.
  • 20% of your networking gives you 80% of your referrals.
  • 20% of the things you do produce 80% of your results.

And so on. One of the points made is that – theoretically at least – you could eliminate 80 percent of the things you do and only sacrifice 20 percent of the results.  If you could to do that, 80 percent of your precious time would be freed up to devote to more results-oriented pursuits.

But what the workshop leaders fail to mention, is that their own books or training programs are not exempt from this principle. 20% of the ideas suggested in time management books or training programs represent 80 percent of the books’ or programs’ value.

Those are the ideas that would make a significant impact on your effectiveness. The other 80 percent are relatively unimportant, impractical, unworkable or undesirable.

They all sound good and most of them make sense. For example, remove the chairs from your office because meetings get over faster when everyone is standing up. Handle each piece of paper only once. Don’t procrastinate. Keep a clean desk and work environment at all times. Use hands-free technology to respond to telephone calls while driving. Ad infinitum. The positive impact of these and hundreds of other suggestions is questionable. Some, like multitasking are downright dangerous.

I have been presenting time management workshops for over thirty-five years. At the end of most workshops I asked people to record three of the best ideas. Then I asked them to return the form to me in four weeks, indicating the results obtained by putting those ideas into practice. Although less than 10 percent of the people returned the forms, it become obvious over the years that many of the ideas that are attractive to them are unworkable in practice. The ideas that actually improved productivity were generally those that addressed how they spent their time as opposed to how to be more efficient at what they were already doing. They are what I consider to be the macro time management ideas as opposed to the micro time management ones.

People who have changed careers, started their own business, turned around a failing company, changed their lifestyle, resolved relationships, balanced their lives or developed life-changing habits are those who have been able to apply the macro time management suggestions.

When reading books or taking courses on the topic of time management, we should focus on those suggestions that will improve our effectiveness rather than our efficiency. Efficiency is doing things in the best possible way, which is important; but not as important as doing the best possible things. Doing the best possible things – those macro time management actions – are the ones that will really make a difference.

In the next blog article I will give a few examples of those ideas. You can probably guess what they are. Most of them are obvious. But although they are easy to recognize they can be difficult to execute since they require behavioral changes rather than just quick fixes.

 

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A little empathy can go a long way.

Feeling empathy for another person is being able to know what the other person is feeling or going through even though you are not sharing the source of those feelings or emotions at that time. For example, when someone suffers a loss or injures their hand, you can understand their feelings and even feel their pain without actually suffering that loss or being injured. You empathize with them.This is possible because of mirror neurons, cells scattered across our brain whose activity reflect their surroundings – including the actions and feelings of others.

Our mirror neurons fire regardless of whether we or someone else is performing a specific action. That enables us to relate to the person to the degree that we even have a fair idea of why they are performing that action. For example, when you are grabbing a cup of coffee, a specific mirror neuron fires to tell your hand to reach out and grip the handle of the cup. And when you watch a friend pick up her own cup of coffee, the same neuron also fires as if you were also picking up her cup of coffee, even if your hand is not moving at all.

This empathy with others includes emotions. So if you cringe at the sight of someone else getting hurt, empathize with your friend who is grieving, and feel uncomfortable when a co-worker is upset and anxious, blame it on these specialized brain cells.

When mother said, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you,” she wasn’t fibbing. Studies show that the pain we feel when others get hurt activates the same regions of the brain that are activated when we actually get hurt ourselves.

And there is a thin line between being physically hurt and emotionally hurt. In her book, How the body knows its mind, Sian Beilock reports that a daily dose of Tylenol diminishes the hurt feelings that often accompany being socially teased, spurned or rejected – just as it would if the pain were physical.

Never underestimate the importance of empathy. According to an article in the November/December, 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind, research has shown that patients whose doctors pay attention to their feelings and concerns heal faster. Researchers also found that the patients’ immune systems were boosted as well. The article reported on a study by the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine on the impact of doctors showing sincere concern for their patients.

Patients of doctors who expressed concern had a cold disappear sooner than those whose doctors focused on just the facts. Randomized trials showed that colds lasted an average of just six days for patients with empathetic doctors vs. seven days for patients whose doctors had little empathy. It was shown that the empathy also boosted the patient’s immune system.

But can doctors or any of us actually show empathy on demand? Do we have control over whether we have empathy or not? Well we can certainly give our mirror neurons a fighting chance to do their thing. Just because we are in a rush, for example, doesn’t mean we have to act as if we’re in a rush. University of Kansas researchers studied the effect of doctors standing vs. sitting when visiting their hospital patients. When questioned afterwards, the patients whose doctors sat with them perceived the visit to be a lot longer than those patients whose doctors stood by their bedside.

Whether you are a doctor, a caregiver, a manager or a parent or whoever, even if you have only 10 minutes to talk to a person, you can still sit down—which makes you much more connected to the person than if you’re standing up—and make good eye contact, nod your head, lean in – all the actions that convey that you are present mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

The worst thing you can do is remain standing, walk to the door, put your hand on the door handle, and keep talking, because then the person does know that your mind as well as your body is already on the way out. Instead, you could stay seated and say, “If you have another question, I can answer it now, and if you’d like more time to go over things, we can schedule another visit.” That way, you’re completely with the individual, and not sending the message that you can’t wait to get out of there.

Although environmental factors such as surroundings can have a calming effect on people, they aren’t as important as the human element.

A bad mood is also contagious, according to Gary Lewandowski, Jr., associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University. You unknowingly pick up other people’s nonverbal behaviors and tend to mimic them – similar to yawning. (It is more common when the person yawning is someone close to you.)

Similarly you can pick up their high energy or low energy, positivity or negativity, enthusiasm or lethargy.

And as if having to cope with the hazards of second-hand smoke isn’t bad enough, it’s now found that second-hand stress can be hazardous to our productivity and health as well. The suggestion that stress can be contagious, and that we are influenced by the actions and emotions of others can be accounted for by the research that suggests this class of brain cells called mirror neurons appear to reflect the actions & feelings of others.

Not only does this make sense of the fact that we sometimes get “bad vibes” from people we meet, it also proves that we can have a positive influence on others – whether family, friends or business associates – by being kind, caring, compassionate and cheerful.

And by encouraging those mirror neurons to do their thing.

 

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How do you get started in the mornings?

Do you dive into the day like some people dive into a swimming pool without even testing the water temperature? Or do you start by dipping a toe into the shallow end and inching your way gradually into deeper water where you can start your serious swimming?

Different strokes for different folks. There’s no right or wrong way. The important thing is what happens once you’re in the pool. If you simply stand in the water, caressing the surface of the water with your hands, it is not very productive in terms of physical fitness.

Similarly with work, some people prefer to follow most time management experts’ advice to start with priorities – ignoring email, inbox, voicemail and “To do” notes from the evening before – until you get your most important tasks completed.

Others like to warm up first by organizing their desk, getting rid of those pesky emails that came during the night, and making quick replies to text messages and voicemail requests. They then feel energized and ready to tackle the team’s priorities.

Which approach is best?

Well until about a year ago, I would’ve told you the first scenario – starting with the priorities and ignoring email and other time gobblers until later in the morning. In fact, I have written articles in the past advocating this approach. After all, it makes good sense. Checking email could sidetrack us from our plans for the day. And spending time on the trivial tasks keeps us from productive work, saps are energy, and doesn’t fully utilize our prime time – that early part of the day when most people are more mentally alert and at their peak energy level.

I have discovered, however, that we are unable to work at peak performance as long as we are constantly wondering what awaits us in our inbox or what calls we missed on our iPhone or the reason for that flashing red light on our landline telephone.

But if we were to spend the first half hour of our work day satisfying are concern that something urgent is awaiting us – and dashing off the odd email and making it a quick note or two of things that need tending to later, our minds would be free to focus on the priorities of the day. Mental distractions can frequently be more disruptive than physical distractions.

I still insist on getting up early and using my prime time; but the first, slightly hazy, half hour or so is used to dispense with any distracting thoughts and fears of missing something critical.

That’s why the first 90-minute block of time to work on a goal-related activity is not scheduled in my planner until 9 AM or so. Prior to that I am simply getting my feet wet, warming up to the day and building up a head of steam.

After all, each workday is more a marathon than a quick sprint. And productivity in the office is not as often caused by a slow start as it is by a slow, haltering pace throughout the day.

Planning each day – even to the extent of blocking off specific times to work on specific projects and tasks – will more than make up for any slow start.

And you may find, like I have, that it’s actually slower to start working on priorities while your mind is dwelling on the unknown.

 

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Knowledge without application is like a book never read.

If you multiplied the number of books that I have purchased in the past six months (both electronic and printed) by the number of hours that it would take to read them, it would probably amount to over 400 hours.  How could anyone free up 400 hours or more from a busy schedule to do the necessary reading? It would take more than a year. And by then I would have already purchased twice as many more books than I had just read.

It would be an impossible task.

In the past 5 years, I have probably read less than five or six non-fiction books from cover to cover. These are the books that I have not only read and highlighted, but also have made notes in the margins. These books would be what I would suggest are classics in the field of time management, such as “Do it tomorrow” by Mark Forster, “The art of time” by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber or “How to get control of your time and your life” by Alan Lakein.

Probably 5% of the books in my current library have yet to be opened. (I say “current” since my library changes over the years as newer topics start to influence my approach to time management or peak my interest. And I tend to get rid of the ones of limited value to avoid being overwhelmed.) About 20% of my books have been skimmed only, with fewer highlights in most of the chapters and fewer marginal notes. About 30% have had less than half the chapters skimmed and highlighted, and the balance only a chapter or two visited – those that seemed of interest when I first viewed the book.

In all of my books, with only a few exceptions, you can find highlighted portions and notes of my own – cryptic comments, question marks, and ideas that grabbed me as I read.

I have always considered it profitable if I could get an average of one new idea from every book I purchased. Ideas are invaluable. And this doesn’t take into consideration the spin-off value of those ideas. An idea, phrase or even a single word from a book could jump-start a completely different idea – that in turn could end up being the title of a book or the topic of a new article or a tweet.

The age of the book doesn’t matter. Some of my best ideas were generated by books from the 1980s, 1950s and even earlier. Books do not have “best before” dates.

The key, in my opinion at least, is to get the idea out of the book and onto a “launching pad” of some sort – a Journal, To Do list, Priority Pad or whatever. Never leave an idea or your written notation buried in the pages of a book. If you do, most it will be lost forever – negating any value you received by buying and skimming or reading the book in the first place.

And knowledge without application is like a book that was never read.

Books are expensive. But you have to read a lot if you want to write a lot. And there are ways you can reduce costs. eBooks are less expensive to start with and you can cut costs further by signing up with Bookbub.com. They send daily emails listing two or three books that are on special at Amazon.com – complete with links so you can check them out. You can also indicate your area(s) on interest. The specials are usually 99 cents or $1.99, and others either free or $2.99. They are for the most part, not inferior books, with many best-sellers that have had their day on the bookshelves.

Hardcopy print books are expensive; but sometimes the paperback version is printed and available at the same time. Or you can wait. Bookstores frequently have new releases with a “25% OFF” sticker. I’m fortunate because my sons usually give me Amazon gift cards for Christmas and birthdays as well.

And don’t forget that non-fiction books bought for business purposes are tax deductible. I charge them to “Research.” And even at full price, I can say that books are an essential expense, on a par with educational courses, seminars and conferences.

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What’s in your life’s suitcase?

You have probably heard or read the admonition by Benjamin Franklin, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that is the stuff that life is made of.” Time may not actually make up life as we experience it, but certainly it is the stuff that we trade for the activities that do make up our lives.

I visualize life as a suitcase initially filled with time – a commodity that we trade for the things that we need or desire (mostly in the form of activities) during our life’s journey. Although we may have no control over the amount of time we originally have in our suitcase, the same amount of time is released for our use each day until it has been exhausted.

And use it we must. If we fail to use the full 24 hours allocated each day, it disappears regardless.

24 hours a day is more than enough for a successful journey. But we must use it wisely. Trading most of it for activities and stuff related to work, for instance, could cause our suitcase to bulge at the seams and cost us dearly. Not in terms of dollars, as it might when travelling with a real suitcase; but in terms of our health and well-being.

Our journey through life could also be cut short by the unwise use of time. Inadequate amounts of time traded for such things as sleep, exercise, renewal and relationships could actually shorten our lifespans.

The key to a long, successful and happy life is in how you use the time given to you. As you approach your destination, you don’t want to wish you had chosen differently when preparing for the journey. Some people may regret the lack of time devoted to planning for their senior years – or even their choice of travelling companions. In their haste to get on with life, they may not have used adequate time to prepare.

You wouldn’t attempt to fly any great distance without first obtaining your pilot’s license or taking extensive courses and learning the ins and outs of flying. Nor should you fly solo through life without first getting sufficient grounding in the basics of living a purposeful, fulfilling life.

Even a meaningful trip to a foreign country requires some knowledge of the people, the terrain, and the best places to visit. Most people realize that to pack for a long journey requires at least a basic knowledge of packing so that you can easily fit into your suitcase everything you acquire enroute. Therefore a knowledge of organizing is important, as is time management, since you want to trade your time for the right activities and be able to fit those things into your suitcase of life without causing stress and hardship.

Although you can’t get more time, you can get more out of the time you have by investing it in time-saving activities such as training, delegation and planning, and in time-lengthening activities such as healthy living.

If you manage your time well, you will soon have a suitcase filled with meaningful and life-enhancing activities, which eventually will be transformed into the memories of a life well-lived, and a legacy of examples that can help your offspring and others you have mentored prepare for their journey through life.

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Tools and techniques that help speed up my writing.

My goal has been to write four e-Books  year, one newsletter a quarter, five tweets a week, one blog article a week, and as many “Special Reports” as possible in the time available. So far, I’m more or less on course – at least for the last few years.

I couldn’t do it without the help of a few tools and techniques such as the following.

Dragon Naturally Speaking. It’s not the only voice-activated software available; but it was the one I was weaned on and have seen it improve with each update. It more than compensates for my lack of typing skills and it keeps pace with my rapid speech.

Bibme.org. A website that allows me to compile a bibliography for my books and reports in minutes rather than hours. As long as I can recall the author’s name or the book title – or even a portion of it, it gives me a list of books from which to select the right one, and subsequently formats the complete bibliography for me.

Grammarly. An app that highlights poor grammar as well as typos and spelling mistakes, and reminds me that I am taking liberties by omitting pronouns, using slang words and awkward phrases. Of course I sometimes ignore it.

Pocket Dockets. Mini-notepads that I stash in a pocket of my coats, my computer bag, car glove box, and elsewhere so I am never without someplace to jot down ideas when I’m on the go. Sometimes they go missing for a few weeks, but I have yet to fail to retrieve them along with the ideas.

Leak-proof pens. Not only a time saver but an annoyance saver as well if you’re a frequent flyer. Wish I could have avoided all those blobs of ink on my books, clothes and traveling companions before fly-proof pens were invented.

Topical file folders. This is more a technique than a product – marking the chapter titles of my future books on hard copy and electronic folders – to house the articles torn from magazines and those cut and pasted from the Internet (for reference when writing the books and articles)

Morning walks. Another technique of generating ideas and actually composing articles, which are later combined to form books; walking in the fresh air and exercising both body and mind. I get my best ideas and clarity of thinking as I walk – determining how to express the idea in words. But it must be immediately followed by an opportunity to write it all down before it disappears.

The coffee shop effect. I agree with the results of the research that indicates the background noises of a coffee shop are ideal for both creativity and productivity. A one-hour or 90-minute stop at a coffee shop before returning home from my walk allows me to quickly put my thoughts in writing. Most of my articles and large portions of me books took form at a Tim Horton’s.

Most people have their own favorite techniques and habits that help them with their writing. Some might seem to waste time rather than save time; but for that person, it is effective. For instance, I do most of my writing longhand and then dictate what I have written, editing as I go. I also find a book to daunting a task to tackle so I simply write articles for each chapter, which I post on my blog website – and then expand each article into a chapter.  I also may have two or more books on the go at the same time, and perhaps only two of them may see the light of day and the other one becomes a series of articles only.

I also spend as much time extracting ideas and quotes from someone else’s book as I do actually reading the book. I feel I have wasted time reading a book if I don’t get something out of it that I can use later.

The important thing is to try different things and see what works best. Then you can develop your own routines and habits. Certainly not having to decide what to do next saves time.