Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whisper from the Past

It sounds like a plot from a movie: a message with critical information arrives mysteriously at the critical moment, changing your plans, your actions, and your destiny. No, this isn'tyour future self breaking laws of physics to share a stock tip. It isn't Obi Wan Kenobi advising you to use the force. It's more like Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, leaving herself a voice mail about a critical item she'd forgotten.

The obvious place to put date sensitive reminders is the calendar. It can be great for appointments, date sensitive reminders, or even things you might want to do. Paper calendars come with limited storage capacity and electronic ones may have a lot of competition for your attention. Here are a few other ways people have built to preserve and deliver those whispers from the past.

The Tickler File

Create a set of 43 folders -- twelve with Month names and 31 with numbers 1 to 31 for days of the month. For items less than a month ahead, put a note in the folder with the corresponding date. For items up to a year in the future, drop the item in the month you want to see it and put it in the corresponding day at the start of the month. You get free delivery of actual paper as far as one year ahead. Just remember to check the folders daily.

Scheduled Email Delivery
You can send an email into the future, either with or without attachments. The Internet offers a number of reasonable choices, including the following:
  • is a good reminder to yourself with no account needed. The message gets returned to you at the date and time specified.
  • and require accounts but offer more flexibility, including delayed email to others complete with attachments. Because they have accounts, you can review your scheduled notes and adjust them.
If these services go out of business, or the account you are mailing to gets closed, or there is an Internet problem when the mail is scheduled, delays or failed delivery are possible. You probably don't want to do this with anything really sensitive. Even if the message can be stored securely, risk probably outweighs reward.

Use Tasks Instead of Calendar

Outlook allows you to created tasks with specific dates instead of (or in addition to) the calendar. Other task managers have similar features. You have far better control over your data than storing an email in the Cloud.
 Keep a separate checklist of tasks you do every day or nearly so. Mine includes daily medication, feeding the pets, daily exercise, and other things I should do daily. This avoids recurring tasks filling up my calendar or action lists.

  • Use a tickler file to send physical paper, tickets, bill reminders, etc. to yourself up to a full year ahead.
  • Use time delayed email to send yourself or others in the future.
  • Put time markers on action items to clear thye clutter from your electronic calendar.
  • Beware of masked women in skin tight vinyl and their evil, rich bosses.
  • If you hear a whisper telling you to use the force, think April Fools joke before grabbing your light sabre.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Some books offer powerful ideas wrapped in the context of a simple story. The Richest Man in Babylon offers financial basics. The Goal teaches the theory of constraints. Now The Go-Giver  teaches what it calls the five laws of Stratospheric Success.

Subtitled "a little story about a powerful business idea" the book offers five related ieas, each given its turn as the story progresses over a week. In the story, the maiun character (Joe) is exposed to each idea in turn from a series of mentors. The story is not compelling: the ideas it illuminates are.  The ideas are summarized here.

It's worth mentioning that though the subtitle talks about a business idea, the idea itself applies just as well to interpersonal connections outside business. This is good because my measure of success isn't limited to work alone.

The message of giving and receiving bears a famuily resemblance to any example which tells you to sow the seeds first and reap the rewards later. Another part encourages you to give value to as many people as possible ala Harv Eker's Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. Burg's own message from other books, that people buy from those they klnow, trust and like, is also present. The ideas are tied ttogether well and the connected web site provides more information on implementation.

The Go-Giver is written in the form of an epic hero's journey, but happily it's nowhere near that long. The entire book can be read at one sitting.If you prefer, you can take one chapter at a time and act on the lessons as the story suggests. Either way, this book is strongly recommended for your to-read shelf.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Effective Listening

We all breathe every minute of every day, but that does not make us good at it -- just barely good enough for routine purposes. Athletes learn to breathe effectively for their respective specialties, as do actors and yoga masters. The rest if us do well enough with inhale then exhale.

Listening is another matter. Unless we go into a soundproof isolation booth, sounds reach our ears all the time. That's hearing, not listening. Like breathing, the standard Mark 1 human rarely listens effectively.

Listening is a skill we can all improve without the sweat of a jock, the method of a thespian, or the discipline of a guru. Because it helps us understand and deal with others, it can offer huge payoff in either competitive or cooperative situations. By any measure of success, it is a skill that can make you more successful.

Because it is a skill, not a talent, effective listening can be learned and developed with practice. It is Personal Development 101, and we can all benefit from a refresher course and an opportunity to practice.

For those of you near Columbus Ohio on March 17, 2011, my friend Janna Yeshanova-Stephens is offering a free one hour workshop that evening. Check out for more about Janna, or to learn more about or register for the free workshop.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where Is It?

Panic erupts. Something you need is missing. It may be important, it is definitely urgent, and it's missing. Keys, glasses, cell phones, and other small, useful items mysteriously disappear when you need them most. Let's look first at ideas to proactively avoid losing things, then at strategies for when they get lost anyway.

Avoiding the Problem

Think about the last thing you lost. Where does it belong? Equipment, supplies and reference material all belong somewhere. That spot, wherever it is, is the easiest place to find whatever you're looking for. Take a moment to put it back where it belongs if you can. If you can't, put it in an inbox.

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen discussed many reasons for using an inbox. He points out that if you try to avoid an inbox your house, your entire house becomes an inbox. If that describes your house and your life, no wonder stuff gets lost. Create an inbox, or at least an in area, and put stuff there if you can't put it away properly.

To avoid locking yourself out of your house or car, make a habit of having keys in your hand when closing the door. Lock the door with the key, or with the remote. Don't lock the door and push it closed unless the key us in your hand.

This Jedi Mind Trick can help you remember where you put something as you put it down. People learn things through visual, auditory or kinesthetic means, each according to his or her gifts. Which ever you prefer, your memory works best when you create links all three ways. Watch yourself put those keys down. Feel them as they leave your hand. Say to yourself "the car keys are on the bathroom counter under the toothbrushes" and be specific as you do it. In the best case, your learning processes have built strong links. In the worst case, you were paying attention at the time.

Okay, But My Keys Are Lost NOW!

You looked where they belong, where you thought they were, and the floor under where you thought they were. Either they weren't in the inbox or the inbox idea is looking better -- for later. For now, some serious searching is in order.

Picture the item in your hand. Where were you and what were you doing the last time you saw it? Who else was there? Retrace your route, looking most carefully at the last place you were and where you had them last. Is there someone you can talk to?

If that hasn't helped, it's time to make a list. Where have they shown up when lost the past? Where could they be? Who might have seen them? Could someone have moved them? Are there other ways you can look, other people you can ask?

In the end, of course, things do get lost That's why we have hide-a-keys, spare pens, and contingency plans. If life isn't about things, and of course it isn't, it really shouldn't be about missing things.


Develop the habit of limiting the places you put things. Pay attention when putting things down. Visualization can help as you put something down or as you realize it's missing. If you have to search, have a search plan, and always have a backup plan.

Location:Columbus,United States