Tag Archive for productivity

Have Kindle Fire HD Will Travel, er, Work

In my role as a journalist, there are times when I have to adapt and improvise. Such an occasion arose recently when I was working on a couple of stories for a special section.

Kindle Notes

The special section focuses on arts and music in the schools. I had conducted my interviews a few days earlier, but had not yet started to write my stories.

I started to write one of them while in a Burger King getting breakfast. I was between interviews in a city about 20 miles away from the office. Whenever I head out to this city, I like to have a number of interviews and stories to work on so I can maximize my efficiency and cut down on the amount of mileage the newspaper has to pay.

Because I had some time, I decided to go to the Burger King because it has free Wi-Fi. I proceeded to order a large caramel iced coffee and order of tater tots, sat down and whipped out the reliable Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

With my notes on the table and the tablet in my hands, I started writing my story in GoogleDocs on my Kindle Fire HD. I have written before about how this tablet has improved my productivity, and this is just the latest example. Though I had some down time in terms of interviews, I did not have to stop working because the free time was converted to writing time.

I could have brought my laptop with me and accomplished the same thing. The writing process would have been quicker because it is much easier to type on a physical keyboard than a virtual keyboard. But, it was a very cold day, and the laptop would have been outside most of the time in my Jeep.

Instead, the Kindle Fire HD stayed in my pocket instead of the Jeep, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

Also, as I have written about before, I use the text-to-speech functionality of the Kindle to make my books audio books, and I listened to one of them on my drive out to do the interviews and on my way back to the office. (Check out all of my blog posts about this tablet here.)

My Kindle Fire HD cannot do everything, but it does a lot, enough to keep me busy, anyway. What about you?

Are You Sacrificing Your Core for the Elusive Cutting Edge?

As I boarded a flight at the Akron-Canton Airport for Boston to attend the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference, I brought with me my trusty Kindle Fire HD.

Old school notebook

‘I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!’

I have so many books on it, ranging from The Story Template, Simply Jesus, Click Millionaires, Necessary Endings, EntreLeadership, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Princess Grace, How to Deliver a TED Talk, APE: Author, Publisher, Editor and others, it was tough deciding which would I would read on the two-hour flight.

I finally settled on Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright.

I sat down and started reading the book. I highlighted a passage I found to be particularly profound about how the teachings and sayings of Jesus made sense to some people who considered him the messiah, while those same words led others to want to assassinate him.

As I was typing in my note, the flight attendant repeated herself several times informing me and everyone else on the airplane to turn off all electronic devices and stow them away.

It seemed like it took me forever to write a very short note (I was in such a hurry I didn’t even capitalize Jesus and feel bad about it now), but I managed to get it recorded. I shut off the Kindle and settled in for the flight.

Before we could take off, the plane needed to be de-iced. It turned out to be about a 15-minute process. I sat there with my amazing and incredible Kindle (I really do love the device, you can see what I mean here, here, here and here, and if you are really ambitious, here) tucked under my left arm, and I waited and waited and waited for the plane to be de-iced so we could taxi down the runway, take off from the airport and reach a high-enough altitude so I could turn on my amazing and incredible Kindle.

I happened to notice a guy sitting across the aisle one row up who was reading The Wall Street Journal. I immediately thought he never has to fold up his newspaper and lay it down. Altitude means nothing to a newspaper reader on an airplane.

The lady next to me was involved in completing word searches printed in one of those magazines you would find in a dollar store.

The man to immediate right across the aisle was utilizing some old-school technology: He was reading a traditional paperback book.

Their encounters with the written word proceeded uninterrupted during the de-icing process. I, however, was not so fortunate.

I sat there, Kindle still clutched under my arm, and thought about how sometimes we are too quick to discard yesterday’s technologies, yesterday’s devices and yesterday’s ideas for new things that might relatively unknown, unproven and untested.

However, those old things served our parents and grandparents well. They were able to accomplish great things without computers, GPS units, smartphones, smart TVs, the Internet, Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, Eye-Fi or Re-Fi (OK, maybe they needed Re-Fi).

As I sat on the airplane thinking about all of this, I pondered this question: Are we sacrificing our core for the elusive cutting edge?

I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!

 

Fast from Politics Still Going Strong After More Than 3 Months

After the November elections, I simply gave up watching politics on television, and for me, that was huge.

Congressman Jim Renacci

Congressman Jim Renacci looks at weapons seized in Wayne County, Ohio, in this file photo by Bobby Warren.

I was totally engulfed in politics. I so loved the strategy and the speculation. I followed all of the polls and read and retweeted just about everything coming down the pike. I read and shared stuff from anyone from HuffPost to Fox News, from Rush Limbaugh to Lawrence O’Donnell.

I was hungry for all things politics, and because of my background in journalism, I wanted to share stuff from all across the political spectrum, whether progressive, liberal, Democratic, Liberterian, Republican or conservative.

But, by the time of the election, I had just grown weary of politics. I invested so much time in politics, and for what? Nobody ever institutes the policies I want.

So, what have I learned from abstaining from (mostly federal) politics?

  1. I get a lot more done. I have been helping my wife with her two books (one a work of fiction, which you can read more about when you click here, and the other titled “Joy in Budgeting,” which you can learn more by visiting Amazon.com when you click here). There just always seems time to get things done.
  2. I have longer and better conversations with my wife. However, you will have to confirm with her if this has been her experience. We seem to talk about more stuff (especially her books, which she was deeply immersed in).
  3. I am exposed to different things. I read a lot more. This is the latest book I am reading: How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World’s Most Inspiring Presentations  (an affiliate link). I have read books on starting businesses, building a platform, writing articles for Kindle and how to analyze Kindle numbers and more.
  4. I am having more fun. It is nice not being so wrapped up with every nuance of the political discussion. It is freeing.

While I am not watching political shows on TV or listening to political talk radio, I have not divorced myself from politics. I am a journalist, after all. I will be spending some time with Congressman Jim Renacci on Friday, and I just spent time with Ohio state representatives Ron Amstutz and Dave Hall and state senators Larry Obhof and Frank LaRose. I was with Wooster Mayor Bob Breneman today, along with Wooster Councilman Jon Ansel and Wayne County Engineer Roger Terrill.

So, I am still in the thick of politics, but face-to-face, not face to screen.

 

[Photo of the Day] No Shame in Failure

I went out for dinner Sunday night with my wife, Wendi, and good friend Dan Starcher at Wild Ginger China Bistro in Wooster, Ohio. This was my fortune cookie:

image

For those who might not be able to see the picture, it says, “There is no shame in failure — only in quitting.”

When I saw it, I had to snap a photo (I took the pic with my HTC ThunderBolt and processed it using the Super Photo Full app, Google Play or iTunes).

This really resonated with me. Brian White, the lead minister at Parkview Christian Church, where I am a member, addressed this in a sermon earlier in the day. If nothing else, then failure at least teaches one way not to do it.

During our Sunday School class, which I normally teach, but Ed Shultz was teaching, he challenged us to make a difference. Again, the idea was to do something and not just think we have no ability to make a difference.

My mother, Carmen, raised four of us, and she always told us to get an education and she let us know nothing was ever out of our reach. Consequently, all four of us have found success in different ways. My sister Ariel was a top hair colorist and massage therapist; she has gone back to school to learn how to work with people dealing with drug addictions. My brother Carmine rose up through the banks in Central Florida before starting his own IT and web design business, then a photography business and now he trains people who do forensic audits of mortgages. My sister Michelle was moving up with the bank where she worked before joining Delta. At Delta, she worked on reservations for the airlines’ elite passengers before starting a business with her husband that is successful in the Boston area. I have pursued a career in journalism and have received awards from the Associated Press Society of Ohio and the Society of Professional journalists for my writing.

These things don’t happen by worrying about failure. Those who live in fear limit themselves in what they will do or accomplish. Thomas Edison said he did not fail, but found out 10,000 ways something would not work.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:6-7, NIV).

Do that thing that only you can do. No more excuse.

How do You Generate Ideas? Here is One Possible Way

Welcome to Episode No. 1 of the Zest for Life podcast. We are trying out something new on The Z Section blog today. Are you curious about where ideas come from? Who isn’t.

Electric Generation

In the podcast I offer one simple suggestion for generating ideas: Unclutter your life so you can think in new ways. Give it a listen; it will only take a couple of minutes.

Do You Have to Work at Getting Work Done at Work?

I work as a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio, and invariably when one of the writers is gone for most of the morning or does not come into the office until the afternoon, we all have the same reaction: It’s nice of you to come into work today.

 

I always get a kick out of it when I am the one walking in late, and I always say it when someone else does the same. But, each time it happens, I think of the former NBC News reporter Arthur Kent, you might know him as the Scud Stud for his reportage during Desert Storm. I heard him one time on C-SPAN being critical of NBC’s decision to build its then new MSNBC Studios. I don’t remember the exact figure, but I do recall him saying at the time, “I never saw a $40 million dollar studio break a news story.”

Those words have stuck with me for more than a decade. Buildings don’t break news stories, they don’t sell ads, they don’t design ads, they don’t lay out the newspaper, they don’t print the newspaper and they certainly don’t deliver it. People do all of those things, with the aid of computers, machines and software. But, people do it.

Ever since hearing Kent utter those words, I have always been interested in how news gets done. Even though we reporters tease each other about finally coming into the office, our real work is done elsewhere. A reporter cannot break a story from the office, it has to be out in the field.

So, it should come as no surprise that when I saw the title of Jason Fried’s TED Talk, “Why Work Doesn’t Get Done at Work,” I had to listen to it.

In the video above, Fried basically says people try to get work done when they won’t be interrupted, so they will either go into the office early or stay late or they will go to a coffee shop or try to get work done while on a flight. These are some of the answers he receives when he asks the question, “Where do you go when you want to get work done?”

He never hears, “The office.” Check out the video, especially if you are a manager. Fried advocates for giving workers stretches of uninterrupted time to be more effective. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not why people don’t get work done, it is the M&Ms: Managers and meetings.

He has three suggestions as to how to make the office the place where work gets done, and I suggest you listen to him.

Purveyor of Words Loses Sale Due to, Well, Words

When I started this blog, I had a lot to learn about blogging, which is much more than writing thoughts down and uploading them to a website.

Words on Page

I started learning more about search engine optimization, content marketing systems, WordPress themes and marketing, in general. I was intrigued by a content marketing system offered for sale. The opening words of the promotion informed me the special price, which was a very attractive one, was only available “this week.”

I made a mental note of “this week,” and because it was early in the week, I knew I had time. I went about my business and waited until the end of the week to make my purchase.

I don’t what “this week” means to you, but it means to at least 11:59 p.m. Saturday. In the United States, Saturday is the recognized end of the week, and Sunday begins a new one.

When I jumped onto the website to transact business, the price was the original, higher one. It was not the sale price. I went back to the email to make sure I clicked the right link, and then I reread the email. Turns out, “this week” actually meant “by 4 p.m. Friday.” Our definitions did not match. The pitch used words I knew, but infused a different meaning into them.

Let me just say, I recognize I did not fully read the ad, so ultimately I am responsible for missing out on the sale. Still, the marketing material could have been written better. Namely, it could have clearly articulated the true deadline.

The company offers a content marketing system. Content is made up of several elements, including words. In this instance, those words failed — if for no one else, then at least for this sale.

When you find yourself in a position to ask others to purchase your product or service, incentives are a good way to go. Deadlines provide a good way to spur action. However, when you do, be clear with your potential customers, list the information up front and do not bury the relevant information. Also, if you are like me, read all of the information. Don’t skim.

This is important to remember, even in our everyday lives: Let people understand what is expected. There will be fewer misconceptions and more rewards.

Lessons I Learned Working with a Freelance Illustrator

When I dipped my toe into the world of publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I had no idea where it was headed. What I discovered was I landed a gig as an executive project manager on a fairy tale with a Christian message to it, so I needed to work with a freelance artist.

Princess Sketch Freelance

Actually, I began exploring all of the possibilities with publishing via KDP, and it occurred to me my wife, Wendi, had written a fairy tale that would be a good project. I had been reading Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4–Hour Workweek,” and he talked about working with freelancers through elance.com, which I decided to do.

We found an illustrator in Armenia, and we really liked her style. When we solicited bids for the project, she returned with a very reasonable price, and we came to an agreement. For us, this was an exciting time.

The project ran into some hiccups in the early stages, and I learned some things in the process. Based on my experience, here are just a few things you should consider when working with a freelance illustrator (when it is not possible to meet face-to-face):

  1. Communicate with the artist in broad terms, but clearly identify some boundaries. In sketch No. 1, this is all the direction I gave the illustrator: “A wide shot of Princess with Castle and woods in the background and the ability to use a close-up shot of the Princess.” That is exactly what was delivered, just as requested. Because this was my first time doing something like this, it would have helped if I also added: “Because this is a story with a Christian message, the princess needs to be dressed modestly.” Not fully understanding what I needed to communicate, it caused delays. I responded and told her that the neckline needed to be moved up. I used a photo editor to take her drawing, modify it and show her an example of what I wanted. This can be seen in sketch No. 2. However, leave the artist room to create and express herself or himself.
  2. Be prepared for the work flow to be interrupted due to time zone differences. Armenia is nine hours ahead of Ohio. When I am going to bed, our illustrator is waking up. When I wake up, our illustrator has finished her work for the day. There is no overlap, so if I want something changed, it is a two-day process, at minimum. To work like this, you need to recognize there is no immediate feedback or reaction. It is a process. If you are uncomfortable with this, find an illustrator in your town or the closest one you can find.
  3. When working on a project, plan for delays in the timeline: By not clearly identifying some boundaries, there were delays. One of the issues we ran into was a time when Internet service in Armenia was not optimal. This was not the fault of our illustrator. Also, after we communicated what we wanted from the original sketch, you can see in illustration No. 3 what was delivered. This was not what we asked for, however, mistakes happen. The illustrator could have been in a hurry with other things, maybe dealing with some traumatic things in life, and the result is the changes were not made. My full-time job is a reporter, and I make mistakes all of the time. Why the illustration came back wrong was not a concern to me, we are all human. Getting it corrected was, and you can see in illustration No. 4, our illustrator accommodated our wishes.
  4. Find a freelancer who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. It is important for the freelancer to understand while you will give them some latitude to be creative, at the end of the day, the project will bear your name, so it must be what you want it to be. The next time I hire a freelancer, I will articulate that I can be picky at times. It does not mean the work produced is bad or inferior, rather, I just want something else — it doesn’t work for me.
  5. Be a contractor who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. You, too, must understand that you must be flexible where possible. Do not give up your principles or values, but allow for the creative process to work. In one of the illustrations that will be in the book, we needed the princess to be shown in a work camp setting making bricks by hand. I have no idea what this scene should look like, but the illustrator came up with something, thankfully. I do not have the ability to express Wendi’s books in pictures, so I have to give up some control.

Working with a freelancer has its challenges, but understanding what they are going into the process will help provide for a better outcome. I am quite pleased with how this process is moving forward, and even with the delays, the project is still on track to be done on time. We are hoping to publish it on Kindle on our anniversary, March 4.

Stay tuned.

Kindle Fire HD 7 Continues to Score Big Here

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I purchased a Kindle Fire HD 7, and I am liking it more and more everyday. For good reason.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I remember reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about how preferred the iPad Mini over the original, larger version, saying the Mini was what the iPad should have been from the start.

Having never owned an iPad, I cannot make the same statement, but I can say this: The Kindle Fire HD 7 is what netbooks should have been all along. When my wife’s laptop became old, outdated and slow, I wanted to get her a new one. However, there was something attractive about the netbooks. At the time, I did not fully understand what they were; I just thought they were slightly smaller laptops.

Well, in a sense, they are. Netbooks are smaller than laptops. And, netbooks kind of look like laptops. But, what we discovered is a netbook is not really a laptop. A laptop is for computing, and a netbook is mainly designed to surf the Internet.

My Kindle Fire HD does just that. It surfs the web, it feasts on Amazon.com content, it plays games and it even contributes to some productivity. After I first purchased the tablet, I carried it with me sometimes. Now, unless I know I am going to be totally tied to my desk at the newspaper, it comes with me.

Why I Carry My Kindle Fire HD All the Time:

  • It turns my vehicle into a mobile university: This is the No. 1 reason why it is with me most of the time. By owning a Kindle device, I can turn on Amazon’s text-to-speech function and listen to books while I drive. I just finished reading/listening to The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (which turned out to be better than I initially envisioned). Whether I am in the Jeep five minutes or 35 minutes, I like having the option of listening to a book.
  • It keeps me up-to-date with my blog: I have a WordPress app that allows me to edit or create posts, check my site stats or do anything else I need to with my blog, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • I keep my teaching notes on it: I teach an adult Sunday School class at Parkview Christian Church, and I send all of my notes to my Kindle device. I have a study Bible loaded on the Kindle, and I keep my notes for Sunday School on it.
  • I can capture thoughts using Catch app: When you start blogging, you realize how important it is to get your ideas down. With Catch Notes, I can do that. The free app allows you to write notes, record audio notes, take photos, set up reminders and create checklists. I used it the other day to jot some ideas down for future blog posts and a future book.
  • I can move my online reading offline: With Pocket, another free app, I can be reading something on the web and save it to read later. The app works across all sorts of devices. I can be reading something on the web at home, save it to Pocket, and when I sync my Kindle Fire HD, I will get a nice, readable version of the web page. It is important to sync Pocket’s content while you have Wi-Fi access. This is immensely helpful when researching. I have been using it to aid me in writing a book for mindreaders. It is invaluable.
  • I can keep up-to-date with all of my social networks: Again, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

If you would like to purchase your own Kindle Fire HD, check out my affiliate link by clicking here. I recommend the 32 GB version because once you buy it, there is no expanding it. Might as well get the extra storage space.

The Kindle Fire HD  7 has been a great fit for me, but let me caution you by saying I made the purchase because I was an Amazon Prime member. It made sense to have a device geared toward watching the movies, TV shows and videos available for free to Prime members, getting the shipping discount from Amazon and the ability to borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you are looking for more of a computing tablet, then perhaps the iPad, iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7 are better options for you.

For me, it was the Kindle. You can see other reasons why by clicking here.

Want to Succeed? Find the Singular Focus of Mr. Thomas

Mr. Thomas, our cat, has a singular focus. Day-in and day-out, the cat has one thing, and one thing only, on his mind.

Mr. Thomas

That singular focus is to get outside, which might not seem like a bad thing, except Mr. Thomas is a house cat.

So, how does a house cat determine he wants to be an outside cat. Well, before my wife rescued Mr. Thomas (some people found him, along with his litter mates, abandoned in a park and found homes for the kittens), we had bought a wire dog crate, but not for the dog. It was so we could put our cats outside. We don’t want them running off, so we keep them in a crate.

When Mr. Thomas was first introduced to the crate, he absolutely fell in love with being outdoors. So much so, that he always wants to be outside. He does not care if it is cold or snowing or sunny and warm, Mr. Thomas wants to get beyond the front (or back) door and get some fresh air.

In order to accomplish his goal, Mr. Thomas has a ritual. Whenever my wife or I walk even remotely close to the front door, he takes off running, leaps onto the table by the door and pounces on us. He will be in your arms and nearly on your shoulder before you can blink an eye. It took Wendi by surprise the first time he did it when she walked in the house.

Because Mr. Thomas is so persistent, he gets out more than we would like him to be. In fact, it is winter time in Northeast Ohio, and we ran into a spell of a couple of warm days in January, and we dragged the crate out, set it up and let Mr. Thomas, long with Ariel and Buddy, enjoy some fresh air in the outdoors.

If we want to be successful, then it is going to take a singular focus. We have to know what the end game is and devise a strategy to accomplish our goals. Above all else, we have to act. A plan with no action just represents potential. Even if you execute the plan poorly, you can still revise and adapt. If you do nothing, then you better expect nothing good will come of it. You have to get started. Now.

What will receive your singular focus this week? What will drive you to act? There is no better time than now to start, so when will you?