Tag Archive for: how to be more successful

4 Productivity Lessons I Learned From Life

4 Productivity Tips I Picked Up FromIt’s pretty well known that most lessons are not taught in a classroom. I think this is especially true when it comes to productivity. No one ever teaches you how to write a list or how to plan your schedule in school. (Maybe they should!) We’re just expected to know these things.

Most of what I learned about list making and time management I learned the hard way – through mistakes.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years:

List Making is in My Blood

For as long as I can remember my Dad has always been making a list about something. For example, my dad’s garden is his pride and joy. Every March he makes a list of all the vegetables that he wants to have in his garden for the summer. He’s very systematic about it and even draws out a map of where each vegetable will be planted. It’s pretty cute that he’s so passionate about it.

Watching my Dad planning out his garden had a strong influence on me as a child because I love a good system.

I use them all the time in my work as a health producer. The day before a shoot, I sit at my desk and run through the entire interview I’m going to conduct in my head. I visualize exactly how it should go. For example, I’ll interview the doctor first, then get exam video of the patient and doctor, and then interview the patient. I think about the purpose of the story and then write a list of all the questions to ask the doctor and the patient. This helps me make sure I don’t leave anything out.

Some people might see it as being over prepared – but just as my Dad’s planning would pay off with a fruitful harvest every summer – all my systems have made my life much easier.

Every List Helps

My very first TV job was at WLNY-TV 55 on Long Island. (Random fact: It’s also where I met my hubby.) One night at that station will live on in infamy—all because of a stupid and avoidable mistake.

That night the main anchor was on vacation, so one of the reporters was filling in for him on the 11:00 p.m. newscast. That fateful night, the clock struck 11, and camera one’s red light went on. We were live.

The fill-in anchor read the show’s opening perfectly. She then turned to camera three, as scripted, for the next story— except that there was no script! Eeek! An anchor’s nightmare: no teleprompter.

She scrambled to make it look as though nothing were wrong. But it was obvious to her, the viewers, and everyone involved in the production that something had gone awry.

That night, during our “postmortem” meeting—in which we discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of the show—the substitute anchor threw the camera operator right under the bus. It wasn’t pretty. Turns out, an intern (not me!) was on camera three that night and forgot to turn on the teleprompter.

Boy—that did not go over well.

The next day there was an announcement from our news director: “Everyone must fill out a checklist before operating a studio camera!” As you can imagine, this idea was met with eye rolling and groaning. But we did it. Every one of us completed this form before every single show in the two years that I worked there.

It may seem silly to make a checklist for some simple things that you do everyday, however when our brains are running on automatic we don’t always make the best decisions. That day I learned that no list too simple.

Life Is Easier With A List

I’ve written before about my recent apartment-buying drama, but lists can really come to my rescue when searching for a new home. And the move before this last one was no different. My husband and I decided we should leave our home in Forest Hills in Queens and move to Manhattan.

We checked every area we could find in Manhattan for a rental in our price range. But as soon as I got off the F train in Forest Hills and headed back to our apartment, I had already forgotten how many closets the apartment we looked at had, if it had an air conditioner, or what floor it was on!

When you’re renting, sometimes the listings aren’t complete. They don’t have pictures, and there are rarely floor plans. Normally, I’m very good at paying attention and staying focused, but for some reason, this assignment completely overwhelmed me. I was shocked, until I realized why.

I wasn’t tackling this in a way that I knew from experience would work perfectly for me—with a list!

After several disappointing and frustrating trips, I decided to make a checklist, just as I do at work. So I made a list of all the things I needed to pay attention to when I was looking at an apartment: address, floor, view, hardwood floors or carpeting, number of closets, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, dishwasher, laundry, doorman, etc.

This checklist became our rundown every time we stepped foot into an open house. Jay and I would refer to it as we walked through a space and ask questions accordingly. It allowed us to focus on exactly what we needed to pay attention to so that we could walk out with all the information we could possibly need to make a clear decision.

I think it was important for me to struggle through those first few months of apartment hunting. Since it lead me to the realization that whether it’s a work or a home, a list will make almost any process run smoother. Plus that list lead to the start of this blog!

Be Prepared

‘Be Prepared’ is the boy scout motto and for a good reason. Life has a way of surprising us at the most inconvenient times. Last year my parents called me in the middle of the day at work and told me that my mom had to be taken to the hospital. She got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, blacked out and fell and hit her head badly. Eeek! I talked to her and she was fine but being admitted for all kinds of tests. So I wanted to be there with her.

I left work and went home to pack an overnight bag and froze.

I couldn’t think of anything that I needed – and I should’ve known that I needed all the essentials. You know — pajamas, an outfit for the next day, toiletries, etc.

But I couldn’t think of anything. When something like this happens your mind is thinking a hundred different things. It catches you off guard and your not able to think as rationally.

I think it’s a lifesaver to have a short list of items to pack in case of emergency. These types of small lists can save you time down the line.

These are just a few of the stories that I touch on and more in my book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. If you want to hear more of my misadventures with lists — please check it out. And if you already have — I’d love it if you could leave a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

What productivity tips have you learned from the school of life?

Get Inspiration From Late-Bloomer Celebs

Julia_ChildSpring is synonymous with a fresh start. If you’ve been lagging on your New Year’s resolutions or you just want to make a change – now is the time to turn over a new leaf.

However, change is not always easy.

Especially the 10th, 20th or even 50th time around. Today I want to celebrate this list of people who found success a little later in life. Proving that it’s really is never too late to change your ways!

Julia Child – Probably the most famous late bloomer, Julia didn’t develop an interest in cooking until she was in her late thirties. She went on to publish nearly twenty cooking books, many of which where tied to her popular television shows.

Vera Wang – Vera had many missteps before she became a successful designer. In her youth she was an avid figure skater, but failed to make the US Olympic team. Later she would rise the ladder at Vogue, but was constantly overlooked for the editor-in-chief position. So at 40 she decided to go out on her own, initially by designing wedding gowns. Now she’s broken into the mainstream and even designed lines for more affordable retailers like David’s Bridal, Zales and Kohl’s.

Harrison Ford – After struggling to make it as an actor in Hollywood, Harrison quit to become a carpenter!  Can you believe it?  He actually met George Lucas after he was hired to build some cabinets for him. Lucas would later cast him in the role of Hans Solo. However Ford’s big career break didn’t happen until he was 35.

David Seidler – You probably haven’t heard of David, but you are probably well aware of his most well known screenplay – The King’s Speech. David’s didn’t start his career as a writer until he was in his 40s. He also spent nearly 30 years working on the script. Proving that dedication really does pay off.

Colonel Sanders – Yes that Colonel. Harland Sanders did run a relatively successful restaurant in Kentucky for most of his life. However it was until he was 65 that he created the franchise now known around the world as KFC.

Now that you’ve got a little inspiration — what have you been putting off that needs to be added to your list?

ListProducer.com is Getting a Makeover

ListfulThinkingI can’t believe this blog is almost 4 years old. Yep – can you believe it? This April will mark 4 years since I took list-making to a whole new level! ListProducer.com has always had the same look and I loved it. But I think it’s time for a change…something new…something brighter and something better! So starting Monday — ListProducer.com will look different.

This original look is something that I threw together with a graphic designer friend but now that my book is out and I’m hoping to build this site into so much more – it’s time for a makeover! Yay! Oh wait — I hate change. It’s true – I have a really hard time switching gears when something has served me well. I was the kid who never wanted to switch teachers or desks at school.

Even though I’ve done great up until now with this site and my natural tendency is to say “it’s fine, why change it?” – it’s time to outsource and upgrade. I’m so thrilled that my path crossed with Cass McCory’s from Capra Strategy who is helping me with this redesign and transition. She’s also a list maker! And she totally gets me. So it was a much easier decision than usual.

Although redoing my website had been on my “want list” for quite some time it was one thing that I was putting off. If you’ve been doing the same — this checklist is for you! Cass wrote it up for us — in list form of course:

A Checklist for a Website Redesign

by Cass McCrory

Are you ready to have your website re-done professionally? Here are 5 tips to identify if you’re ready and what to do next…

1. Does your website impact your ability to make money in your business? The answer to this question is always yes, you just may not know HOW. When you work with a vendor they should be able to help you identify revenue streams from your website and suggest ways to optimize for the best result. If they can’t do that, they’re probably not the right vendor for you.

2. There’s a tipping point where your time is better spent doing what YOU do best rather than figuring out how to make your website do something you need it to do. A good rule of thumb: if you’re spending more than 10 hours on something and struggling it’s better to go to a pro – that 10 hours can make a big impact if you’re doing what you do best.

3. Question to ask your vendor: Can I edit it when you’re done? This is a really important question because you’ve been doing it on your own up to this point and you do not want your hands to be tied in updating your site moving forward. A reputable vendor will make sure that you can take it from here, and always be available as a back-up.

4. Another question for your vendor: When can we meet? Bigger agencies will work standard business hours, but if you’re just starting out and juggling a full-time job along with your passion project you may need someone that can talk live after-hours. Ask the question upfront. While email communication is great sometimes you need to talk live to effectively communicate what you want.

5. You get what you pay for. Can your cousin’s son create a new website for you? Yes. Yes, he probably can. But will it be a great website for you? It might be, and it might not be. Looking around at other websites that you like and inquiring about who did their work is a great place to start.

BONUS TIP: Are you looking for a fresh design, new logo, the works? Spend a few weeks thinking about your target audience and what will appeal to them – identify magazines they’d read, places they’d like to shop and what they’re striving for. Start a Pinterest board for inspiration and provide this to your vendor, it will really help them kick-off a design project on the right foot.

Checklist for Overcoming Nervousness

nervousnessIt’s important to remember that everyone gets nervous. We all know the stresses of starting a new job, making a big move or having to speak at an important meeting. While a little bit of nervousness is fine, sometimes it can seriously keep you from being your best.

Here are a few ways to overcome your nerves and get back on track: Read more

Sneaky Ways to Get Your Act Together

organziedYou probably have at least one person in your life who always seems to be on top of things. They’re always prepared for meetings, they never forget your birthday…you know the type.  Not to brag – but my friends say this about me.  So what’s our secret?

The truth is we don’t have an endless memory, we just know where to get the right facts.  I can’t help myself — I’m a journalist after all. Read more