Tag Archives: productivity

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

Happy Victoria Day to my Canadian compatriots.  For those of you who have the day off, what better way to idle a few hours away than immerse yourself in my Monday’s Link Roundup. ;-)

  • Oral history and hearing loss. “I rarely consider the basics of oral history collection and production, the act of sharing someone’s story with a wider audience. That is one of several reasons I so enjoyed Brad Rakerd’s contribution to Oral History Review issue on Oral History in the Digital Age, “On Making Oral Histories More Accessible to Persons with Hearing Loss.” In his piece, Rakerd discusses the obstacles people with hearing loss or other limitations on speech understanding face when engaging with oral history, and offers several recommendations to allow scholars to make their material more accessible. Mad with the power of the OUPblog post, I contacted Rakerd to prod him for more information.”
  • How to Write a Simple Business Plan. “Simple is always best. So with this in mind, here’s our guide to writing a business plan that won’t make potential investors want to tear their hair out in confusion.”
  • The Stories That Only Artists Can Tell. “…it seems to me that artists talk about different things when describing themselves than do their biographers and commentators. Biographers focus almost exclusively on the artwork, who taught and influenced the artist, changes in the artist’s work, an estimation of the artist’s work. Who the artist knew and spent time with, as well as notable events in the artist’s life, are detailed to the degree that they explain the evolution of the artwork.”
  • Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man. “It’s rare we take the time to listen to hour-long radio stories anymore, but I hope you’ll listen to this one, maybe twice. It’s an epic journey, a coming of age story, and a portrait of this country–big-hearted, wild, innocent, and wise…Andrew Forsthoefel, a first-time radio producer, who set out at age 23 to walk across America, East to West, 4000 miles, with a sign on him that said, “Walking to Listen.” Eventually, he showed up here in Woods Hole.Andrew didn’t intend to make a radio story–he just wanted to listen to people. You’ll hear in Andrew’s interviews his quality of attention. He is a magnet for stories and for the desire to connect.”
  • The Einstein Principle: Accomplish More By Doing Less. “Einstein’s push for general relativity highlights an important reality about accomplishment. We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention.”
  • Why You Should Give A $*%! About Words That Offend. [NPR Interview] “If you said the “s” word in the ninth century, you probably wouldn’t have shocked or offended anyone. Back then, the “s” word was just the everyday word that was used to refer to excrement. That’s one of many surprising, foul-mouthed facts Melissa Mohr reveals in her new book, Holy S- – -: A Brief History of Swearing. Though the curse words themselves change over time, the category remains constant — we always have a set of words that are off-limits. “We need some category of swear words,” Mohr says. “[These] words really fulfill a function that people have found necessary for thousands of years.”

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

My favorite article in today’s Monday’s Link Roundup is Reading Cookbooks as Life Stories. One of my prized possessions is Mom’s 1945  Purity Cookbook.  Thumbing through the grease-stained pages and reading her handwritten notes is like stepping back into Mom’s kitchen. Also, be sure to take a look at Boring Is Productive. I can now feel justly proud of my “boring” morning  routines! ;-)

  • An Illustrated Homage to Grandparents and the Art of Looking Twice. “As a lover of vintage and vintage-inspired children’s books, I was instantly enamored with The Frank Show (public library) by British illustrator and designer David Mackintosh — a charming homage to grandparents and the art of seeing beneath the grumpy exterior.”
  • The simple power of one a day. “There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you’ve built a mountain. Here are some things you might try (don’t do them all, just one of these once a day would change things for you):”
  • The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People. “I begin by looking at WHY networking is critical to your success as a creative professional. Then it’s onto the networks themselves, with quotations from the founders of some networks and success stories from users, explaining the networks’ individual cultures, how to use them, and how they can help your creativity and your career.”
  • Reading Cookbooks as Life Stories. “…cookbooks tell us something much more personal about their readers,..The problem is, we often only come about this information by inference – particularly when we know nothing about the original owner. Still, many cookbooks do offer at least a few tantalizing clues who owned them and how they were used.”
  • Data Lives Forever in Quartz Glass. “Hitachi has discovered a way to store digital information on slivers of quartz glass. This data can seemingly exist forever, enduring extreme temperatures and hostile conditions without degrading… at least until the sun begins to die and expend to consume the earth, that is.”
  • Using WorldCat to Find Genealogy Books. “WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. It is an online library catalog that lets you look up items in libraries around the world. The items available include books, electronic documents, journals, microform, and audio and video recordings. Best of all, WorldCat is available to everyone free of charge.”
  • Boring Is Productive. “Making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of a limited resource: your mental energy. In the late 1990s, Roy Baumeister (a professor at Florida State University) and colleagues performed several experiments showing that certain types of conscious mental actions appeared to draw from the same “energy source” — gradually diminishing our ability to make smart decisions throughout the day.”

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup don’t miss Why Killing Time Isn’t a Sin. It’s by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, a favorite of mine. His wise words are worth reflecting on. And if you get high on grammar and enjoy a good chuckle, then you’ll want to check out The 9 Best Funny and Helpful Blogs About Grammar.

  • 7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on LinkedIn. “Today, LinkedIn is the No. 1 social media platform for professionals. Estimates of professional participation in LinkedIn are as high as 83%…social media expert Alexandra Gibson…told me that she sees too many professionals making a lot of mistakes. Here are the seven she sees most often.”
  • What multitasking does to our brains. “We all know this and have heard it hundreds of times. To work efficiently we have to single task. No multitasking.And yet, we let it slip…Why the heck is it so hard to focus on just one thing then? To understand what actually goes on in our brains and see if it all makes sense, I went ahead and found some stunning research and answers to these questions.”
  • Why Stories Sell: Transportation Leads to Persuasion. “Research suggests that trying to persuade people by telling them stories does indeed work (Green & Brock, 2000). The question is why? Because if we know why, we can make the stories we tell more persuasive.”
  • Epilogue: Book-Lovers on the Future of Print. “Epilogue is a lyrical student documentary about the future of books by Hannah Ryu Chung, featuring a number of interviews with independent bookstore owners, magazine art directors, printers, bookbinders, letterpress artists, and other champions of bibliophilia.”
  • Why Killing Time Isn’t a Sin. “I have no objections to reading books, learning languages, or writing to friends. It’s the idea that downtime must be put to efficient use that I disagree with. While I used to agree with it completely, these days I take a completely different approach.Life is for living, not productivity.”
  • eBooks 101: Standard Vs. Fixed Layout. “One of the most frequent questions we get asked here at BookBaby is, “What’s the difference between a fixed layout eBook and a regular eBook?”
  • The 9 Best Funny and Helpful Blogs About Grammar. “There are numerous blogs about grammar available if you poke around. They can be instructive, amusing, helpful, or hysterically funny. I prefer the latter, since I find a little laughter makes learning a whole lot easier.Here then are blogs for your entertainment, education, and enjoyment, all on the subject of grammar.”

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

It’s Monday and another Link Roundup. This week I was struck by the wisdom in Post Secret. For those who’ve faced the challenge of interviewing some reserved older clients, this article is for you.  More food for thought in The Counter-Intuitive Benefits of Small Time Blocks. The author suggests there is a  way to get larger creative projects done by making the best use of small chunks of time.

  • Family Tree University’s Spring 2012 Virtual Conference. “At this weekend workshop, you’ll learn strategies and resources to boost your research—and because it’s web-based, you can participate from anywhere! Dates: 9 a.m. Friday, March 9, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 11, 2012″
  • Writing With All Your Senses — A Learnable Skill. “…writing dazzling descriptions is a learnable skill. It takes practice and dedication and seeps into remote corners of life, but the results are worth the effort. In my experience, a three-pronged approach has worked well to hone description skills to a keen edge. One prong involves reading, another involves awareness of surroundings, and the third is deliberation.”
  • Post Secret. “After my mother died, my sister kept discovering fascinating things she had left behind, one being a do-it-yourself autobiography that must have been given to her.”
  • Five Tips on How to Write Biographies. “What does it take to be a successful writer of biographies? How do you choose a subject? Does it matter if the subject is dead or alive? Must you be objective? Should you even try?” [Thanks to Pat McNees of Writers and Editors for alerting me to this item.]
  • Five Steps to Doing Genealogy Research Like A Pro. “I’ve been doing genealogy research professionally for almost a decade now. When clients are paying you by the hour, you learn lots of really great shortcuts to keep you moving along and focused. The big tip I shared on Thursday’s episode of The Barefoot Genealogist? (Drumroll, please.)”
  • The Counter-Intuitive Benefits of Small Time Blocks. “It’s a common assertion that doing hard, creative work requires long stretches of concentrated attention. And if you have the luxury of big, open blocks of time, it is a great way to get things done. But what if you don’t? What if you get interrupted left and right by clients and co-workers? Is there a way to push creative projects forward in this non-optimal environment?”

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Encore! 6 Lessons My Cat Taught Me About Time Management.


My cat Annie is full of useful lessons. And for those of you who say that lack of time is keeping you from getting your life story told, here’s what Annie knows about good time management… More

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup I particularly enjoyed Toss Productivity Out.  It questions our usual notion of what it means to be productive.  And for the grammar challenged like myself, you’ll find More one-or-two-word confusables a handy reference.

  • The iPhone: a Scanner in Your Pocket. “The next time you read a document that contains information about your ancestors, wouldn’t it be nice to immediately scan an image of it and email the image to yourself? Even better, how about uploading the image immediately to Dropbox or to MobileMe iDisk?  If you own an iPhone, you can do that right now by installing a bit of low-cost software.”
  • How to survive the age of distraction. “In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt. In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten. To pluck just one, Gary Steynghart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story describes a world where everybody is obsessed with their electronic Apparat – an even more omnivorous i-Phone with a flickering stream of shopping and reality shows and porn – and have somehow come to believe that the few remaining unread paper books let off a rank smell. The book on the book, it suggests, is closing.”
  • Confessions of a Typomaniac. “Of all the truly calamitous afflictions of the modern world, typomania is one of the most alarming and least understood. It was first diagnosed by the German designer Erik Spiekermann as a condition peculiar to the font-obsessed, and it has one common symptom: an inability to walk past a sign (or pick up a book or a menu) without needing to identify the typeface. Sometimes font freaks find this task easy, and they move on; and sometimes their entire day is wrecked until they nail it.”
  • Toss Productivity Out. “Toss productivity advice out the window. Most of it is well-meaning, but the advice is wrong for a simple reason: it’s meant to squeeze the most productivity out of every day, instead of making your days better.”
  • The typewriter lives on in India. “India’s typewriter culture survives the age of computers in offices where bureaucracy demands typed forms and in rural areas where many homes don’t have electricity.”
  • Teen volunteers to ghostwrite life tales for patients. “For some teen volunteers at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City West, they’re discovering more about many patients’ backgrounds — and themselves in the process — during one-on-one interviews through a program called Life Stories. Started in January, the program offers two volunteers — this summer it’s 18-year-old Zack Welch and 15-year-old Lauren Harrell — a chance to get to know patients of all ages by asking questions relating to life as a child, interesting vacations, their jobs and careers, and dating and marriage.”

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From the Archives: Shut Down Your Computer!

Shut Down Your Computer! If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me! A recent Swedish  study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that  prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering … Read More

Stop With The Productivity Pitches!

I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. ~ Woody Allen

Google “personal productivity” and out gush 102,000 blogs and 2,440,000 articles.  Among them you can learn 15 Ways to Maximize Your Lunch Hour. Call me crazy but I like a quiet lunch followed by a nap. If I want to maximize anything, it’s a longer siesta! One productivity guru promises that you too can Live A Stress Free Life With Time Management. Really? If it were that easy, the sales of Ativan would plummet.

My beef with the cult of productivity is that it implies that through increased efficiency we’ll get more done, have more free time, and be happier.  It feeds on our desire to have it all. News Flash! Happiness can’t be achieved through productivity.

Don’t get me wrong. Productivity has its place as long as it doesn’t become an end in itself. Spending our days checking things off lists, getting things done, and measuring our progress won’t ultimately make us happier or our business more successful.

Here’s a modest proposal. Rather than being caught up in the productivity game, just give up! That’s right. Give up.

Let me illustrate with a personal example. Some years ago I decided to transition out of documentary filmmaking  and become a  life coach. I enrolled with the Coaches Training Institute and after a rigorous year graduated as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.  I worked hard for the first couple of years marketing, honing my skills, and building a small client base. One day it dawned on me that I really wasn’t happy spending my time on a telephone coaching clients. No amount of increased efficiency was going to change that fact. So I gave up coaching. It wasn’t easy but I needed to move on.  I’m glad I did.

Giving up means acceptance of things as they are. It means stopping the constant need to change things. As “crazy” as it sounds, giving up will ultimately make you happier and your work more joyful.

What can you give up? Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • give up being super productive
  • give up trying to be perfect
  • give up trying to be all things to all people
  • give up worrying about the competition
  • give up working 12 hour days
  • give up  working at happiness
  • give up all the “stuff” that’s useless
  • give up toxic acquaintances
  • give up trying to be #1
  • give up  the self-improvement merry-go-round

Woody Allen’s humorous take on speed-reading gets at the heart of an obsession with productivity.  In our drive for ever-increasing efficiency we rob ourselves of life’s very essence.

What do you think? What are you prepared to give up?

Photo by Phil Gilbert

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Shut Down Your Computer!

If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me!

A recent Swedish  study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that  prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering news,  the discovery that no amount of exercise  eradicates this risk certainly was.

A similar Canadian study published last year tracked more than 17,000 for an average of twelve years. It also found that exercising had no effect on reducing health risks in sedentary people. Clearly, if I want to live longer, I’d better get up from my computer more often and start moving!

If that’s not convincing enough, here’s another reason to unplug your computer. This week I came across an article in The Harvard Business Review, For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More. The author Tony Schwartz argues quite persuasively that working ten or twelve hour days is counterproductive. What we need to be doing is following our natural ultradian rhythms. This is a cycle that runs from higher to lower mental alertness every 90 minutes throughout the day. Schwartz says we should take meaningful breaks after every 90 minutes of work. He himself has a routine that sees him have breakfast after his first 90 minutes, jog after his second, and lunch after his third. It makes sense to work this way. It’s how athletes train. They work hard in short bursts and then rest. So for me no more sitting glued to my computer for a couple of hours without a break.

Finally, I’ve started to read You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, the father of  virtual reality technology. Lanier’s provocative book is a passionate call to reclaim our individual humanity from the  anonymous hive mind of the digital world.  Beware of “cybernetic totalism,” he warns. I’m only a third of the way through the book and already I’m beginning to look at social networking with a much more critical eye.

Well, enough for today. I’m shutting down my computer and going for a good brisk walk. I’ll drink deeply of the sweet spring air, talk to the odd neighborhood cat, and smile at strangers.


Image by Florin  Hatmanu

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

**Don’t forget to vote on my poll: How long have you been a personal historian? Click here to vote.**

Happy Victoria Day holiday to all my Canadian readers! For those of you who have the day free, why not take a ramble through this Monday’s Link Roundup? There’s bound to be something to pique your curiosity. One of my favorite links is How to Take a Photo a Day and See Your Life in a Whole New Way. I’m seriously thinking of trying this.

  • Social Media Toolkits. “From the National Association of Government Communicators list, I’m reposting information about a great resource: three social media toolkits from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” [Thanks to Pat McNees for alerting me to this item.]
  • For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More. “As every great athlete understands, the highest performance occurs when we balance work and effort with rest and renewal. The human body is hard-wired to pulse, and requires renewal at regular intervals not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.”
  • 10 Simple Google Search Tricks. “I’m always amazed that more people don’t know the little tricks you can use to get more out of a simple Google search. Here are 10 of my favorites.”
  • Narrative Medicine: Learning to Listen. “Dr. Rita Charon, professor of clinical medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, is well aware of the power of storytelling. She has a Ph.D. in English — training that changed her medical practice. Through literature, she learned how stories are built and told, and translated that to listening to, and better understanding, patients.” [Thanks to Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner of Oral History Productions for alerting me to this item.]

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