Tag Archives: planning

put it on the list.

#moleskine list

I work from both sides of my brain. I can move from choosing shots for a short video to being asked about budget allocations to being asked about moving a person from one office to another. I love the variety, figuring out how to tell a story and figuring out how to get the network connection working in the new space.

I’m finding, however, that the shifts are harder. I’m needing to stop and let my brain move from one side to the other.

Part of what is helping these days is working to get major projects that must get done on a list. And must-get-done-today items. And stuff that I’m told during those moments of brain-shifting.

I’m using a moleskine notebook with squares. It’s expensive (though I used a coupon) which makes me take it seriously. It has little squares which allows me to use it how I want.

Here are some list thoughts today.

1. Be willing to turn the page and start a new list. Sometimes the old list just needs to be retired.

2. Put really simple things on the list (like “make coffee”). Get a victory.

3. Put projects that people hand you during the day on the list so you can cross them off when you get it done. (If you don’t, you’ll get to the end of the day and think, “What, exactly, did I do today?”.)

4. If you have three words for the year, put something from them on your list.

5. Some days do what  Becky says. Limit yourself to six items on the list. It will feel less intimidating.

6. If there is one project that has to get done, make that be the ONLY item on a blank page in your book. Really.

So, what am I missing? What works for you?

By the way, I know it’s not how David Allen says to do it. I’m sorry.


progress reflections halfway through January

I did my three words.

I’m keeping track of how much water I’m drinking, how often Nancy and I are walking. I’m working on a couple other things.

I’m trying. I’m really trying.

But I spent part of several hours of driving yesterday thinking about my three words and about what has felt like little progress.

I picked up a little thread that Chris Brogan included in “Wiring Yourself for Success.” He shows how to take three words and lay out a plan. As part of the planning process, he says to identify “Distractions to Avoid”.

So yesterday I made a list of distractions or barriers or obstacles for each of my words. I looked for what has been throwing me off track.

Cats cookiesFor example, I realized that when I am agitated, I snack. Having an open container of Cats Cookies from Trader Joe’s on the car seat next to me makes it very easy, when trying to focus, to take way more than the 16 that make up a serving.

On the other hand, if I have a bag with only 16 and can’t get to the rest, I’ll only eat those sixteen.

This is not, by the way, focusing on failure. It is looking at the places I get off track, identifying what happens, and making changes to avoid those behaviors.

Because, after all, I want to eliminate the distractions that are keeping me from accomplishing what is represented by my three words.


Related posts:

Which weaknesses

Have a seat. Just for a minute or two.

8 ways to look at six months

coffee cup and paperThat’s how much of the year is gone.

Six months. Seems like years. Seems like days.

I decided to give the two of us a way to evaluate these six months. I hope it helps.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or something) and sit on the deck and let’s reflect a bit.


1. I actually know more about these three people than I did 6 months ago.

________                  ________                       ________

1a. And here are three things I know about them.

2. If I add my blogs posts together, I have written this many words that wouldn’t otherwise be written: ______

3. Though I wish I’d done more, I have to admit that I’ve given this much _________ (time, money, stuff) to help other people.

4. Though it isn’t as much as I think it should be, I have talked to God _____________ times  and I stopped to listen _____________ times.

5. I’ve read about ____ (#)  topics.  ___% of them had nothing to do with my job.

6. I have told _______ and _______ how much I care about them _______ times a ________ (day/week/year).

7.  Six months ago I didn’t know how to __________ and now I do.

8.  Though the list keeps growing, I have to admit that I’ve crossed at least ______ items off my to do list every _____ (day/week/month).

Bonus: Go back and write the numbers and phrases and people that you want to be able to list on December 30.

8 ways to write the next sentence – TNS part 5

This is the last in a series of posts about “the next sentence.”

I’ve been talking about the importance of being intentional about the next sentence, whether that is the sentence after the compelling story in a speech, or the sentence after a powerful video in a sermon, or the mailing that is the followup after a major event. Call it the next step, the next party, the call to action. Call it whatever you want.

Just don’t forget it.

Here are 8 ways to write the next sentence. Of course, some of these relate to sentences, others to events. But deal with it. If you are reading this blog you are incredibly gifted at filling in gaps and reading between the lines and making sense of inferences.

I know you.

1. Write a clear outcome for your presentation. In my life as a speech teacher, I would make students write a measurable outcome: “When I have finished speaking, my audience will be able to ____.” I don’t do that anymore. Unless I want to make sure I’m actually effective.

2. Practice the story you are telling. Ever start telling a story and then wonder what your point was? Your audience was wondering, too. So take some time and tell the story out loud. Unless, of course, the point doesn’t matter.

3. Stop and look at the audience, even before the event. When we are speaking, when we are planning events, we are working with real people, people with short attention spans and learning styles not our own and bladders and broken hearts and, well, lives. I get consumed with my presentation and planning and cool graphics and neat events. However, I need to stop and look at the people who will be in the room. When I do, I often change and simplify and clarify. Of course, maybe that’s just me.

4. Create a checklist. I talked in the second post about remembering everything but an attendance list which would allow followup for an event. If we had assembled a checklist, one of us would have remembered. I am horrible at lists. All the more reason. (“cool story. check. next sentence. check.”)

5. Pray. This may not apply to you. If not, jump to number 6. I have this belief that God actually knows people inside and out. So when I’m trying to figure out the next sentence, I occasionally ask what to say. And sometimes,  I am told. And sometimes, I even have to erase something.

6. Wait. So you told an incredibly moving, incredibly appropriate, incredibly inspiring story. You can tell that it moved people, mostly because you have tears in your own eyes. So wait for a bit. Before you say that next sentence, wait. Let people think and feel for a bit. Just wait. (You want proof? Think of a really moving episode of Extreme Makeover. Lives changed, people helped. You want to sit and think about whether you are doing the same. And immediately you hear “stay tuned for Desperate Housewives.” Suddenly you realize that the network isn’t about moving your heart.

Don’t be like the network.

7. Pretend. Pretend for a moment that you actually know what you are doing. Because you probably do. I was talking with someone today about the imposter syndrome. This is best illustrated by that fear in teachers that someday while we are teaching, someone will stand up and say, “you made that up!” and we will say, “You are right. Finally, someone saw the truth about me.” It is possible however, that you do know what you are doing and if you quit thinking about your insecurity you can think about helping people change the world.

Because that’s what you are about, right?

8. Pilot. Experiment. Tell your stories to friends before the event. Have a few people for dinner before you have 1,000 people at a banquet. Occasionally have your spouse or friend read a post before you hit publish. The thing that seemed really cool inside your head may not be.


So that’s it. A digital workshop on the next sentence. This will be an ebook soon. I’ll let you know.

For now, you can follow these links to the first four segments.

Part One: The next sentence

Part Two: How I messed up

Part Three: Teaching as a performance

Part four: Afraid of what comes next

And let me know if this helped.


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the next sentence – part two

We had a newcomer lunch. We wanted to have something for people who have started coming to church services here within the last year. It’s the first event like that we’ve had around here in at least 13 years.

It seemed like it would make sense to help people get connected, to find out more about who we are and what we believe.

We announced it out loud. We put it in our publications. We sent invitations to everyone we knew of that fit in that demographic.

We had between 20 and 30 people signed up to come. We invited a bunch of staff and a couple elders and the fellowship committee. We had 75 people. We had a great time.

And then I started thinking about the next sentence. I realized I needed to take a next step with that event. So I created a postcard to send to them with four questions.

Thanks for coming to the Newcomer Lunch. 
Those of us who are oldtimers enjoyed it. We hope you did, too.
Because this was the first time we’ve done this,
we would appreciate your help. Would you answer
these questions and drop this card in the offering plate
the next time you come to church? (or hand it to
a staff member or mail it in or attach it to a homing pigeon) 
Pastor Jon Swanson
Our goal was to help you get a clearer picture of Grabill Missionary Church.
1. Given that goal, what was the most helpful part of the hour?

2. Given that goal, what one thing could we do that would make Newcomer Lunches more effective?

3. What were you expecting that we didn’t do?

4. Should we keep doing this?  Yes No
Name (optional)

It was a simple card, inviting another level of involvement.

And then we started looking for addresses. And we realized that we didn’t have a list of the people who showed up. And we didn’t have the list of people who had said they were coming. And we didn’t remember to have people sign a sheet when they filled out a name tag.

We had a great event, we had people wanting to do it again, but we had no way to follow up.

Since then, we’ve been able to build a list of the newcomers. Our people did a wonderful job of mingling and talking and learning names and building connections. And we have already gotten back several cards, with very positive comments.

The lesson? Think about what comes after the thing that you are doing now. After this story, what’s the moral? After this presentation, what’s the followup? After this lesson, what’s the application?

So what’s your story about missing out on the next sentence?


Coming up next in this series, what keeps us from thinking about the next sentence?


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The next sentence – part one

We were planning a church service, several of us. We met every week, talking through how the songs and the drama and the readings could connect to the sermon and to the congregation. We looked at a video, a clip to drop into the sermon.  The video was really cool, really interesting, really entertaining. It seemed to be great to include.

And then Steve, the preacher, asked, “what’s the next sentence?”


“After that video plays, what is the next sentence, the sentence that makes it make sense?”

A great question for the two of us in particular. He is a wonderful communicator. I am a spin master.  And as we thought it through, we realized that there was no way we could move people from the video to the text. There was no connection. If the video stayed, the whole sermon would have to be changed…..including the topic.

By itself, the video was great. There were a number of settings in which it would work. But that sermon on that Sunday for that audience was not the place. It would destroy what was being built.

I wrote those three words, “the next sentence” on a scrap of paper and kept them above my desk. I realized that for every illustration, for every event, for every lesson, for everything that I know captures attention, I need to think about what comes next.

How will I follow that, how can I take that attention, that emotion, that readiness to learn on the part of the audience, and help them learn? Or will I take the mood, the readiness, the anticipation and ruin it with “Wasn’t that a great story? I knew you’d like it. Anyway, back to what we were talking about.”

For the next few posts, I’m going to talk about the next sentence.

Next up? How we completely forgot how to welcome some interested newcomers to our church.


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8 ways people talking about intentional social media strategy may be right.

jon and texasYou know, them. The people who suggest that you can be thoughtful and strategic about this blogging stuff. I mean, the people:

  1. like Joanna Young, who suggests that you can generate a month’s worth of posts in 30 minutes. She talks about creating a mindmap with the theme of your blog. I tried it one day, while driving. I wrote one phrase, “affirming words” on the middle of a post-it index card. I generated 5 post topics in four minutes. They wrote themselves quickly and they actually were thoughtful and connected and significant.
  2. like Liz Strauss, who suggests that you can build an editorial calendar for different days, and that you can map out a month of blogging activities and control your blogging time rather than having it control you. A month ago I started a theme for Sundays. I’m working through the week the same way. (Note: the calendar idea is near the bottom of the post. It stayed with me for months before I realized that I could do it, too.).
  3. like Chris Brogan, who suggests that you stop just thinking about your personal brand and instead, actually do specific things in social media. I discovered that I have several things covered, but that I need to be more specific about a few more.
  4. like Becky McCray, who says that we need to learn to say no. Actually, Becky has said a lot of things to help me focus, but that’s one collection.
  5. like Rob Hatch, who is proof that people on the other end of social media are people. There are other examples, and you know who you are, but who’d have imagined Brogan’s and Hatch’s and Swanson’s in the same physical space at the same time?
  6. like Cheryl Smith who started a blog intended for public consumption but didn’t tell anyone about it until she had written enough posts to prove to herself she could. That kind of patience has borne fruit for her. (And she let me look ahead of time and helped me find some words from Isaiah that I had been trying to remember for months.)
  7. like Paul Merrill, who I finally believed about turning off the comment approval. It has freed up conversation wonderfully. (In the process, I also finally got wordpress set to email me each comment so I know. It hadn’t been working before.)
  8. like these faces who remind me by their daily patience and love that the core of social media is the social, not the media.