The A-B-C’s of Personal Knowledge Management

The key question in filing or storing material is not, “Where do I put it?” but rather, “Where do I find it?”

You can have the most sophisticated storage systems available, but if you don’t know where to find what’s inside, you’re no better off than having stacks of stuff all over the place.

One of the most useful ideas within GTD is the simplification of the personal filing system. How do you file your own reference materials?

Filing cabinet GTD

Two parameters drive the system:

  1. It must be easy to file materials otherwise you won’t
  2. It must be easy to retrieve materials, or you won’t trust the system.

Having used all sorts of elaborate, cross-referenced, index-card, electronic, with filing cabinets, bankers-boxes and card-box systems, I can tell you, they don’t work. There is nothing simpler than alphabetical order.

This is the beauty of the alphabet: categorize what you have in your hand, put it in a file folder, label it and file it under the first letter of the label. All in order and quick to retrieve. When you need something, you will find it in one of a couple of places.

For example, my gas bill will be under G for Gas or D for Direct Energy, my supplier. A more complicated system might have the gas bill filed under Bills>>Home>>Utilities>>Gas. More difficult to recall, and difficult to set-up. You have to know the rules and categories ahead of time and have some way of keeping track of them.

Electronic file systems sort alphabetically by default, so applying the system to your electronic documents should not require too much brain power.

You can download a free pdf from Davidco, with David Allen’s thoughts and ideas on General Reference Filing.

A Guide to Public Speaking

Delivering an effective presentation is difficult. With the Internet, listeners have access to more information that ever before and have higher expectations for content from speakers today. In addition, because most people are saturated with entertainment, audiences want a presentation that is entertaining.

Here is a quick guide to giving an effective and interesting presentation:

Grab their attention.

Use a startling statement, statistic, or a compelling story. Listeners pay close attention when a person begins with, “Two weeks ago as I was driving to work a car pulled out in front of me….” Whatever technique you choose, when you grab the attention of the audience you are on your way to a successful speech.

Be energetic.

Speak with vocal variety. Slow down for a dramatic point and speed up to show excitement. Pause occasionally for effect. Don’t stand behind the lectern; move away to make a point. When you are encouraging your audience, step towards them. Gesture and demonstrate. Get your face involved in the presentation. Smile when speaking about something pleasant; let your face show other emotions as you speak. Be careful to make  your movements appropriate for your talk.

Organize and plan your speech.

Don’t have more than three main points. Start with an overview of the points. Support each point with examples, definitions, testimony, or statistics. Use visual aids and presentation software, but keep it simple and appropriate.

Use transitions.

These could be as simple as as “First,” “Second,” or “Finally.” Use an internal summary by simply including the point you just made and telling what you plan to talk about next. “Now that we have talked about structure, let’s move on to the use of stories,” would be an example. When you have an introduction, two or three main points with support for each, appropriate transitions, and a conclusion, you will have your speech organized in a way that the audience can follow you easily.

Tell stories

especially in technical presentations. Use examples from your experience that connects to your content. Stories work and have value because they help us understand. Through stories, facts and raw data gain meaning. Stories are how we best learn and visualize information. They simplify and clarify even the most complex information. They can hook an audience with emotion. Stories help people remember what they’ve heard.

Use the stories of others.

If you are delivering a persuasive speech, include the support of experts whom the audience respects. Add key statistics when possible to show the seriousness of what you are discussing. However, be careful not to overwhelm them with numbers and data.

Make eye contact.

Let your eyes speak for you – Your eye contact is the single most effective indicator that you’re involved in the conversation. You can communicate warmth or sympathy or sincerity or any emotion needed, through your eyes. Avoiding eye contact, makes you appear anxious, uninterested and bored. Your eyes speak and provide cues as to how approachable you are.

Don’t read or memorize your speech.

Be yourself; speak naturally. Whatever your natural self is: formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper, use those traits. Talk—don’t lecture—about the material.

Use humour.

You’re not be a comedian but you’re going to lighten up a serious speech to make it more memorable. Make sure the humour is related to what you are saying and not just a joke for the sake of a joke. Don’t poke fun at your audience; poke fun at yourself. Keep it short. Experienced speakers know funny stories soon become unfunny if they go on too long.

End with a call to action.

People remember best what you say last. Summarize your main points, then make your last words a thought to ponder or an action the audience can take.

You never becomes a perfect speaker. Public speaking skill is a life-long development. The points discussed here will get you started becoming the speaker you want to be and a speaker your audience wants to hear.

Orwell on Writing: 6 Questions and 6 Rules

As a writer, I can be pretty sloppy or lazy, at times. However, I do look for ways to learn how to improve the quality of my writing. George Orwell had 6 questions and 6 rules he applied to ensure what he had to say was clear to the reader.

6 Questions

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

6 Rules

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

From George Orwell’s Essay – “Politics and the English Language.

More short writing tips – Streamline your written messages.

There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management

What does it mean to be productive? That’s the question Dustin Wax asks in his Lifehack.org post, There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management – Lifehack.org.He suggests the typical answer might be, “Getting the most done in the least possible time.”

Once upon at time, efficiency experts and time-management consultants would have been brought into the workplace with one goal in mind: getting the most work possible out of employees. It was a matter of a good “bottom line”.

However, productivity goes far beyond time management. Dustin goes on to say,

Here’s a different take on what productivity is: You’re being productive when your work is entirely satisfying and fulfilling.

He touches on some of the qualities that define “entirely satisfying and fulfilling.” 

  • You grow as a person.
  • You enjoy the company of others.
  • You are proud of what you’ve completed.
  • You feel confident about your abilities.
  • You look forward to undertaking the same or similar projects in the future.
  • You help others.
  • You receive the acclaim of your peers.

Click here to read the entire post

Plan your personal development with a “To Be” list

How many of you begin your week by writing a to-do list to track the things you want to accomplish over the next seven days?

How about writing a weekly ‘To Be’ list capturing the kinds of personal characteristics you would like to exhibit in the upcoming week?

A ‘to-be’ list does not focus on scheduled activities, but rather, focuses on discovering or developing who we are. We are often defined by what we do. When asked about our lives, we’re more likely to respond, “I’m a student,” or “I’m a graphic designer,” than, “I’m compassionate, supportive, or hard-working.”

Similarly, it is easier to write your weekly to-dos. In some way doing seems more concrete and objective than being.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. In fact, these aspects of our lives have a kind of symbiotic relationship. The things we want to accomplish work best when they are aligned with what we what our lives to be.

I recognize this subject generates considerable philosophical discussion. Rather than revisit those arguments, I’ll give you quotes from greater minds:

  • “To do is to be” – Rene Descartes.
  • “To be is to do” – Voltaire.
  • “Do be do be do” – Frank Sinatra.

Leslie M. Bosserman shares her thoughts on this practice in an article posted at Holstee.

Why not make this a life experiment for the next 8 weeks?

This week, I want to:

  • be the best husband I can be;
  • be less critical of those with whom I disagree;
  • listen more and speak less;
  • be supportive of friends going through difficult times;
  • more responsive to the requests from the people I serve.

It’s about becoming the people we would like to be.

It’s about becoming the person I would like to be!

How to Give a Demonstration Speech Like a Food Network Star

Most of my YouTube or television watching centres around cooking; not shows like Food Network challenges, Top Chef or Guy’s Grocery Games. Rather, I enjoy the shows where the hosts demonstrate the preparation of specific dishes. I want to watch Tyler Florence prepare Chicken Paillard or Micheal Smith make no-knead bread and then try the recipe myself.

That’s the essence of a demonstration speech. You demonstrate an activity and then get your audience committed to trying the activity.

A demonstration speech is the “how to” of public speaking. It can be more difficult to present than any other type of speech. If something goes wrong, it can slow down the entire speech or bring it to a halt. While the fundamentals of preparing and giving any good speech are important, there are additional considerations for the demonstration speech.

When preparing and presenting a demonstration speech, you need to think like a Food Network Star.

Know Your Topic

They don’t pick just any old person off the street to host a cooking show; unless it’s the street where Giada lives. The chefs and cooks demonstrating the techniques have established themselves in the food-service industry. In some cases, they are among the finest chefs in the world. They know their subject.

The most important element of giving a demonstration speech is choosing a topic you know well. The success of your demonstration speech will hinge on your ability to perform the activity you are demonstrating.

Prepare Your Material

You know that if Mario Batali is preparing Zabaglione, he’s going to reach into the fridge and pull out as many eggs as he needs. You also know he is not going to stop mid-demonstration and say, “I’m out of olive oil.” Not only do they have all the ingredients they need, but the ingredients are “mise en place” everything prepped and in place.

Once you have outlined your demonstration speech, prepare the materials. It’s important to gather all the materials and visual aids you will need and practice with them in advance.

Bend Time to Your Needs

When a television chef prepares a dish that requires several hours to complete, the show doesn’t get any longer. You’re shown how to make the marinade, then the steaks go into the marinade and into the fridge overnight. Conveniently, the fridge contains a pan with already-marinated steaks, ready for the next step.

If you are demonstrating a process with steps requiring “waiting time”, be sure to bring examples of the project at each stage in the process.

If You Can’t Show, Tell

Alton Brown is the master of this step, on the show Good Eats. He may not be able to show you gluten developing in bread dough, but he’s got three puppets, one chalkboard and a barbershop quartet to help explain the process.

If it’s impossible to demonstrate every step of your topic, brainstorm for other ways to clearly explain the process.

Don’t Always Tell, Show

A good television chef lets the actions speak for themselves. The chef will say, “add a chopped onion,” and we watch as the onion is chopped and added to the pan. The chef knows when to pause and let the audience focus on the action.

Make good use of the pause. This gives opportunity to demonstrate the step and you can take a breath. The audience can concentrate on what you’re doing and what they need to do without having to concentrate on your words at the same time.

End with a Finished Product

What’s the last thing you see Bobby Flay do on Boy Meets Grill? He slices off a bit of perfectly grilled steak and eats it. We’re left with a picture of a dish that’s so delicious and simple to make, we want to run out and fire up the barbeque, even though it’s January and snowing.

Leave your audience with a finished product. If you’re demonstrating a skill you expect them to use, let them see what it looks like at the end. They are more likely to try something that they have seen successfully completed.

Preparation of a demonstration speech is the same as for a regular speech. It’s important to spend time organizing your thoughts and what you want to say. However, when preparing a demonstration speech, it’s important to remember that the demonstration and visual parts of the presentation are the most important and the speaking portion, while needing to be strong, should support the task which you’re demonstrating to the audience.

Learn more, do more, become more