7 Energy-Saving Ideas for Summer

Non-profit organizations face the same challenges and costs, when it comes to operating their facilities. Rent, taxes, insurance, utilities are all part of the cost of doing business.

Some of these costs are out of the control of the organization. For example, taxes are set by the municipality, and not many of them have exemptions for non-profits. On the other hand, utility costs can be managed.

Here are seven tips to help you manage your energy costs in the summer.

  1. Consider installing an automated thermostat that turns off your air conditioner at night.
  2. Open windows in the summer. It costs nothing, but it saves energy and money. Keep your windows open in the evening and overnight to allow cooler air into your home, and turn off your air conditioner. Close the windows during the day to keep the cool air in and the warm air out.
  3. Ceiling fans use less electricity than air conditioners or furnaces. For example, a ceiling fan costs about five cents an hour to operate, which is much less than an air conditioner.
  4. Did you know that you use three to five percent more energy for each degree that your air conditioner is set below 24 degrees Celsius or 75 degrees Fahrenheit? So, set your thermostat to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit to provide the most comfort at the least cost.
  5. Use awnings and overhangs to keep the sun out of south-facing windows in the summers. Take them down the awnings to let the sun shine in during the winter.
  6. Installing high efficiency windows with low-e coatings, argon gas fill and insulated spacers have made a difference to the amount of heat in the house.
  7. A reflective roof can reduce the roof surface temperature by up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your climate. A reflective roof prevents the sun’s heat from transferring into the building.

10 Tips for Giving Effective Instructions

Somewhere along the line, you are going to have to tell another person how to perform a task. Whether teaching your kids how to use the dishwasher or training new staff at work, your ability to give good instructions will affect the speed at which they learn.

Giving clear instructions sounds easy, but can be complex, especially in an office environment or within a business. Mixed messages, assumptions and multiple options mean that the message received might differ from what we actually meant.

If you explain things properly, you only have to do it once. Explain things poorly and you will have to do it again. You might even need to fix things that were done wrong. Here are some tips to make sure you communicate instructions effectively:

  1. Get people’s attention. Before giving any instructions, make sure you have the attention of those who should be listening.
  2. Be clear and specific about what you want. Break the task down into step-by-step procedures.
  3. If you’re unsure whether or not people have really understood you, have them repeat your message using their own words.
  4. Demonstrate or illustrate whenever possible.
  5. Only give a small number of instructions at any one time. People have trouble remembering large amounts of information. For more complex tasks, break-down the instructions to each part of the job.
  6. Use direct and specific language. Say exactly what you mean. Don’t leave people guessing.
  7. Don’t rush your instructions. Clear directions save time.
  8. Avoid misunderstandings by asking the person how they’ll approach the issue or task and why. Have them repeat your instructions when you’re finished.
  9. Don’t get sidetracked by excuses or disagreements. Restate your instructions one more time if necessary.
  10. Check back during the initial stages. Give people room to do what you expect of them, but be available to help when needed.

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

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