Decision Making

TOO MANY CHOICES

The ThinkerWhether it’s business, our health, or our insurance policies, the problem is the same. We have too many choices. Result:  We don’t choose. We do nothing at all. We’re exhausted and we’re paralyzed.

Here are three folks who can tell us why we are not happier, and not smarter and not better off with more choices.

  • Barry Schwartz, Ph.D. writes and speaks on The Paradox of Choice. (2004)
  • Malcolm Gladwell author of  Outliers and Tipping Point in his 2004 TED Talk.
  • Sheena Iyengar Ph.D. writes and speaks on The Art of Choosing, (2010). The book discusses “relationship between choice and freedom — one doesn’t always go with the other.”

What to do about it? Simplify. Boil it down to three.

Choose From the Top Three:  Make every decision—as difficult as it is—a choice among three things. Why? Because we don’t have time for more. We can only handle three. It forces us to seriously consider the most important three. It requires conscious choice and a modicum of analysis. There is usually not an advantage in over-analyzing.

Here’s what you get from choosing three: A momentum that will not get mired in the sludge of too many choices. Too many choices paralyze us.

To move forward, to move at all, whittle it down to three.

What if you’re wrong? The beauty is… You will know sooner rather than later.

Make It Easy: Make it easy for yourself and your clients to make decisions. They can handle three. More than that and you risk their not making a choice at all. You risk losing the sale.

And for yourself, you risk not moving forward. Stuck is stuck. Like a statue. Don’t be.

 

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

Everyone from marketers to writers to web designers needs Fresh Eyes. Find out why and how.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I don’t like to edit. Well, I like to edit other people’s stuff, but not my own. I like what I write. Or I wouldn’t be a writer. That said, everyone needs someone to edit their work.

 

EVERYONE. (Including moi).

Fresh Eyes are other people’s eyes. Or they’re your own eyes after a good night’s sleep.

Fresh Eyes are your eyes after 24 hours away from the project. Maybe 8 hours. Or 2. For longer works, Fresh Eyes, if they’re your own, require time and a blink-worthy dusting (think powdered sugar here) of amnesia.

Stephen King says Fresh Eyes are needed between book drafts. In his writing craft memoir On Writing he says, “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks.”

Fresh Eyes could be called “vu-jà dé” … (I stole this from Adam Grant’s TED Talk at minute:second 10:57 into the talk. Thanks Adam! J). It’s like the opposite of déjà vu, where instead of already having seen it before, you’re seeing it for the first time.

Fresh Eyes bring someone else’s perspective into your life, onto the project.

Fresh Eyes sing new tunes and bring new rhythms.

Fresh Eyes understand there are more ways to approach the problem, write the story, paint the picture, take the photo.

Fresh Eyes are untainted by prejudice. Fresh Eyes are unclogged by confirmation bias.

Fresh Eyes are often “focused” by listening ears and open hearts and reading out loud.

Fresh Eyes are gifted by a willingness to admit you’re wrong. A possibility that you made a mistake. The welcoming of another opinion, instead of an anxiety about being criticized.

Fresh Eyes are not fearful, nor are Fresh Eyes to be feared. They are your friends.

For your writing project, your film, your new product, your idea, your company, or your invention or daring marketing scheme, take a moment and a deep breath. Take two steps back, or take a walk around the block. A trip around the world. A night away. Take in a movie or a play. Read a book.

Then return with Fresh Eyes. And when “Did I really say that?” escapes your lips, you can thank us. Or thank Stephen King. He’ll be glad he could help. I’m sure.

Artwork by Katie Phillips

 

Taking a Break

“Give me a break.” In the vernacular, ‘give me a break’ means “Oh, come on.” On the other hand, taking a break has no second meaning. Does that mean it’s more serious? Taking a break is so important that it is mandated by law to protect employees from being forced to work without eating or taking restroom stops.

Taking a Break from WritingTaking breaks makes us more productive. Coffee/tea breaks make life livable. Meditation breaks fill the screen of your mind with a pleasant je ne sais quoi. However it is positioned, taking a break helps balance body, mind and spirit.

One way of taking a break is to have someone do your work for you. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? This strategy is usually a win-win. Why? The person doing your work often does it better because they don’t consider it work. They like it! And they’re often paid for it, which is good for the economy.

When we’re super busy, we like to convince ourselves that breaks are unnecessary. Been there, done that. However in my saner moments, I figure that if we weren’t supposed to take breaks, we wouldn’t have been designed to eat or to sleep.

“I think I can, I think I can,” says the little train filled with good intentions as it chugs up the steep hill. Of course we all think we can. We’re good. We’re professionals. We’re adults. Mostly, though, we’re invincible. But we’re not. Scientists know. The bad guys are certain: Starve people and keep them from sleeping, and they’ll crack.

Trend Alert: Taking breaks must be important: Google returned 729,000,000 results on the keyword string “taking a break.” This post will make at least 729,000,001! If those were seconds, the time to open up (without even reading) each of the separate results would require 12,150,000 minutes. Gee.  That’s 202,500 hours or 8,437 days. That comes out to 23 years. Taking a break is a very significant concept, evidently. We all need breaks, and more than one every twenty-three years.

Taking a break is essential. Standing up, taking a walk, stretching, reading a book for five or ten minutes. Meditating. Seeing a movie. Going out for a meal. Vacationing.

Breaks refresh, renew, revive, reinvigorate, restore, recharge, revitalize. We all know this. We just need to make time for it, schedule it on our calendars, find a break partner, and make taking a break a habit.

Or we’ll break.

Original Content

“Thou doesn’t want to be stoleth from… right?

What is original content? Original content is unique music, inventive lyrics, one-of-a kind words or works of art that come from our true selves. I love synonyms. Here are some synonyms for the word original: authentic, initial, first. But the more interesting synonyms come in the second layer, as in taking the word authentic and drilling down to the lower levels for the synonyms of authentic: authoritative, accurate, convincing, legitimate. Powerful words, no?

Original Content
Image by Katie Phillips

 

On the opposite side of the writing mountain is the word plagiarism. Plagiarism is the ‘wrongful appropriation’ and ‘stealing and publication’ of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.[1][2] I’m citing Wikipedia here. See? It’s okay to use other people’s work if attribution is given.

Furthermore, Merriam-Webster defines plagiarize as follows: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own:  use (another’s production) without crediting the source.

Trend Alert: The ease of copy-paste tempts the weak, but does not give anyone permission to copy, plagiarize or otherwise “borrow” content. Why would people want to do that anyway? Look at the words above: Authoritative, accurate and convincing. They are not my words. The thesaurus says it’s so. People want to present themselves in their best light, so the best way to do that is through original content.

Having an outside writer compose for you is cheating if there has been no mutual agreement. So if someone like Biff Tannen in Back to the Future bullies you into writing their papers for them, that’s cheating. Remember? Marty’s father George McFly wrote Biff’s papers for him. Ghostwriting is different. In that case, the person has knowledge that their words are being written by someone else. In fact, they specifically ask someone else to write for them. See my ghostwriting blog post here.

Believe in yourself and your originality. Make your own content. It’s one of the 10 commandments, isn’t it?

“Thou shalt not steal.”

And for good reason. It’s also related to: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Who says their writing is better than yours? You’re the expert!

More to the point: Thou doesn’t wanteth to be stolen from. Right? So don’t stealeth!

To see why it’s great to have original content click here for a link to the Ebook by Kathryn Atkins, “10 Reasons to Hire a Professional Writer.”

Ghostwriting

Work that is written by someone other than the nominal author is ghostwritten. It’s purposeful and you’re hiring a ghostwriter because you either suck at writing, you don’t have the foggiest idea of where to start, or you simply run out of time.

Word has it that Aristotle was busy at the Lyceum and ran out of time. He had some great ideas, but he didn’t have time to sit down and write, so he hired a ghostwriter to capture his thoughts. It was quite difficult for the ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting
Image by Katie Phillips

Paper or papyrus (invented in 3000 B.C.E.) was still pretty sketchy during Aristotle’s time (circa 335 B.C.E.). Drafts were penned by hand, and erasers weren’t going to be invented until 1770. They used breadcrumbs or bread crusts as erasures back in Aristotle’s day. It was a great side business for the moms whose kids didn’t like crusts on their sandwiches. Anyway, you’d be surprised to know how much is ghostwritten these days.

Celebrities, politicians, business executives, professors, doctors, entrepreneurs, and website designers all use ghostwriters for their

communications. The range  can be from an essay to a magazine article, a memoir to a textbook, a piece of music, a speech, a press release, a blog, an RFP (Request for Proposal) and more.

Is ghostwriting (sometimes called ghosting) okay? Absolutely! In fact, it’s better for society because we would rather read well-written pieces than something a non-professional would create. We would prefer to see a professional tennis player than a high school tennis team player, unless of course it’s your son or daughter. That’s another reason. If the CEO has his mom read his book, she loves it. Moms love everything we do, but sometimes they’re not the best judges—right? Ghostwriters take longer works and organize them so they read well, so the pacing is better (not too fast, not too slow), and so the style and voice reflect the author better than the author may be able to do themselves. It is also nice for the author to give some credit to the ghostwriter, either “as told to” or in the credits.

Ghostwriting Trend Alert

As people become busier and busier, you will see and need more ghostwriting. There are ghostwriters that charge $50,000 for ghostwriting a book. Research shows that Barbara Fineman was paid $120,000 for ghostwriting Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village. On an entirely different level, we find that many executives use writers to “ghostwrite” their email answers. Of course, famous speechwriters have ghosted for presidents throughout the ages, and a company’s annual report has ghosted articles and analyses if not from contract ghostwriters, then surely from internal employees that act as ghostwriters.

There are certificates now in ghostwriting, too! Ghosting is legal, moral, and non-fattening. It’s also much easier with computers than it was with papyrus and bread crumbs. And it’s on the upswing.

Defining Your Project

There are projects and there are PROJECTS.

Let’s start with the basic definition of the word project: The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says, “A project is a planned piece of work that has a specific purpose (such as to find information or to make something new), and that usually requires a lot of time.”

Defining Your Project
Image by Katie Phillips

Business projects are a subset of the project umbrella. The business dictionary defines a (business) project as follows: … “a planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations.”

 

Trends in Projects Today

We can describe most projects today as follows: Complex. Overlapping. Time sensitive. Expensive. Multi-disciplinary. Difficult. Challenging. Misinterpreted. Misrepresented. Missing pieces. Simple projects are hard to find in business and in life. Properly managed, projects get things done.

In fact, managing projects can be learned: the Project Management Institute has designed coursework toward a PMP (Project Management Professional) designation to indicate your ability to manage a project in today’s demanding business arena. It’s a difficult certificate to achieve, but a worthy objective.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of complications and costs. I don’t care how big the project is… Knowing the audience and purpose are absolutely the most important aspect of your project. In the early phases of a software development project, for example, the team engages in an activity called “gathering requirements.” At this time, the client (be it internal or external) defines what they want the software to do once it is built. What are the outcomes they want? What should the client be able to do that they couldn’t do before? Who are they doing it for and what are their needs? The more questions you ask and answer, the closer you will come to defining your project.

There’s one more question that must be asked whether gathering requirements or simply setting goals for any project of any size. That question is: “Why?”

5-Why Analysis

Frequently used to discover ways to solve a problem, the 5-Why analysis also clarifies the project you’re creating. Why are we doing this project? Why ARE we doing this project? Why are WE doing this? Why are we doing THIS project? Stop and answer each one. And then ask one last question: Why are you here?

Once your project has been defined, you can start working. Once you know why you’re here, you can start living.

TEENY WEENYCheck out my book here:

News Blues?

I know we mourn the passing of great newspapers and magazines in print. However, look at it this way… people still seek content. It’s just packaged differently.

According to data published by ZenithOptimedia this week, folks in 2014 folks were consuming media online for an average of 110 minutes a day, compared to only 60 minutes in 2010. And while total traditional media outweighs Internet media consumption, traditional media consumption is on the decline. Print take the worst hit.

Infographic: The Internet Is Gradually Replacing Traditional Media | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista.

So… where do you want your content? Online, of course. The magazines and newspapers get it. They’re all online. And they still need content. YouTube is content…someone writes the script, right?

We’re doing that. Providing content. It’s a Writing World… for writing that means business.