Revisiting the frog (and other productivity hacks)

A while back (or むかしむかし for those of you following along in Japan), I wrote about one of my all-time favorite quotes and how I believe it applies to productivity in the office:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain

And at the time of my original article, I wrote: “From a business perspective, this great quote really hits home. Look at your to-do list and find the item you’ve been dreading most. Perhaps it’s difficult, confusing, or you have just been avoiding it. That’s your frog. Do it. Get that task done (or if it’s a huge project, get it started). Once you eat that frog, the rest of your day will be looking good. You’ll feel great too; relieved that you finally got around to that task that’s been a chip on your shoulder.”

Dodgeball

To this day, I continue to practice the frog-elimination* strategy, and I continue to experience the sense of relief after completing dreaded tasks. However, I started to experience what I’ve coined as to-do list dodge ball. This is the act of adding lots of stuff to your to-do list, doing a lot of stuff, and repeating this over and over again – without ever tackling the frogs. The frogs sit around and carry over from one list to the next.

If this happens, I first need to evaluate whether I really need to do the task. Sometimes, something grows old and the ROI I once thought it brought to the workplace diminishes. Other times I really do need to complete the task.

Schedules

I came across a recent article that discussed scheduling time your Outlook/calendar for work on these types of projects. You essentially force your self to work on the frogs. And, to better enhance your chance of completion, you make it into a meeting with yourself. You silence the phone, put the office line on DND, close email, and dig in.

It’s been about a week since I’ve been doing this in my work and home life and I can tell you that the frogs are disappearing quickly and life is feeling pretty good.

*No actual frogs are harmed as part of my work routine.

Mark Twain on “brevity” and why your marketing copy probably stinks

Mark Twain

Image source: http://www.smcm.edu/twain/

Earlier this year I wrote a piece on office productivity, “My 5 tips for success in the office” for OnlineLearningTips.com. The cornerstone to the article was my admiration of Mark Twain’s take on getting the hard stuff done.

This week I want to share another one of Twain’s quotes that I admire greatly:

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

How on point is this quote when applied to today’s agile marketing organizations?

How many times have we ended up creating long winded marketing pieces or blog posts because we’ve struggled to truly and eloquently communicate our points? So we babble on and on with the hope that eventually we’ll get to where we need to go, or we’ll include enough buzz words to cover every possible angle?

Being long winded is a bad habit. Don’t confused that with being chatty or an extrovert though. Being long winded is a result of being unable to effectively communicate in a succinct manner. In other words, marketers often have a hard time of getting to the damn point.

Hopefully you understand my point by now. BREVITY!

The more eloquently and succinctly you can convey your marketing message, the more likely your audience will engage with you and understand your message. But striking the balance between being too succinct and too long is a challenge most marketers have yet to master.

The same goes for presentations, emails and conference calls. Be brief instead of long-winded. It’s more difficult to communicate in this manner and takes a great deal of focus. The end result is that you will come across as more eloquent.

In Ocean’s Eleven (one of my favorite movies), Russ (played by Brad Pitt) is prepping Linus (Matt Damon) for a con. Rus says, “Don’t use seven words when four will do.” in explaining to Linus that he needs to be brief.

I use this modern adaptation of Twain’s quote regularly when working with my marketing group to eloquently communicate how important it is to be brief.

So, next time you find  yourself writing marketing copy, a presentation or even conducting a meeting. Think of Mark Twain and focus on delivering your message succinctly. Your audience will thank you.