The Zone (and strategy) Paid Off

I have to say, I think today’s presentation went well.  I didn’t see anyone fall asleep even in the dim lighting, I got a few questions at the end, a couple offers for help, and people laughed.

Important Statistic
"Important Statistic"

I’m particularly proud of one of my images, a graph.  It was my one and only statistic.  I didn’t mention it yesterday because I wasn’t positive it would go over well.  My audience was appreciative, for which I was grateful.  Yay.  (Also, in case you were wondering, it is a real graph of the first 8 numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.)

The Jeopardy! rip-off game was really fun too.  It always surprises me how much fun that game can be.  We decided to have the teams wave a scarf in the air to buzz in with answers, and it actually worked really well.   Notable team names were “Bad Reflexes” and “The Table.”  The most popular category was “Two Truths and a Lie: Staff Edition,” in which teams had to pick the one lie out of three statements about me and my officemate.  The ESL and GED categories were fine too though.

Based on comments I got after the presentation, my chosen strategy of using pictures, a conversational approach, and an interactive (and not too difficult) quiz game was well-received.  I seem to have hit upon a lot of information that people were actually interested in by using this model.  I also had a “wish list” slide to talk about our big dreams, and a couple of coworkers came up to me to say we should schedule a time to talk about how their programs could fulfill some of my site’s wishes.  Sweet!

So I guess I’d call it a success.  Now for a nap.

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The Zone

I’ve officially stayed up later than I should have preparing to present about my site at tomorrow’s staff meeting. I could have been done a couple hours ago, but I can’t seem to stop. And now here I am jotting down a blog entry! Poor judgment, but enjoyable.  Can’t waste The Zone.

I’m loving Google Docs because I can collaborate with the other presenter. We would have stayed late to work on it together, but our building Closes (yes, that was a Capital C) at 9:00PM. Google Docs is the next-best thing.

I wish I could share the presentation, but I’m not even half-confident enough about my photo release situation to set it free on the Internet. Something to think about for the future.

I really enjoy giving presentations like this one, and I think it has potential to be fun for my audience as well (as opposed to Evil). (Thanks to Beth Kanter for that link.)

My strategy for respecting my audience was to use no statistics, a huge number of pictures, and basically to give a “day in the life” talk instead of a preview of our annual report submission.  Also, it should be relatively short, and we also have a Jeopardy! game planned with both pithy and frivilous categories to get people involved, or at least competing.  Will report on any resounding successes for sure.

Investing Time in the Process

Sometimes we still think like the small program we were just a few years ago.

Our program has seen exponential growth in the past few years.  We have accomplished amazing things.  Our trajectory is to double again in two years, which is both daunting and exciting.  One way to smooth this is to focus on processes: you need them, you need to be able to share / replicate them easily, and they need to be as streamlined as possible.  In other words, you should take the time to write them down.

I think we could have been much more efficient even just in these past couple of months by simply writing down everything we taught a temp how to do, or even having our temps keep up the lists.  It would have taken slightly longer to do the first time, but would have left us with an easy-to-replicate process.  Simple time-investment.  Instead, with every new temp and new employee, we’ve had to reinvent the wheel, racking our brains to figure out what to teach them when and how.  It’s a waste of time.  It happens because we go into it in a one-time mentality when it’s really a piece of a pattern that will repeat.

I’m really not a person who’s all about standardizing and formalizing, but when you have a big program, it’s the only effective way to do it.

How do you go about transitioning your thinking from small-scale to large-scale?  What are best practices for understanding what should be a process and creating and using said process?

Meta-Goals

After my dissatisfaction with a training that had actually achieved its intended goals, I wanted to quick make the point that goals are not inherently worth meeting.

Photo by David M
Photo by David M

My elementary school gym teacher’s favorite platitude was Lombardi’s “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Practicing bad technique will not leave you with good technique.  I think that there’s a parallel lesson here for goals.  Meeting off-target goals will not put you on-target.  Just as you need to carefully consider what you’re practicing and how, you need to examine whether your goals are actually what you want.

I realized that I have some goals for all of my goals.  I want to feel satisfied.  I want to be in a better place than where I started.  I want to feel proud of the actions I took to achieve the goal; knowing that I did something unethical or deliberately hurtful to achieve my goal would cheapen the whole experience.  It’s also extremely important for me to be able to take a moment to experience the satisfaction and pride I’ve earned, and to look around at the new place I’m in before moving to the next goal.

Knowing this helps me set ambitious goals and stay grounded at the same time.

How do you make sure your goals are actually what you want?
What are your goals for your goals?  How did you set your meta-goals?
Have you ever experienced a major shift in your goals?  How did that go for you?

Value of Social Media: Being the Change

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930.  Photographer unknown.
Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. Photographer unknown.

Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  It’s quoted so often that it almost seems trite.

But it’s not trite.  It’s exactly what we have to do in just about every role we play: global citizen, family member, employee, teacher, and more.

When surrounded by situations we want to change, even when they’re nothing that will go down in history, it can be difficult to stay strong in the face of resistance, misunderstanding, and indifference.

One of the ways I deal with that is by surrounding myself with blogs that support the values I want to act upon: innovation, excellent teaching, resource sharing, and intentionality.  I’m not talking about keeping up with best practices; I’m talking about moral support.  My RSS feed is peer pressure to do what I consider to be the right thing.  It’s a simple way to keep myself on track.

How do you stay the course?  What role does social media play for you?

Librarian Tip for Nonprofits: 90-Second YouTube

I was reading the May 2008 issue of American Libraries and the Internet Librarian column by Joseph Janes jumped out at me with the potential to be immediately useful to me at work (which is not in a library).

I help run a program at a literacy nonprofit, and a lot of people contact me and my colleagues all the time with a large volume of questions.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m one of those people who actually gets a kick out of answering questions.  It’s just that as I mentioned in my last post, when we’re bombarded with questions, especially redundant ones, it’s extremely difficult to do the rest of of our jobs done.

This article, “Spring Awakening,” describes how the Cornell University Library ended up making 90-second YouTube clips for their incoming first-years about basic research concepts.

As Janes points out, this isn’t earth-shattering, but as he also points out, it doesn’t need to be earth-shattering in order to be dead useful; it just needs to 1) address the need and 2) actually happen.

It brings to mind a huge site I used a few times in college called Atomic Learning.  Schools can subscribe to it to give their students access to tons of tiny (“atomic”) learning modules.  My college subscribed to it, but I don’t have access to it now that I’m out of school, and I think the focus was watching, not creating your own.  The brilliance of using YouTube instead is that it’s free, allows participation on both sides, is easy to embed, and simple to access.

How powerful would it be to have even a couple of 90-second videos addressing super-common questions!  I’m so excited to bring this to the team and see what we can make of it.  I’m thinking that even if we can’t do video, a cute (and very brief) Slideshare really should be doable.  Or hey, even a Voki if we’re feeling cartoony.

Have you done something like this?  How has it gone?  Can you use this kind of resource in your organization?  What can help bring this from the “idea” stage to the “actually happening” stage?

Tip: Handling Interruptions

I had a great conversation with a coworker recently about how to deal with constant interruptions.  You know what I mean: those days when the moment you hang up the phone it rings again, and all the while your red-exclamation-point emails are piling up, and people are lined up at your door looking worried… it can seem like a conspiracy.

On those days, I take the top thing on my to-do list, write it in large letters on a post-it note, and stick it right in the middle of my desk.  That way when (if) there’s a moment between distractions, I don’t waste a moment trying to remember what the heck I was trying to do.  It’s right there.

Simple, Obvious, Effective
Post-It Reminder: Simple, Obvious, Effective

It’s also extremely satisfying to crumple up and chuck the post-it into the recycling when I finally finish with it!

What do you do when it’s “one of those days?”