500 Words a Day Challenge

Creativity Journal

Keeping on the theme of it being a new year, I’ve decided to join hundreds of other writers in a 31 day writing challenge. This is my first entry, and as I think about what I hope to get out of this stretching exercise, I can’t help but think about my 2013 stretching exercise (now an ongoing habit).

But, before I tell you about last year’s stretching exercise, I’ll let Jeff Goins (the instigator) describe the 2014 “500 Words” 31 day challenge.

My 500 Words is a 31-day challenge designed to help you develop a daily writing habit and become a better writer.

For the next 31 days, we’ll be writing 500 words a day. These won’t be great words, but they will be written. We’re not trying to reach perfection; we’re just trying to get more ideas out of our heads and onto paper.

And if you want to be part of this, we can keep each other company.

I’ve been writing for over 10 years, but the one thing I’ve been lacking is consistency. So, my hope and desire is that this exercise will improve my writing muscles. I am also looking forward to seeing if there is a theme or topic that rises above the rest for me to further focus on.

Last year, I started a new habit to foster and improve my creativity and new concept development skills. My hope is that kicking of a new habit of writing on a daily basis will afford me some of the same benefits I have gotten from doing my “creativity journaling”.

Last Year’s Stretching Exercise

Many people mistakenly think of creativity as something that just happens to some, but not to others. While some seem to have creativity in more generous amounts, I have come to experience and I believe that creativity is like a muscle — it can be developed and strengthened by just about anyone.

Now, not everyone “creates” in the same medium, but that’s ok. Not all artists are meant to be the same.  But, I digress.

In my case, I started carrying with me a small moleskin journal and a pencil. I make it a rule to always have it with me. I have also made it a rule that if an idea crosses my mind, I will take 1-2 minutes to at least jot down the idea and the basic concept. Here is the important part: all ideas must have originated in my mind.

So, when I think of an idea, I write down what I have. Then, and only then, do I go on Amazon or Google and do a quick search to see if my product concept, or app idea has been done already. Sometimes, someone has already beat me to the punch. So be it–that doesn’t take away that I saw an opportunity and had an idea to solve it.

The creativity exercise is having two effects on me:

Opening My Eyes to Opportunities

First, I am learning to keep my eye opens for user-experience problems or for product innovation opportunities. Good design and good innovation is really a new or better idea that solves for a problem.

Because I’m a digital marketer, I’ve been focusing my idea generation around mobile apps, but I have also documented new business concepts (products or services), some consumer products, and new article concepts.

Confidence and Leadership Skills

Second, having a regular habit of documenting ideas and striving to exercise my creative muscles has improved my confidence, which in turns is improving my leadership skills. When you develop a creativity habit, any problem you face turns into a creativity opportunity. Some will be vastly more challenging than others, of course. But, being able to shift your paradigm and look at business problems as inspirations for creative or innovative solutions is having a big impact on my stress levels at work, on my enjoyment of my day to day job, and on my relationships with co-workers.

In short, it is helping me become more solution-oriented overall. And, who knows what may happen in the future. If the right opportunity presents itself, or when the season is right, I just may go to my “Creativity Journal” and launch a new phase of my career with a jump into entrepreneurship.

31 day 500 Word Writing Challenge

This is going to be my first entry into the 31 day 500 word writing challenge. I look forward to the ideas, and more importantly, I look forward to impacting someone with the thoughts I share.

I consider myself a communicator first and foremost, and in today’s Internet driven world, the written work continues to have a growing importance in all aspects of life. And if a new eBook comes out of it, that would be just gravy. :-)

What about you? How do you express your creativity on a regular basis? What is your medium of preference? I’d love to hear what others do to foster and strengthen their creative juices.

Tech-Wise Parenting: Redeeming the time (Part 1 of 2)

Redeeming the time

How many times do you find yourself, late in the evening, feeling like you need a little bit more time to get things done around the house? How much quality time are you missing with your spouse or kids each day after a long day at work? Did you turn down that ministry or service opportunity at church because you didn’t think you had the time to dedicate to it? How are you doing at being consistent in taking time to seek God’s voice in His Word? Do you find yourself saying, “I wish I had more time”?

This is very likely a universal problem, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen any research on the topic. Today’s rapidly innovating technology promises to help you be more productive with your work, be more efficient with what you do, and  do more with less time, but, in our hearts, I think we all know it doesn’t always turn out that way. The promise of greater productivity, by and large, is the premise behind smartphones  and the never-ending list of productivity “apps” now available (apps=software that run on your mobile device or web browser). On top of that, there are the often-knocked social media sites that everyone knows can be a huge time-suck, whether you use them for good or not.

Tech-wise parenting: eReader & Accountability

One of the great challenges of modern parenting is figuring out what is the appropriate age to allow our kids greater access, or even ownership, over electronic devices. For my wife and I, the core issue is how much time, and unfettered access to the internet.

Consider that the best-selling book on Amazon.com for 2012 is a sexually explicit so-called “romance” book. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see how our culture’s entertainment, gaming, music, literature, and yes—even education have become quite sexualized. The challenges of maintaining sexual integrity is no longer the challenge just for me.  Both parents and children of both genders are facing–or going to face–a barrage of sexual content that is easier to access than ever before. This is a serious and important factor to consider when determining what sort of access we’re going to give our children.

This is all particularly challenging when faced with the decision to let your child have their own eReader, or make use of educational software on a tablet or mobile phone. Here is the challenge: there is currently no technical solution to limit adult content while searching or buying from Amazon Kindle store, or from the GooglePlay bookstore. If you think for a second, “what’s the big deal? It’s not like my kid is going to search for anything bad.” Think again.

Helping Fix Email Inbox Overload

Email Inbox Overload

I recently had the opportunity to contribute a Professional Development sessions for staff and faculty at Cecil College. Below is the deck from that session on learning to better manage one’s email inbox. Here is the description:

Learn about the cost and negative impact of poor email management and an out-of-control inbox. Also, learn the action-based approach to achieve a “zero inbox” with your email. Increase your productivity by learning to be a better email sender and a better manager of your email inbox.

You can check out myspeaker notes by downloading this PDF.