Sometimes you have to fail to succeed.
Last week my queuing of posts got botched and I missed a day and I spent the next days kicking myself. I tried to play catch up but life happened and I was spending time on things that had to go to the front of the line. Then that made me more discouraged. I’d broken the streak and now the missed day turned into a couple of days and then I started to feel really crappy about it.
I had failed. But then a couple of days went by and the ground hadn’t opened and swallowed me up. I spent some time reassessing my priorities and the number and types of projects I had on my plate. Like a vacationer at an all-inclusive resort, I had a plate piled high enough to give an elephant indigestion. So I grabbed a fresh plate and started spooning over more bite-sized pieces.
I had a decision to make. Did I let the Project 365 slide-a-day go entirely. Even with its modest trek through the year it had been a valuable exercise. And one of the reason I got behind was that I was making slides for a presentation at a conference so that was a big win. I had to stop and think about why I really started doing the slides every day. Would just plunking a slide out there each day for the sake of saying I did 365 be good enough. The easy answer was no.
So should I try play catch up? Should I just stop? That didn’t seem right either. So I made a compromise with myself. I will return to posting slides almost daily. If there is a day that something else needs those minutes, then I’ve made peace with it. Discipline doesn’t mean making sure you do precisely the same activity every day, it means holding yourself accountable. And that’s something I do too well sometimes.
So I’ll be back with a new slide tomorrow. Finally, thank you to several of you who have written to me lately to say how much you love the slides. Amidst the daily creating and burning out I lost sight of the fact that people were actually paying attention to the slides. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you are finding them useful. I welcome you comments and questions and suggestions for things you would like to see. I haven’t run out of ideas yet, but just in case, it’s nice to have you all as backup.
Today I was thinking about the process of adding more social media to one’s personal learning environment. This may seem obvious to those of you reading this since you are already obviously using social media. But not everyone out there is. For many getting started is intimidating, especially with the overwhelming amount of information available.
I will be using a slide like this to help people get started expanding their learning options through social media. The first thing is to develop a system of curating content. Will you follow blogs? Use and RSS reader? Hop on Twitter? One of my favorite new (to me) tools is Scoop It!
Another thing is how do you select what you curate. What topics? Are you sure you are getting divergent opinions or are you creating an echo chamber? Remember that you can change your mind and add or remove things from the collection of content.
Next there has to be some contemplation. What do you think about what you read. What connections to you see? What patterns? How can you use what you have learned. Again, not a new concept. We’ve all done this is school, but we sometimes lose our way when we are turned loose to learn on our own.
Finally, it is important that you contribute. Lurking is fine while you are getting your feet wet but don’t forget the social and social media and the network in learning networks. You need to give back to the community you are learning from. Everyone becomes both student and teacher. Share what you learned. Collaborate.
These are just some thoughts I’m starting to put together.Feel free to chime in with yours. These are also some icons I put together with just simple shapes in PowerPoint. Remember when you are working on your own slides that easy to recognize icons that you can use throughout your message or lesson help the viewer and you can create some pretty cool ones with a little imagination using simple shapes combined in different ways.
In Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. talks about the relationship between anxiety and curiosity using a metaphor of dials that can go from 0 to 10 like on a radio.
The anxiety knob is a sticky knob that you may have trouble moving. The more you try to calm down - turn the know down - the more it sticks or even goes up. But the other knob, which is labeled Explore can freely move all the way up and down the range of values. If you turn that Explore knob all the way up to 10, and interesting things happens to the Anxiety knob. It doesn’t immediately go down to zero but it sudden moves much more freely, sometimes high and sometimes low, but the point is that it can know move.
"It’s not that curious people are free from anxiety…. Instead of focusing on how much anxiety they feel, curious people benefit from what they do with their anxiety. Curious people act on their curiosity and explore whatever is intriguing them, taking those anxious feelings and any discomfort they bring along for the ride."
Image from Flickr
How are those slides coming?
Are you one of those people who needs to peek? You check the food in the oven, just to make sure. Maybe you don’t quite keep your fingers closed together when playing hide and seek? You just want to see what the slides will look like without all the PowerPoint interface in your way?
It’s OK to peek. I encourage it. Take a look at how the slides will look in Slide Show view. There are several ways to do it. You can use the Slide Show button. You can use keystrokes. Or you can even have a quarter screen preview sit on the side of the screen that you can scroll through independently of the working slides.
Sometimes the most important thing a person can do is to ask the right question and Work Smarter, Play Longer by Tara Ross is a small book that can unleash big insights for anyone willing to consider the 33 challenges and dozens of thought-provoking questions it contains. It begins with a dedication to those who asked “How do you do it all?” and follows up with the author’s answer. She shares how she does it all and offers practical examples and suggestions that any of us can examine and see how they fit into our view of having it all. The purpose of the book is to help us find more non-productive time which is different from some productivity books which seem to focus more on simply helping us to get more work done. Work Smarter, Play Longer is about balance and enjoying yourself, not just making sure the wheels spin faster and faster. The book is structured around four Ps that the author found helped her in “overcoming perfectionism, avoiding procrastination, establishing priorities and creating a life that was unique to my personality.”
For both perfectionism and procrastination is it vital to retain some balance. If your perfectionists tendencies leave your crippled at the slighted error or your procrastination serves as a way of beating yourself up for being lazy, then these negative cycles can leave you little time for anything other than self-loathing. That is not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to the details. They are important to doing excellent work. Likewise, some procrastination can be good for you. Jumping at every email the second the notification arrives can result is extra work and loss of productivity as you flit from item to item and lose focus.
The second of the two Ps are equally important to consider. Without clear priorities you cannot create a path or goals which are crucial to efficiency. How can get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going. If you haven’t defined what success looks like, how will you recognize it? If we have a basic plan in place it is also easier to distinguish between opportunities and bright shiny distractions. The author tells a great story about applying to a program in school that at first appeared to be a distraction but when examined against her life map it turned out to match up and provide an excellent route to where she was headed. Notice I said where she was headed.
The final P of the book’s formula is personality. What worked for the author will not work in the same way for everyone. I found myself becoming sort of defensive as I read parts about hiring people to do certain chores to free up time for instance. Right now that would really not work for me but that’s fine. It worked for the author and it was a great nudge to me to remember that there are times when I could be better about delegating. Each of us has to find tools and techniques that work for us so we can create the life we want. As the book reminds us at the end:
“… the purpose of increasing productivity is to work smarter so you can play longer. Avoid creating a life of such efficiency and mechanization that you lose the joy of being spontaneous and creative.”
Years back I went to a wonderful show called Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure (which you can watch here). I’ll confess that as I started this year’s PowerPoint slide adventure of my own I had forgotten about how Dave Gorman uses PowerPoint in his shows. I blame him for not coming back to the U.S. more often. :)
Anyway, I came across a reference to his more recent shows, one of which is completely accurately and transparently called Dave Gorman’s PowerPoint Presentation and that led me to a video interview from which the image above was snagged. In that interview he shows that he gets PowerPoint in a way that many business people and academics don’t.
"Years ago when I was telling stories and I had to put the evidence in front of people PowerPoint became a really useful way of me doing it because I could put all of the evidence on the screen immediately for them and I have continued to use it for comedy because it allows me to put what I’m talking about right in front of people and get into the detail of it. Detail that you might not have collectively in your imagination already but we can all in the room be someplace at the same time and be thinking about the same thing. And having that kind of shared belief in something is kind of essential for comedy."
Simply replace the word comedy with communication and you’ll see why I captioned today’s slide the way I did.
Hmm, maybe when I have completed my 365 day project of slides I’ll take them on the road.
This weekend I have been reading Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything by Kio Stark. I’ll write more about the book later but one section got me thinking about how I would depict the text in a graphic. The point is that most people who set out to learn something on their own take one of two approaches: they want to gain a mastery of a specific field of knowledge or they have a specific project they want to achieve. It could be a combination. Likewise there are two types of paths that learners usually take, again, not completely mutually exclusive: a linear path or an associative path.
While the examples that I populated the matrix with were not all specifically mentioned in the book, I think it would help to make the picture complete. So, for example, someone setting out to develop a knowledge of art history might visit some websites and bounce around following a particular period or style of art that captures their attention, which a more linear person might find a syllabus online and follow a more structured path. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but the right answer depends upon the learner and his/her ultimate goals.
As far as the graphic goes, play with tables. Remember that with some merging of cells you let the table structure help you lay out the information in an orderly fashion and then format the table to make it look less, well, table like.
Today the challenge was to start coming up with ideas for a slide layout that could accommodate qr codes and a link to source material. Why both? Well some audience members will want to scan the codes because they are viewing the presentation live, while others will want to click the link since they will be viewing the slides online.
I’ve written before about my love/hate thing with qr codes and how they are often distracting and unattractive. I know that you can make them with image background and pretty them up, but that is not always feasible either. I could adjust the color of the code to better suit the presentation color scheme, which helps. But the bottom line is I wanted to find as unobtrusive a way as possible.
One option I came up with was to include a stripe down the right side with a subtle color that both sets the area off but doesn’t overwhelm the whole slide. Parking the code over there gives it a home. It can still affect the balance of the design of the rest of the slide but not horrible. Then adding a very thin strip along the bottom in black which will effectively float below the slide just shortens the usable slide area by a smidge. Again, not a horrible trade-off.
I’m still playing with it. So what options have you come up with to add the ability of audience members/viewers interacting with your slides in a presentation setting?
"Ninjas wear black and are trained to move slowly and smoothly because motion attracts attention." Lee Jackson in PowerPoint Surgery
There is good attention and bad attention. This isn’t like celebrity life where you just want to make sure they are talking about you. This is “real” life where you want people to get your message and focus on that and not the visual flares you can add to your slides. I am not against animating slides … as long as it serves a purpose, other than making them “more interesting” or “prettier.”
I know it is really tempting, particularly with new PowerPoint users to want to go for the flash. It’s fun. It makes them feel like they made PowerPoint really do something. Of course they are happy if their pen just writes for them. They don’t expect it to dance or sing. (Well, maybe some wish it would make them coffee.) The point it is that both the pen and PowerPoint are tools. If we want to write an interesting story we don’t think hey let me get a glitter pen and write it because then it will be more interesting.
Make your slides ninjas. Keep the motion to a minimum. As soon as something changes on the screen, your audience’s eyes and brains will go to the motion. Even if it is just momentarily. It is a moment you have lost their attention on you.
"There are three big things in life that we rarely get trained for — relationships, parenting and PowerPoint." This is a quote from Lee Jackson’s book PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick.
It is a no nonsense book that practices good presentation practices. It is short and to the point. It is personable and authentic. It respects the audience. It is a quick read during which I found myself thinking, hey, this is the kind of book I would write.
This book helps you take your slides’ temperature, and backed by both research and experience, it offers you suggestions for improving your slides. One of my favorite sections was about bullet points and boring slides. Jackson honestly spells our what most of us do and think about them. By bullet point three our attention has flipped over to our favorite mobile game, by four our eyes are getting heavy, by six we have lost “the will to live,” and by the eighth slide we have forgotten our names and are practically in the fetal position.
My diagnosis is acute accuracy with equal parts humor and helpfulness. If you follow his prescription your audience will soon be feeling better.