Category Archives: Goal Setting and Time Management

Thoughts, theories and practical guides to maximize your level of intention and energy. We should strive to do the right things at the right time and do them with purpose.

How to focus when you write

One of my goals in 2014 is to write more concise and poignant copy. As Robert Peter Clark says, short prose has 3 key elements: focus, wit and polish.

Focus – the unifying theme
Wit – the governing intelligence
Polish – the sparkle that comes from careful word choice and revision

A lack of focus can make your writing sloppy, inconsistent and often unnecessarily contradictory.  I’ve noticed in just the emails that I’ve written lately that I find myself thinking one thing and writing something else.  For instance, I recently sent an email to the CEO of our company saying that “I can’t handle something” followed by “I got it handled”.

I am making these careless errors because of a lack of focus.  I find myself getting distracted and my mind bounces from one thing to another.  Do you ever feel like your thoughts are drifting between emails, instant messages, Evernote, your web browser and calendar reminders?  On top of that are phone calls, text messages and interruptions from people.  Letting your mind get knocked around by the incoming waves will drown your productivity.  Here are three things I’ve started doing lately to help me focus.

Only do one thing at a time:  I wrote about the myths of multitasking in a previous post.  But even though I know you can’t do more than one thing at a time effectively, I still find myself struggling with this in practice.  When you write, try to have only one app within view on your desktop.  I use multiple virtual desktops on my Macbook Pro. I found that with my 27″ high-res monitor, the downside is being able to put lots of windows on one screen.  So when I am writing, I make sure only my writing app is in that desktop.

virtual desktops

When I am writing an email requiring more than just a few sentences, I will double click it to get it out of the Mail app framework and move it to its own virtual desktop.  To access the virtual desktops you must launch Mission Control.  You can hit the expose key on your keyboard (see below) or my favorite way is using the 4-finger upward gesture on my Trackpad.
Apple Expose Key

Creating a writing space:  You need a place that puts you in a productive and creative mood.  This isn’t always possible.  Sometimes we must be productive on the road, in airplanes or in a noisy or crowded public place.  But when possible optimize your effectiveness by creating a private writing place.  I have an office in my house with a door I can close that is quiet.

While in Key West we visited Ernest Hemingway’s house.  Hemingway had a detached study that is apart and away from his main house.  While guests and family are carousing in the main house, Hemingway had a place he could go and read, write and think.

Hemingway's Study

Use ambient environment apps:  The virtual desktops are great and so is quiet or peaceful place.  But there are apps available to create your own virtual ambient environment. I use the private writing place app called Ommwriter.  Ommwriter takes over your desktop, blocking visibility to all your other apps.  It also allows you to chose from various backgrounds and ambient sound tracks to keep you focused on your writing.

When the sound of silence becomes defening or tedious, I like to listen to ambient music or a sound generator app.  I find that music with a heavy or complex beat wrecks my concentration, but listening to a yoga station on Pandora or Spotify works well.  One of my personal favorites is music for programming, a series of mixes intended to aid concentration and increase productivity.  If you like the sound of a busy coffee shop to help put you in a productive mood, try Coffitivity.  Not my thing but it may be useful for java jocks.

Welcome to 2012!

The-Lean-StartupThis is an email I sent to my company (@ExumaTech) this morning outlining our focus for 2012. I am reading “The Lean Start-up” by Eric Ries if you can’t tell:

Happy New Year Everyone –

2011 was a good year for Exuma. Through the collective hard work of everyone on the team we had a profitable year and we were able to share the fruits of our labor with everyone. 2012 can be an even better year for us. We must continue to be vigilant about maintaining healthy profit margins and doing the right thing for our customers.

At Exuma we not only want to be profitable and “wow” our customers, but we want to build a sustainable business. This is done using an iterative methodology called “Build – Measure – Learn”. It’s really simple. We turn ideas into products, we measure how our customers (existing and future) like them, then we decide whether to keep it, or chuck it and try something different. We should focus on being able to speed up the cycle and get feedback quickly so we can make adjustments quickly.

Our big development initiative this year is 7.0. You might think that the feedback loop on 7.0 would be a long cycle. Actually I would be a big mistake on our part if it was. Although it is not likely that we will be releasing 7.0 in 2012, we must continue to get feedback both internally and from customers on what it is we are building. One of the mistakes we identified in the TPOS project was not getting feedback early enough in the development cycle. Development tried to make special orders and returns work just like the old POS. Lots of time was wasted working on functionality that was clumsy and initially no one thought to rethink the process and gather feedback. We lost nine months due to the absence of a good feedback loop.

Outside of 7.0, our two main initiatives in 2012 will be hosted (DockMaster in the cloud) and mobile. We are working to bring the cost of our hosted solution down so we can be more competitive and profitable. We are going to stumble and make mistakes as we define the best hosted solution for our customers. That’s Ok. It’s part of the process.

Our mobile initiative is focused on delivering very light weight apps for both smartphones and tablets that will allow our customers to access their DockMaster database while they are on the move. The idea here is NOT to bring new functionality to the mobile platform, instead we want to give our customers some of the core DockMaster features on a mobile device. These apps should be lightweight and the cycle time to develop them should be relatively short. I’ve been working on a prototype that simply allows someone to create a customer and retrieve customer information. Customers want light weight easy to use solutions for their employees. This is evident from the popularity of ThreeClix. Reselling someone else’s product is fine for things that we don’t have core expertise in, like CRM. But we must also build on our own strengths which are accounting, service, inventory and storage. If you haven’t done so already, go to from your smartphone. This is not what the end product will look like, it’s only a prototype to help us learn these new technologies and get customer feedback.

2012 can be a very exciting year for us. I have no idea what the economy will bring, but we can continue to control and improve upon our own situation. It starts with each one of us. It starts with the attitude we bring to work each morning. Each of us has a choice to be either a shining light or a cynic? I am hopeful that the team will grow together and prosper in 2012!



Adventures in iOS Land – An Introduction

XCodeAs I am waiting for XCode 4.2 to download on my new iMac I decided to chronicle my experience. This series of posts will outline my journey in what is a brave new world for me: iOS Development. Since developing cross platform apps is a key requirement for my work in mobile app creation, I’ve elected (as of this writing) to use Appcelerator. First a little background on me.

I am 47 years old. In the iOS development space this puts me in the senior citizen category. I run a company with 24 employees that generates millions per year in revenue. I graduated in electrical and computer engineering decades ago. My first job out of college was at Motorola developing in assembler. That lasted all of 18 months before I decided that sales and consulting engineering was the place for me. With that backdrop, why the hell would I attempt this.

The answer is two fold really: 1). I like tinkering. I’ve been doing adhoc web development (HTML, CSS) and maintaing various sites developed in Django, JQuery and PHP. 2). I believe that if you have chosen technology as your journey in this life you had better walk the walk. In other words, if building and marketing technology products and services is your craft, then you’d better know the ins and outs of what it is you are peddling.

I have no delusions here that I am going to become a master programmer. I wasn’t that good at it when I got paid to do it. I will likely pay someone to develop the complex pieces of the projects I create (e.g database backend, interactive graphics, complex UI functions). However I believe I need to know and be in competent using the tools of the trade. It’s like the guy that has a woodworking shed behind his house. For him it’s a fun hobby. He is not dependent upon woodworking to make a living. But if someone loves their craft and gets good at it they may be able to sell some of their creations in the local swap meet. I am a believer in the notion that many successful businesses, especially those that Tim Ferriss calls muse businesses, come from a hobbyist that turns their labor of love into marketable art form.

Well I believe that XCode is downloaded now, so here goes…

Do the Work

I am juggling some interesting opportunities at the moment. None of which are really “in line” with my core business. I spoke a fellow Twist Producer about one particular opportunity and told him I was going to pass. His comment to me was, “it’s difficult to keep centered when things like that show up”.

Keeping centered. What a concept. It got me to thinking whether these opportunities that keep surfacing are really good things I should focus on OR whether its the RESISTANCE (as Seth Godin calls it) trying to de-focus me from what’s important.

If you are interested in a quick read about the resistance and how to over come it check out “Do The Work“.

It’s Ok to change course

Changing CourseAt the beginning of 2011 I read a blog post by Alex Mandossian about choosing your “Be Quote” for 2011. In other words, find a quote either written recently or one written centuries ago that you read to yourself daily. Print it out in big letters, copy it and put it in places that you pass by each day. Read it over and over again until it becomes part of you.

Ok…sure. Positive affirmation 101. I came up with an not so inspirational quote, posted a comment on Alex’s blog and proceeded to forget about it.

Then just last week I then ran across Rich Lazzara’s blog post on the top 5 regrets people have before they die. The number one regret inspired me to create my new “Be Quote”:

“To have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me.”

In my opinion this statement is powerful and it impacted me greatly…Time to live true to myself and to fulfill my purpose.