Monthly Archives: December 2011

The blog entry below, courtesy of Donna Muldoon, reminds us that the simplest tool can have enormous value.


Make a brain dump list

It seems that I, too, have used tools for so long that I’m not always aware that I’m using them. Like many people, I often develop a tool that helps with an immediate situation— sometimes just a temporary aid that is used once and discarded when the work is done. Occasionally, the tool proves to be so useful that I keep it (either electronically, in hard copy, or just in my mental file).

At the risk of sounding developmentally immature (tool-wise), I will admit that my most frequently used—and useful—tool is the List. Big lists, little lists, scraps of paper lists, formal lists. Revised lists, living lists, circulated lists, perfect lists. Sometimes the lists evolve into tables created on the computer and become forms that are kept as records.

However, my favorite list is the Brain Dump (BD) List. This most basic tool has given me the most satisfaction, primarily because it creates such relief mentally. I use the BD List when I realize that I am trying to remember too many things and am seriously close to forgetting everything. To create a BD List is easy—you just do a brain dump. Without any thinking, editing, prioritizing, or order, you just start writing down everything you need to do. You just dump all those thoughts onto the paper and start to feel the relief of having a list in front of you that will help you accomplish all those assorted tasks. Once the list is written down, you can easily see what has to be done and put an order to the items.

Very often, once the BD List is started, I add to it as my brain clears and semi-forgotten items come to light again. The ultimate relief, of course, comes not just from deleting all the various items from continuously cycling through my mind but the satisfaction of being able to cross them off the BD List!

Check out the book clubs at your local library

Creating tools has been a part of my makeup for as long as I can remember. I’m not talking about those made from metal, but I am talking about job aids that guide us through a process. As a student, I converted long passages of text into outlines, charts, and other visual aids that stripped away the excess, leaving the headings, key points, and relationships. That was really all that was necessary to help me recall the whole story. As a teacher, I developed similar tools to help organize content for my students. As owner of a technical communication business, I developed tools for talking with clients to scope out jobs; identifying the qualifications that workers needed in order to complete jobs; working through the process of researching, designing, and delivering manuals; and more. Long ago, I labeled these tools Afformations—forms that say Yes. Yes, I can learn this. Yes, I can do this. Yes, I can succeed! Sure, off-the-shelf tools were available, but they never quite worked for me as well as my homegrown tools.

And today, I find myself applying this aspect of who I am to a volunteer endeavor. For several years, I have been a member of a nonfiction book club that meets monthly at our town library. About 10–15 adults take turns leading the discussion of books that we have selected. Often the discussion revolves around the subject of the book—healthcare systems, economics of the middle class, religions and faith, neighborhoods and community, genomes and stem cells, and more. Recently, a club member asked, “How else can we talk about a book?” When some of us met recently to finalize our book selections for 2012, we started to answer that question. Here’s what we did. Read More

I was inspired recently when a LinkedIn colleague, Yvonne F. Conte, Corporate Culture Expert, Keynote Speaker and Author at Humor Advantage, Inc., from my hometown, Syracuse, NY, said that the best birthday present for her upcoming big day would be reading about others’ good deeds. Since getting my recent book into the hands, hearts, and minds of those who could benefit continues to be a top priority, I set out to do just that, believing that doing so would be a good deed.

At various meetings and events, I have given away my book as a door prize. At times, I have given away more copies than I intended, just because I felt like it. And guess what? Recipients purchased copies—for the 20-something child seeking direction, the recently downsized friend, the local library. I have received flowers and dinner, referrals to speak at meetings, and the wonderful company of new friends.

What I learned about doing good should not surprise you! You likely know this already. When you give, somehow it comes back to you, from somewhere. My mother—ever a source of wisdom—told me that years ago, a Mr. P visited regularly to provide spiritual support. They read religious texts and talked about many aspects of their life, including the challenges that Mr. P faced with his children who were struggling. In time, Mr. P and his family moved away. Some time later, when Mom received a letter from Mr. P, she learned that his children were thriving. To this day, she believes that this letter from Mr. P carried a bigger message: I helped you. I received my reward. The score is even. Enough said.

On your big day, Yvonne, smile, laugh, and delight in reading of the many good deeds that those in our midst do, day in and day out.