Posts in Guest Post
Weekly LifeHack Post Sparks Controversy

My weekly article on LifeHack deals with some practical tips for ending the summer with style.  The comments generated have been the most diverse of any article that I've posted.  You can jump in on the conversation here.

At the heart of the back and forth has been one reader's perspective- that life tips should not include suggestions to be spiritual on a daily basis.  Readers of TDS know that it's perfectly "normal" to be meditative in the midst of a busy schedule.  Hazard zet forward!

Guest PostMike StPierre
GTD Cafe: The Calendar as Hard Landscape

Today's guest post is from Stephen Smith from Hidden Dragon Biz Blog.

Your calendar or organizer is one of the three pillars of Getting Things Done.
Along with your In-box and Tickler File, your calendar is where things
really happen. In older forms of time management the calendar was
considered to be the central tool of tracking your activities,
generally assigning priority codes or creating an artificial schedule
of how you should execute your day. In the GTD methodology the calendar
is limited in its use:

  1. Time-specific Actions

  2. Time-specific Information

  3. Appointments

That is all. It seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Old habits die
hard, they say, and after years of training in making "daily to-do"
lists, it can be difficult to refrain from writing a list of actions
that you would like to do on a certain day.


"You need to trust your calendar as sacred territory,
reflecting the hard edges of your day's commitments, which should be
noticeable at a glance when you're on the run...those that you
absolutely have to get done on that day."


~David Allen, Getting Things Done

Your Time-specific Actions are those things that must get
done on a specific day, or at a particular time. A conference call, for
example, or a package to be shipped.

Time-specific Information is a category of reference material
that you do not need all the time, like directions to a restaurant or
an agenda for a meeting.

Appointments, of course, are those entries that indicate you
are meeting someone else at a time-specific location.

Everything else that we used to write down in our planners
(or punch into our PDAs) goes into a Context-specific list of Next
Actions. Now there is nothing to say that you cannot keep these lists
in the same notebook or computer file, but when you look at today's
field in your calendar you should only see the places that you have
to be and the things that must get done.

Over the years I have used a variety of calendaring systems: Franklin-Covey,
and a Palm
Each system has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you will need to
find the right system for your needs. If you have some time and
motivation, D*I*Y*Planner
has some terrific templates for creating your own custom system.

I would appreciate hearing about your system, or tools. Leave a
comment below, and I leave you with this quote for the road:


"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to
schedule your priorities."

Resources for the Road

GTD and Google Calendar

How to Make a GTD System for about $20

Stephen Smith on GTD Gear

Daily Challenge

Pick a planner and use it consistently for 3 weeks.  If it's not working for you, make a change.  If you're already happy with your planner, how can you use it better?

The Secret to Effective Planning

Today’s guest post is from Philip D. Piercy as
part of the Organized Executive series.
Philip is the Assistant Principal for Academics
at Archbishop Curley High School in
Baltimore, MD and reads The Daily Saint at least a
few times per day. (

There is never enough time to do all that I want to do and
have it done right. This is a sentiment
that I hear repeated quite often by busy executives and administrators. This type of comment led me to consider how I
am able to juggle all of the different responsibilities I have. I thought about all of the literature,
workshops, conferences, and professionals out there who have myriad ways of helping
me get and stay organized. Upon
reflection, however, it is something of my own design that works best for me. I
utilize a 3-pronged preparation plan that doesn’t take long to employ, yet, is
invaluable to me.  Over my next three postings on The Daily
Saint I will share with you each piece of the plan which includes daily,
weekly, and 1-3 week planning
.  I
hope that these simple suggestions will work well for you.

Planning 1-3weeks

Begin by spending a few minutes each week looking ahead 1-3
weeks out. Although I keep a calendar of
events, activities, and meetings that covers several months, in my experience,
to plan tasks and projects in any great detail beyond this point is time wasted. Consider the following steps as you begin


  • Look
    at your calendar
    and/or agenda books. Establish what is fixed (i.e. meeting with the boss) and what may be negotiable. Use this information to help plan benchmarks and deadlines

  • Determine what projects and tasks must be worked on and/or completed in the next 1-3 weeks

  • Break larger projects and tasks into parts; determine benchmarks and/or deadlines for each part

  • Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize…What can wait until week 3? Week 2? What needs to be worked on next week?

  • Create separate lists of tasks for each of the next 3 weeks.

The more you utilize this type of planning the more
comfortable you will feel with it. Soon
it will become second nature and the time spent preparing will decrease. Also, once you have the first three weeks
planned out, each subsequent week will be mostly refining the work you have
already done. The benefits of planning
ahead 1-3 weeks can be enormous and include:

Gaining perspective (“10,000 foot view) instead of just dealing with what is right in front of you

  • Allowing you to deal with relevant and meaningful work based on intentional prioritization

  • Helping you to avoid last minute rush jobs that are more likely to have mistakes and create much more stress for you and your colleagues

  • Giving time to catch mistakes and make revisions before being finalized

  • Allowing you to deal better with unexpected issues that inevitably arise

People will often ask me how I find time to do such preparation. I ask them, how can anyone work effectively without
making the time to do it? You must make
the time; planning your activities, tasks, and projects must become a priority. The time you spend planning will come back to
you tenfold. I am convinced preparing this
way will help you focus, deal with unexpected problems, and, ultimately, save you
time. In the coming weeks as we discuss and
you implement weekly and daily planning you will save even more time and your
productivity and effectiveness will increase as well.

Good luck and God bless! I look forward to sharing more with you next month.


Resources for the Road

Be Cool.  Be Organized.

One Simple Question About Productivity

What Does it Mean to be a "Workplace Saint"?

Keep it Simple: Goal Setting


10 Steps for Becoming a Great Public Speaker

Today’s guest post is provided by Allan F. Wright as part of the Podium 101 series, detailing the ins and outs of effective public speaking. Allan has recently published his 2nd book and provides over 90 talks per year.  For more information, visit 

I’ve read surveys
where fear of speaking in public is right up there with fear of death, cancer
and spiders! Like most things in life, a little preparation and planning can go
a long way to alleviate these fears for the public speaking novice and for
those who are regularly speaking in public, I’ve found a few simple guidelines
can help me structure and deliver the talk I’ve been asked to present.

  • When choosing a topic make sure it’s one that you have some level of knowledge and expertise. This will increase your confidence and comfort level when speaking as well as
         alleviate any fear.


  • Be clear about your expectations from the beginning. Be sure to confirm with the person who hired you about your role as speaker. Are you there to inspire, to educate, to give information on a new product, to witness to your experience or to give encouragement to a crowd? Knowing your expectations will focus the presentation and allow you to be on the same page with the person who hired you.


  • Know your audience and their expectation. Are you speaking to executives, to high school students, to people who are experts in the field? Knowing your audience will again allow you to focus your talk and provide direction for where you want to take them.


  • Never apologize when you begin a talk. Hearing a speaker say, ‘I’m really not prepared’ or ‘forgive me because I lost my notes’ sets you up for failure. Imagine an athlete stepping up to the plate or free throw line and turning to the crowd and say, ‘I’m sorry, I really don’t think I’ll do well this at bat…’ Be positive! Expect to hit it out of the park.


  • Connecting with your audience is key to any effective communication.
         The best way to begin is with eye contact and a smile. (Unless it’s a tragic event of course) The way you approach the podium and ‘carry yourself’ often communicates confidence and authority. People want to listen; they are there to receive what you have to give them.


  • Making an outline is vital even if  you never look at it during your presentation. If you do get sidetracked it can bring you back to topic and if you make one beforehand it will likely get ingrained in your mind.


  • Be careful adding personal stories because while they can be helpful most novices can get into them quickly but have difficulty getting out of them. What was supposed to be a 30 second example of ‘life experience’ quickly becomes an 8 minute rant which no one but the speaker cares about. If the personal experience doesn’t directly relate then cut it out.


  • Don’t be afraid to use an object lesson to get across a point. Let’s face it; people may forget what you say but using dramatic action, holding up an object which gets your point across,
         is rarely forgotten. (I once heard a presentation about the power of the tongue to hurt or heal. The woman held up a 7 pound Cow tongue as an example of one of the most dangerous weapons! I still remember it today.)


  • If necessary or desired, allow some time for personal reflection questions or leave
         them with a challenge.
    Without a moderator, Q&A periods often get sidetracked, become gripe sessions or audience members with agendas take over. Again, once the audience gets sidetracked it’s difficult to bring them back.


  • Have an ending and watch your time. I consider it disrespectful if a speaker goes over the allotted time frame. Leave them wanting more not less.
         Have you ever been to a presentation that you thought was too short? Most likely it’s the other way around.


These simple, yet
significant points can make or break a presentation. A good friend reminds me
that, ‘the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure,’ so try to leave
your audience wanting more and not wishing you had ended fifteen minutes

Resources for the Road

Toastmasters: 10 Tips for Public Speaking

Lifehacker: Tips for Public Speaking

5 Essential Presentation Tips

A Key To Happiness: Figuring Out How to Keep Your Resolutions

Today's post is from special guest Gretchen Rubin, host of The Happiness Project.  If you haven't stopped by her blog, you'll find yourself immersed in simple-profound points about how to maximize happiness in everyday life.  I highly recommend it!

A Key To Happiness: Figuring Out How to Keep Your Resolutions

Showletter Before I
started my Happiness Project, I -- like everyone -- had repeatedly made
resolutions to make positive changes in my life.

Since I started the Happiness Project,
I’ve managed to do a better sticking to these resolutions. Recently I
asked myself—why? What was different? Two reasons: accountability
and salience.

ACCOUNTABILITY is a key aspect to sticking
to a resolution. You must have a way to record your goals, your successes, and
your failures. I make a big chart each month, modeled on the virtue chart Benjamin
describes in his Autobiography,
on which I score myself each day.

Many readers have asked to see my scoring
charts, so I’m prettifying them now, and will make them available soon
for anyone who’d like to see a model. Obviously everyone’s
resolutions will be very different, but seeing my charts might help spur ideas.

SALIENCE is another key aspect to sticking
to a resolution. I found that the more quickly and readily a resolution pops
into my mind at an appropriate point, the easier it is to keep that resolution.
And the way to keep an idea uppermost in mind is through repetition.

I re-read my Twelve Commandments (see
left-hand column) every day. I have sticky notes around the house to remind me
of my resolutions. Scoring myself on my chart requires me to review every
resolution, every day.

As a result, I hear a little Jiminy-Cricket
voice in my head whispering “Let it go,” “Show up,”
“There is only love,” “Remember the evening tidy-up,”
"Sing in the morning," and all the rest as I go through my day. Of
course, I often ignore that little voice, but at least I hear it more clearly
than I did before.

Just last night, I discovered a new
mechanism to be reminded of my resolutions. It’s a fantastic website
called Hassle Me. This site allows you to
arrange to be hassled at certain times – so, for example, as a trial I
arranged to be hassled every two days with a message, “No fake
food.” It can remind you to go to the gym, to call your grandmother, to
pay bills, whatever you want, however often you want.

I think I’m going to send myself fifty
hassle-me’s. More salience!


I found an interesting site, Wise Bread.
It's about "living large on a small budget," and I like the
sensibility. One of my happiness themes is the relationship between money and
happiness, which I think is more complictated than people claim. This site is
about living frugally, but with a fun and adventurous spirit -- not cramped
penny-pinching. Plus I learned the history of the "baby carrot."