There’s so much to be grateful for, words are poor things.
~ Marilynne Robinson
Have you ever been part of a brainstorming session, planning meeting or business review that lasted all day? Or maybe the four-hour course you’re taking is late at night after a long day of work? Sure, the information was important and the presenter helpful, but how did you come out of it?
I’m usually exhausted. Exhausted like I just ran a half marathon, except I’m not sweating and my heart rate is actually lower than a resting pulse. All I want to do is return to my office or my home and lie in a supine position on the floor and just let the zapped energy ooze out of me. For an hour or two, at least.
It’s ironic since essentially I’ve been sitting that entire time, exerting no real physical energy except to lift cup after cup of coffee.
Through the years, I have gotten better at keeping myself ‘perky’ during long (or even boring) meetings. In addition to my (enormous) coffee consumption, some of my tricks are:
- Get up and walk around the room. At first I thought this might be rude but it’s a wonderful refresher, and I’m sure more people wish they would do it. It comes in handy in the moments just before you feel yourself nodding off and the inevitable head bounce jolts you wide awake.
- Chew gum. This increases blood flow to the head. But one warning –blowing bubbles or snapping it is typically frowned upon.
- Sit near the front where you have to make eye contact with the speaker. The fear of shame is a powerful anti-doze agent.
What is your method for keeping your energy up during meetings?
This week a friend sent over a company memo containing two mistakes in the first paragraph alone, and there was one more that followed. Oops! We were embarrassed not only for the company but also for the communications team that composed and proofed the memo from the CEO and COO before it was distributed to more than 10,000 employees. I suspect there may be a “needs improvement” marking on someone’s upcoming annual performance review.
No ifs, ands or buts in proofing: when the CEO, you or anyone else from your company signs her/his name to a company document, it should be error-free. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of posting a blog or two that may contain a typo, and I thank those who alerted me before they sat on the site too long. However, when it comes to overseeing corporate communications in my work, I never proof as hard or as thorough as I do for those documents.
You may not have a communications team on hand to write and review your work, so try these simple steps for high-level proofing:
- Use the spellcheck on your computer. This isn’t the end-all, be-all, but the program should catch at least the most basic of errors. And if you’re not sure why it flagged an item, click on the grammar button and find out.
- Read the document aloud. One of the biggest errors writers encounter is skipping words. When you’ve written and reread a document tens of times, your mind begins to fill in the blanks. However, when you read something aloud, you’re more likely to identify those missing or incorrect words. From the memo I received this week: “In addition, certain of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand during the economic recovery.” The sentence probably should read, “In addition, a certain number of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand…”
- Have at least two other people review the document. This was mandatory in a PR department in which I worked, and I’ve held fast to that standard ever since.
Achieving a Goal
I love certain reality television shows. Top Chef and Project Runway are my favorites. Mostly because these showcase creative individuals using their skills and talents to produce something from nothing, in an ungodly short amount of time with usually the craziest of resources. Create a couture dress with candy! Cook a four-star dish using the ingredients from a vending machine!
During each show’s elimination or the final cuts, judges ask the contestants why they deserve to stay or win. One of the answers I cannot stand is, ‘Because I work really hard and I deserve this.’ I disagree. Just because one works hard doesn’t mean he or she will create something amazing or worthy of recognition. If everyone on the show ‘worked really hard’ then how would the judges ever choose a winner based on that sole criteria?
Four years ago, I worked really hard and wrote my first novel in 15 years. It was bad. I won’t deny it. The story was there, but that was about it. Writing after a long absence wasn’t like riding a bike: I needed more time to develop my skills. Knowing this, there was no way I would tell an agent, ‘You must take me on and publish this because I worked really hard on it.’ They would laugh me out the door. However, I met my goal of returning to my passion and writing a book. That was a great first step.
I then took that hard work and added to it, honing my skills by writing a lot more as well as attending workshops, critique sessions and writing groups. Three books later, I thought I had something that, along with the hard work, might be good enough to send into the world. I pitched it to an agent at a conference.
It’s now a few months later and I’ve signed a contract for literary representation. I’m absolutely thrilled to achieve another goal on my list – first was writing a good book and the second was to obtain a great agent. Now, as she constructs the marketing plan and sends the work out to publishers, I hope the third goal of receiving a publishing contract isn’t too far off. If I do get one, I can say, ‘Thanks for thinking my work is good enough.’ The hard work and persistence may have helped a little, too.
The Purcell Agency http://www.thepurcellagency.com/author-biographies.html
Don’t wish for it, work for it.