5 productivity lessons my thyroid taught me


My Thyroid — actually the subsequent Thyroidectomy I had in October 2010 — has been perhaps the most prolific productivity teacher in my life thus far. The farther I get away from the surgery the more I’ve come to realize the productivity lessons from the whole thing.

I had to bring many things to a cold hard stop and then turn things back on in my life switch by switch like bringing up a server farm or a data center. Ultimately, I am realizing the benefits and seeing how it has been a catalyst for positive change.

Here are the five productivity lessons my Thyroid taught me:

  1. Centralize your information. I had a lot of information to capture and track on all things Thyroid. Evernote played a major role here. It became my central repository for notes and important information for all my major personal and professional projects. I also now keep a folder on each of my personal and freelance projects. Taking a multi-device approach to storing certain information has made me feel on top of things more than once in the past year. I am really enjoying the Clearly plugin for Chrome to capture my online research. In fact, it is becoming a rare occasion when I use the Evernote extension except if I need to capture a web page intact for some reason.
  2. Sometimes two reminders are better than one. I have to take Thyroid medication every morning and I am not a morning person by any means. After my alarm clock sounds, I get a reminder thanks to Google Calendar to take my medication. Just in case I’m locked in a Walking Dead Zombie State, a follow up reminder from NotifyMe chimes up just in case I forget. Although I am happy to report that I have a lot more energy in the mornings now, my two levels of reminders are in place for peace of mind.
  3. Decide on what’s important. Unlike years past, I am making time for personal writing projects and even volunteer work at Church. After using some of the downtime around my surgery and getting adjusted to my Thyroid medication, I took the time to really figure out what I want in My Second Act (What I am calling life after my Thyroid surgery). Now I am working on putting some plans into action
  4. Watch your scheduling and natural rhythms. The late Doug Demars, my college creative writing professor, taught me that there are morning writers and there are night writers. I most definitely fall into the night category. While writing at night isn’t feasible for many projects (and my social life), I factor in some night writing time into my weekly schedule. At a broad level, I live by my Google Calendar and its email and SMS reminders.
  5. Eat smaller meals through the day versus three larger meals. Thyroid issues made me rethink the way I eat during the day. Therefore, I consulted two colleagues and friends who are into long distance running, started going to a nutritionist, and have overhauled the way I eat. It’s helped immensely with my energy that in turn fuels my productivity.

Have you ever learned any productivity lessons from a health issue?

Image credit: by Dream Designs via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Originally published at willkelly.org on March 24, 2012.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

5 reasons why your document reviews aren’t working


I’ve long been a student of technical document reviews. So much so, I worked as technical reviewer for some computer book publishers to learn more about this critical element of the technical communications development standards (and that I thought I could do a better job than the reviewers where I was working at the time). Editorial and technical reviews are integral parts of the technical publications process, but oh so many organizations fumble through the review cycle unnecessarily.

  1. No Process. I stopped being surprised years ago about how often that organization’s don’t know how to review their technical documents effectively even when they have a technical writing group.
  2. Reviewer Likes vs. Standards. We all have our own likes and standards when it comes to writing. All document reviewers need clear and well-documented guidelines for the review cycle to keep them on task so the document they are reviewing meets organizational/client expectations.
  3. No Ownership. Just like other parts of the process, somebody needs to own the document review cycle whether it is a project manager or a technical writer and track the progress of the review cycle. The owner of the review cycle
  4. No Accountability. There needs to be a level of accountability for both the writer(s) and reviewer(s) to shoot for the highest level of technical accuracy they can achieve within the constraints of the documentation projects. Development teams and technical writers can build in tools for achieving better technical accuracy through such means as technical writer access to test environments, fostering a culture where it is OK and acceptable to ask constructive questions.
  5. The “Idiot as a User Advocate” standing in for the writer, editor, or reviewer. Knowing your audience and the technology being documented is critical to a document review. While there are still those hold out technical writer is only going to cause havoc on a writing project unless they can separate what they don’t know about the topic versus what the audience doesn’t know and needs to know. Editors without a grasp of the technology can also hamper the document process by introducing in technical accuracies instead of making appropriate queries and questions to clarify anything they don’t understand. Having such a reviewer at the end of the document development process can also be counter productive to the review as the reviewer can only focus on what they themselves don’t understand versus the intended audience of the document who may indeed be more technically savvy and astute than the reviewer.

Image by freeimages.com user: deboer

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

Originally published at willkelly.org on September 8, 2010.