Book Review: Creating Your Personal Life Plan by Michael Hyatt

Quill pen, ink well and paperI just finished reading a complementary download (free for signing up to Michael Hyatt’s blog emails) of the book Creating Your Personal Life Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designing the Life You’ve Always Wanted . I suppose I should preface this Review/Summary by saying that I am a long-time reader of Michael Hyatt’s blog, Intentional Leadership and really love his conversational style.  I always feel like I’m curled up in an easy chair just having a conversation with him when I read his blog.  I have a deep respect for his value system and faith (he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing and author of the best-selling book, Platform). While all this had a great deal to do with me picking up his book, it doesn’t represent why I’m reviewing it today on our blog.

Creating Your Personal Life Plan is a book which hit me at just the right moment.  I recently had a friend ask me what my new set of major life goals were, and frankly, I was somewhat stymied.  My focus for the past two years has been so consumed with first getting our blog up and running, and now with keeping our Year of Productivity program going that I had not really looked past this year for most areas of my life. Hyatt’s book provided a helpful outline and structure toward exploring and taking stock of both where I am and where I want to be.

Creating Your Personal Life Plan is based on the Life Plan concept used by Daniel Harkavy, author of Becoming a Coaching Leader: The Proven Strategy for Building Your Own Team of Champions  and the CEO and Executive Coach of Building Champions.  This is also a great website offering bonus free podcasts each month as well as a newsletter and blogs from several of their motivational coaches.  Harkavy offers a great podcast here talking about this Personal Life Plan and why it is critical for balancing our life.  Like Hyatt, this is a site led by Christian coaches, but in both cases, I highly recommend both sites for the excellent coaching tips and leadership tips each offer regardless of your own faith persuasion.

The basic building blocks of your Personal Life Plan are called “accounts” Each account will take part of your time, your effort and your attention, and just like financial accounts, you can’t spend more than you have in the bank of your life.  These accounts will make up the major facets of your life.  A career is usually a major account for many of us, but there are also accounts for your spouse, family and friends.  Don’t forget to have yourself for an account too!  Each of us will have our own unique group of accounts because we are each made up of unique facets.  One major account might be an activity that you are passionate about: for me, Dance will be an account. It is not only something I do for entertainment, it is something I study as a student, and there are a unique series of goals that I see for myself in this arena.  Each of you will have your own mix of accounts.

Hyatt’s book then goes on to explain subsequent steps to identify and flesh out your life plan.  This is something that is reviewed and updated regularly, and specific action steps are identified for your progress toward your life goals. You will both define what each account will look like ideally, as well as what the reality of that account is today and some action steps to begin moving you closer to your ideal. Both Hyatt and Harkavy recommend carving out at least eight uninterrupted hours to think, focus and create your life plan.  Some may need even more time.

I recommend reading Michael Hyatt’s book and listening to David Harkavy’s podcast on Life Plans.  I found both to be motivational and feel better prepared to tackle the creation of my own life plan.

Year for Productivity: Session 8: Habit Forming

year_productivity_graphic_8Habits get bad press, as most of what is published focuses on how to get rid of bad habits. Too little attention is paid to the extraordinarily important role habits play in making our lives run more smoothly. Things that become habits are things our minds do with little conscious attention, and as we know from an earlier session, our attention is our most precious commodity. So we want that which makes us productive to become habitual. Indeed, this was part of David Allen’s reasoning behind the creation of his Getting Things Done (GTD) system – to get things off our minds and into a trusted routine, thus freeing the brain for more focused creative productive work.

Turns out that a lot of research has been done now on how habits form, how bad ones can be broken and new ones formed. This research cuts across disciplines from neuroscience to psychology to management, and is explained for the layperson in books such as The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Habits turn out to have three components: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is that which triggers the routine, which is the action taken. The reward is, basically, a response in our brain that is happy because of the routine. Sometimes the cue and the reward are unconscious, which makes it more difficult to change a bad habit. It isn’t the cue and reward that need to change, however, it is the routine. Duhigg gives an example in the appendix of a habit he changed, that of going to the cafeteria in the late afternoon for cookies, which caused him to gain weight. He tried not doing it, but the compulsion was too strong. So he decided to use what he learned researching the book and created a framework with the following steps: Identify the routine, Experiment with rewards, Isolate the cue, and Have a plan. By using the framework, he found that the trigger was not hunger, but a need for socialization. So he started going to coworkers’ cubicles to socialize instead of going to the cafeteria. If no one was around he would go to the cafeteria and get coffee and talk to colleagues. It has so far worked for him. (Duhigg p. 275-286)

Earlier in the book he discusses that changing one habit can have positive effects on others. Creating an exercise habit, in particular, seemed to help the most, as many people who did also began eating healthier, feeling less stress, becoming more productive at work, and better at controlling their spending. (Duhigg, p. 109)

Habits are part of the less conscious part of our minds, and so are related to our intuitive judgement, and that is the subject of a fascinating book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink. Blink is about intuitive judgement and rational, data-driven judgement, and the conclusions are fascinating. People ask him all the time when to use which, and this is something that may never be entirely clear. He does have some conclusions, however. First, useful intuitive judgement has to be cultivated. It works for experts whose years of experience and knowledge allow them to make quick but informed judgements. On the other hand, too much information, for any one judgement, may get in the way – it may obscure the important stuff. A related problem in academia is knowing when to stop doing research and actually turn the project in.

Similarly, after 25 years as a reference and subject liaison librarian, for most questions that I get I have a good idea where to start looking for information, and usually have a feel for how much has been written on a particular topic. Many times my intuitive sense saves me time and helps me show the student where to find the information quickly. However, that judgement fails me often enough that I’ve worked out a system. I make an appointment with the researcher and spend time looking at the databases and other resources available to me. I then print pages that give the other person an idea what databases and what searches were most productive. So my experience informs my intuition but quite often I require analytical skills as well.

Routines/habits are often good as they allow us to turn our attention to important priorities. Some habits are self – destructive or simply no longer productive, and scientists are learning how we can change those. Habits and experience also feed into our intuitive judgement but we have to balance that with analytical skills to get the best results.

Selected Readings:

Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.  If nothing else, read the appendix, pp. 275-286.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co..

For Further Exploration and Insight:

(1)  Have you successfully changed a bad habit or created a new good one?  If so, please write a comment about the experience and how you did it.

(2)  Set a goal of changing a bad habit or creating a good one… I plan on starting to exercise regularly by using Breaking the Chain (see the Session 6 post), for example.  Keep track of how well you do.  Add a comment to this post about the results.



Tony Danza, Starfish and Making a Difference

classroom with teacher and childrenI just finished listening to Tony Danza read his new book: “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.” Tony, known by many from his TV sitcom days, originally graduated as a teacher, but had never used his teaching license until 2010 when he spent 1 year teaching a high school English class at Northeast High, Philadelphia’s largest urban high school.  While his year was filmed as a reality series, only 7 episodes were ever shown.  The book, however, was a delight that I would recommend to anyone in the education industry.  I think he did a very good job of accurately portraying the difficulties and culture shock of a first year teacher.  It is clear that he is very passionate about the importance of education and does everything he can think of to encourage his students to take advantage of the time in school to help them prepare for tomorrow. I loved his honesty, his vulnerability and willingness to share the bumps and successes of his year.

I felt upbeat at the end of his book, even though he doesn’t sugarcoat a happily ever after.  The kids he had in class still had immense challenges ahead of them, as did the teachers and administration as they continued to deal with low standardized test scores and pressures from above.  I was sad that Tony decided to not teach after that year.  I think he would have been a good influence on the children of that school.

So why am I talking about this book on a PKM site? I think because his book really started me thinking about how the difficulties that high school and elementary school teachers are experiencing in trying to prepare students for life will be directly effecting us in higher education more and more as students from these environments become a part of our student bodies.  As an academic reference librarian, I do one-on-one consultations with students, but often I only see these individuals once or twice in their career.  We have tools and knowledge that could significantly enhance their research experiences, enrich their learning and make their work easier.  But how do we present this knowledge in a way that the students will hear it, will seek it out, will even try to use it? How do we position ourselves in our academic community so that we can identify the “teachable moments” where we can insert ourselves and offer a tool, a research strategy, an idea that could make a student or a faculty member’s life easier or more productive?

At our school, students, faculty and researchers alike are all dynamic, creative, and often driven individuals.  Their plates are more than full.  Even if they could do a job much easier a different way, the sheer process of learning that new way may be the straw that breaks the academic camel’s back at that particular time.  I teach a one and one-half hour workshop on productivity tools for graduate students at my library.  I have reasonably good attendance, but what strikes me as most significant, my companion LibGuide is consistently ranked in the top five of all LibGuides at my school in terms of hits.  They are finding the guide, AND they are looking at pages other than just the first one.  They are making a clear statement.  The need is there.  The interest is there. Yes, they want to magic bullet, when we know that does-it-all product doesn’t yet exist.  But they are motivated to at least search for it.

Like Mr. Danza, I don’t have the answers.  I don’t even know all the questions. But I resonate with his passion to reach another individual and offer them something that might enrich at least one aspect of his/her life.  Tony ends his book with a description of a story that he was given, inscribed on a plaque from one of his teaching associates as a parting gift at the end of his year of teaching. I had heard the story before, but it is fitting for us to remember, nonetheless.

After a storm, a man is seen walking along a beach littered with starfish that had been blown up on shore.  He would stop ever few feet and pick up a starfish and throw it back into the ocean.  An observer asks, ‘why do you bother?  There are so many other fish that it hardly makes a dent in the problem.’  He responds, ‘True, but it means everything to the life of that one I touched.’

Maybe that is our message as well.  Someone asked me, why do you spend so much energy writing the blog posts when you don’t even know if they are being read?  Perhaps for the one person for whom that particular post might impact just at their point of need.  We need more starfish throwers.

Link Roundup #8

western saddle with a lasso on it


Happy Birthday, iPad: How Apple’s Tablet Revolutionized Business Computing. Thought it was important to notice, from deep within the revolution, how quickly it is happening. The article also makes the important point that one of the things that changed in business (and education) computing is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept. It frees the user to use productivity apps/websites anywhere they go – while increasing security problems for the IT people.

5 School-Worthy iPad Alternatives for Education. Article covers a mix of Android and Windows tablets that can work well for educational purposes, and points out education-friendly features of each.

40 Years Later: 11 Game-Changing Phones. The tech world is having fun this week celebrating 40 years since the first call on a cell phone. This article is a good discussion/slideshow of how cell phones have changed and innovated over those 40 years. Now they are fundamental parts of our productivity, and it is fascinating to contemplate where communications will be 40 years from now.

A Matter of Perspective – Elsevier Acquires Mendeley…or, Mendeley Sells Itself to Elsevier. This acquisition has been rumored for months, and is now publicly announced. Note that this post is from The Scholarly Kitchen blog, which is produced by scholarly publishers and reflects their point of view, but it has an interesting perspective. See Elsevier’s take on the acquistion and Mendeley’s.

Become an Evernote Power User: 10 Must-Know Tips. While I see a number of similar articles, this one has some of the better and most up-to-date tips.

5 Best Firefox Education Addons. Includes short descriptions of ImTranslator, Evernote Web Clipper, Zotero, Wired Marker, and Biobar.

Best Video Editing Software for Enthusiasts.  Mostly this article is about software for sale, but does mention the video editing software that comes with Windows and Mac.  I’m including this article because so many college assignments now include creating videos.

Foxit Reader 6.0 Adds PDF Creation, Handwritten Signatures, and Office 2013-Style Ribbon.  Sounds like some good added features to one of the favorite PDF readers.

Skitch Brings Markup Tools to Evernote PDFs.  Skitch is a basic drawing tool that is now owned by Evernote.  The new relsease for iOS now includes support for marking up PDFs, and even generating a cover sheet with links to the annotations.

If you are a blogger, you might want to have a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Legal Guide for Bloggers.  It covers legal liability issues, bloggers as journalists, other legal topics, and has an index to questions and a list of additional resources.

Ultimate Evernote Guide – an ongoing and quite up-to-date series of tips and tricks posts on Evernote from Teleread.  Hmmm…lots of useful Evernote articles lately.  Another one is 15+ Tips and Tricks to Use Evernote Like a Pro.  It is also up-to-date and mentions a lot of tips left out of similar articles.

How to Get Organized with Reference Managers for Science – An Overview.  Brief overview of what reference managers do, and a comparison table of useful features for several reference management software programs.  Included are Mendeley, ReadCube, Papers, Endnote, and Zotero.  This is the first of the series, with the next post on Mendeley published as of this writing.

iAnnotate – Whatever Happened to the Web as an Annotation System?   I’ve been wondering about the potential for exporting annotations of ebooks and other digital documents.  Seems like that could be important in scholarly research.  This article talks about that and more, an overview of the state of the art in annotation.

5 Alternatives to WordPress – if you are a librarian looking for a Content Management System (CMS) or a researcher thinking of starting a blog, this article offers some good options.  This blog is on WordPress, and it has a lot of features, but there are things that could be easier.

You’ll Never Learn! . Article about the damage multitasking is doing to students abilities to learn. The various studies looked at students from elementary school into college.

Year for Productivity: Session 7: Notebook Software

year_productivity_graphic_7We’ve spent several weeks now talking about ways to manage our calendars, our mail and our to-do lists. What about all those websites, blog posts, articles, quotes, images, emails, slide presentations, videos and the like that we all run across each day as we go throughout our day?  They may touch us, inspire us, spark ideas that we want to go back to implement later – the only thing we know for sure is that we want to be able to find these items again when we want them. It would also be very nice if we could categorize them somehow so miscellaneous items on the same or similar subjects were together.  How to capture and file this mishmash of varied topics and formats so that we can get them again wherever we are at the time can be daunting.  This is where the power of Notebook Software can add real value to your productivity tool chest.

What is notebook software?  I’ll bet you have used (or even created!) collections in notebook software already and not even realized it.  Have you ever used LiveBinders?  This application is a very simplistic example of notebook software. It allows the creator to save websites, articles, etc under tabs and subtabs with one tab for each item.  If you are a librarian, chances are very good that you have created research guides using LibGuides (or a similar system). LibGuides is an excellent example of notebook software.  It provides a framework that allows the user to customize the look as well as the content of the guide.  Each guide is made up of tabbed pages and subpages, and the information on each page is arranged via containers (or widgets or “boxes”… however you think of it). All sorts of information can be stored in those containers – textual as well as graphic and video.  If you love LibGuides (or LiveBinders) you will probably find Microsoft OneNote to be appealing.  It is like LibGuides on steroids with many more layers of sections/pages/subpages/ etc. and where items reside in freeform container arrangements on a page.

While Google is currently in the news regarding its launching of it’s beta product, Google Keep, which some are calling the newest notebook software on the block, there are already two powerhouse options in the notebook software arena that I would like to suggest you explore: Microsoft OneNote and Evernote. Both products have free versions with varied limitations on their functionality and storage space, and both have full-featured versions that can be purchased.  Microsoft OneNote is automatically a part of Microsoft Office packages or can be purchased as a stand-alone product. Evernote Premium is an annual subscription.  I’m not going to take our time today to compare/contrast all the capabilities and features of these two products.  Mary and I have already done that in an article we published last year for Online where we also outlined lots of examples of how librarians might use notebook software at work; reading it will be one of the exercises for this session.

Which product should you use?  That decision is somewhat based on personal preference and is not necessarily an either/or choice.  I actually use both products.


    • Mary and I share Evernote (Premium version) notebooks where we store links, book covers; notes on readings, etc for our blog topics.  We’ve actually organized this entire year-long productivity program using a combination of Evernote and Docear(for the initial mind map brainstorming of the program structure).  It has been working pretty well for us. We created notes for each of the 26 sessions and both of us add links, text snippets, graphics, etc to all the notes as we run across items that fit the various categories.  I love this organizational setup.  Often, by the time we reach the week for a topic, we already have a long laundry list of items to consult.


I choose to use OneNote for my personal notebooks. The hierarchical organizational structure with all the different levels of pages, sections and notebooks appeals to my “scrapbooking” mentality.  I have a variety of different notebooks:

    • I have one notebook on Astronomy – another of my research interests. It contains lecture notes from open source classes, stunning photos, books I’d like to read, links to interactive sites, notes I’ve taken on articles & books, etc. I always make a point of showing this notebook to my graduate students as an example of how notebook software could help the research process go more smoothly as they create their theses, dissertations and research articles.
    • I also love using my OneNote notebook called “wish list” where I save ideas for gifts for others, lists of books I want to read, borrow from various libraries, find in used book stores or order new.  Likewise for music, dvds, figurines, etc.  Using this notebook has freed me from stacks of lists, screen prints and scratch paper reminders of items I’m thinking about. It has also given me a common place to keep track of which sister got which gift last year.
    •  I have a health notebook where I keep articles, websites, etc about health issues that I research.  By scanning copies of my bloodwork or other lab results, I also have one easy place to find all the details I need on those topics.
    • I particularly love my Quotes notebook.  I have pages and sections by topic, storing inspirational quotes, quotes I know I’ll use sometime on my blog or in my work, passages from books that I want to keep, etc.
    • I have a quilting notebook.  I collect pictures of quilts, books I’m interested in on the subject, I have one whole section devoted to pictures of quilts to which I contributed blocks for the ALA Biblioquilters’ quilt auctions. I keep articles and videos describing quilting techniques, a list of websites and notes from classes I’ve taken.

The more I use Evernote and OneNote, the more uses I find for them both.  Consistently, the feedback from students taking my Productivity Tools for Graduate Students workshop cite learning about Evernote and OneNote to be the most valuable thing they learned during our time together.  As you are exploring these two tools, I challenge you to also consider how your users might also benefit from learning about them.  You might find you have a double-hitter: a new tool to help you be more productive AND a new way to offer additional value to your users.

For Further Exploration and Insights:

1. Read our article “Noteworthy Productivity Tools for Personal Knowledge Management.”  Can you think of other practical applications of these products?  Share with all of us in the comments. A community of minds makes a better experience for all.

2. Explore The Secret Weapon site.  How could part (or all) of this system work in your life?  If you are not an Evernote user, what techniques could you apply in OneNote or the application of your choice?

Selected Readings:

Multi-Platform Resources:

Axford, Mary, & Renfro, Crystal. (2012). Noteworthy Productivity Tools for Personal Knowledge Management. Online, 36(3), 33-36.

Notebook Software: Evernote and Microsoft OneNote LibGuide

Sheffner. (March 2012)  Going paperless: tips from a OneNote and Evernote user

 Evernote Resources:

Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites:  A large list of links on Evernote:

Jones, Jordan. (November 2012)  How to Use Evernote for Genealogical Research. Jordan, president of the National Genealogical Society recently wrote this piece on the Evernote blog.

Malespina, Elissa.  Evernote In Education.  This is a LiveBinder which includes an extensive list ideas for using Evernote in the classroom.

Murray, Katherine. (February 2012) My Evernote. Que Publishing.

My Simple Curiosity Blog. (January 2013) GTD with Evernote:

Pontefract, Dan (December 2012) I Wrote a 90,000 Word Book Entirely in Evernote.

Peironcely, Julio. 3 Mandatory Tools For Digital Scientists

Samuel, Alexandra. 8 Ways Evernote Can Help You Get More From Your Research in 2013.  “ The Evernote blog has some useful items, and it has “ambassadors” – blog contributors who blog about using Evernote in their profession and/or areas of interest. Alexandra Samuel, the author of this blog post, might be a good person to follow, as her ideas about managing research using Evernote in this blog post are worthwhile. As a bonus, at the bottom of this article are links to PDFs for using Evernote in different contexts, including 10 Ways to Use Evernote for a Productivity Boost.” (Mary posted this annotation in her Link Roundup #3 here on our blog.)

Sarna, David E. Y. (April 2012) Evernote for Dummies, For Dummies Publishing.

The Secret Weapon site.  GTD + Evernote:

Witson, Gordon. (March 2013).  I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing.  Be sure to also read through the comments.  There is a good discussion of IFTTT and Evernote buried in there.

 OneNote Resources:

Basu, Saikat. (August 2012) 10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All The Time [Windows].

Office OneNote GEM Add-ins: Learning and OneNote.  Nice overview of how college students might use OneNote.

Oldenburg, Michael C. (September 2011) Using Microsoft OneNote 2010, Que Publishing.

One Note and Law School: Beginner’s Guide. Posted on, this is a nice example of how a workflow might incorporate OneNote. Lawyers have some of the most detailed examples of using OneNote in their work of any profession I have found to date.

Pointer, Caroline. This genealogist recently put together a fabulous YouTube video, Using OneNote for Research Plans, that I found to be incredibly helpful. (only 12 minutes)

Ramsdell, Heather. (November 2011) LiveBinders and OneNote: Eliminating Paper in Course Projects

Wheatfill, Michael (2011) Using GTD with OutLook + Onenote:  A series of blog entries:


Calendar Image courtesy of ammer/

Link Roundup #7

western saddle with a lasso on it


Intentional Change Theory: Achieving Manageable, Meaningful Change. Useful post on five steps to achieving real change.

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive. Article from business consultant on being more productive from being more rested and refreshed. Recommends working in 90 minute cycles then taking a break. Has some science and experience to back this up.

Make Use Of – “Welcome to MakeUseOf, a booming daily blog that features cool websites, computer tips, and downloads that make you more productive. The aim of MakeUseOf is to guide you through the web and tell you about hot websites that you have never heard of, best software programs, and all kinds of “how to” tips for Windows, Mac and Linux computer users.”  Looks like a nice place to find out about useful apps, and has some basic useful downloadable guides to popular software and operating systems.

Teens Stay Online More than They Did Just 3 Months Ago: Tablets a Big Reason Why.  What are the implications for college students?  For example, is this making studying more or less difficult?

Research management tools are getting more sophisticated, and I suspect will get much better over time.  ReadCube and Utopia Documents both add some interesting capabilities for exploring PDF documents.  See, for example, this article from Computerworld:   Utopia Documents Makes PDF Articles Easy to Explore, Not So Much to Read.  Also Readcube: An Excellent All-in-one Tool for Organizing, Finding, Reading, and Annotating PDF articles.

South Illinois University Picks Windows 8 Tablet over iPad; Highlights Costs and Managability.  I’m fascinated by stories of how higher ed is deploying and using tablets.  Some experiments will fail, some will succeed, will be nice to start hearing reports at conferences on which is which.

Google’s Keep Note-Taking Web and Android App Gets Its Official Public Launch.  Seems to have far fewer features than OneNote and Evernote, and those two already have a large user base, but might be useful for someone new to notebook software.

Create and Share a Virtual Wall of Documents and Media with Padlet.  App allows instant creation and sharing of a variety of formats of information and it can be easily disseminated.  I can see a lot of use for this for college students doing group work or for assignments in class.

Using iPads at School?  Sophia Now Provides Free Training to Teachers.  About tablets in higher education.  The article sounds like it is not aimed at teaching how to use an iPad per se but tips on using tablets in the classroom and using certian apps such as Dropbox and Evernote.

American Chemical Society Introduces ACS ChemWorx (TM).  Chemworx is built on colwiz, and research management software developed by scholars at Oxford University.  I’ve been interested in colwiz for a while, as it has more features than Mendeley or Zotero, but haven’t found much information on it.  It is also interesting that ChemWorx is designed to be a software that guides the entire research process, from the literature search to publication and collaboration.  There’s a little more detail from CAS, a division of ACS.

Can You Really Be Productive with a sub-$100 Tablet? While this is a review of a particular tablet, the title’s question is of interest to the education market, and the answer, for this tablet at least, seems to be yes.