January, 2016

Welcome Mid-January!

With the festive season of Christmas and New Year’s now behind us, how ready do you feel for our new year, 2016?

Over the holidays, I spent some lovely time with family and friends, but also read and edited, part-time, to make January feel less daunting! I hope that you, as readers, enjoyed happy holidays and feel renewed in the work you are now doing.

In last month’s issue, I featured novelist Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing on the need to accommodate boredom, anxiety and fear, when we work creatively. Anglo-Canadian copywriter, Nick Usborne, provided helpful analysis of why conversational copywriting outlasts and outperforms the “blunt force trauma” style, that shouts its messages at readers. Thanks to those of you who wrote in to say you found those articles helpful.

This month, I feature two short articles on timely topics: while many of us stopped making New Year’s Resolutions years ago, at least some (likely most) of us want to make and meet goals in 2016. Meeting goals may become more likely if we practice “if/then” statements, as introduced by Vancouver writer Daphne Gray-Grant in a recent article.  Elsewhere, the business ezine “YouInc.com” offers  insights on how not to procrastinate our way through the year. And American etymologist Bryan Garner helpfully discusses what verb forms to use with the negative construction, “neither . . . nor.”

Enjoy this issue and let’s hope after this weekend for a return of the El Nino-inspired warmth! Good news: winter will soon be half over the lengthening of daylights hours will soon be appreciable!

I hope that the new year brings you good health, much happiness and success!

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Principal

Elizabeth Shih Communications

www.elizabethshih.com

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Want a New Year’s Resolution that Works, in 2016 …?

Do you still use New Year’s resolutions? Or do you have any alternatives to them, as you seek to establish and achieve goals in your personal or professional lives? By late January, the gym I’ve belonged to for a decade will get “back to normal,” after newbies have given up on their 6:30 am exercise. Meantime, I have to arrive very early or very late to get the machines I most want to use.

Vancouver-based writer Daphne Gray-Grant wrote in her biweekly blog earlier this month, that although “45% of Americans” make new year’s resolutions, “fewer than 8% manage to keep them.” I’d imagine that the statistics for Canada (with our long winters) are not much, if any, better.

So what alternatives do we have, if we still want to make and achieve goals that will chart a potentially better course of behaviour for us (be it work, exercise, hobbies, leisure) in 2016?

Gray-Grant recommends “if/then statements” as a way to talk to ourselves about our activity and motivation.

So a writer like me may say: “If I haven’t drafted my blog posting by 4:30 pm, then I must write it before I can read for leisure, tonight.”

Or here’s one more reminiscent of Seth Godin: “if my

prospect hasn’t replied to my email by tomorrow noon, then (despite hating to do so) I will definitely call him at 1:15 p.m.”

Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer says that if/then statements work by getting us to consider “contingencies” (what psychologists like him call “implementation intentions”).

“Contingencies” are a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty. The term also refers to a provision for such an event or circumstance—what we can do, Gray-Grant says, “when things go wrong,” or other than we hoped.

She blogs on (and has tested) this concept of contingency, observing that when we make an if/then statement, our brains immediately begin checking our environment to find the “if . . . [like] a dog seeking treats.” Once we’ve found the “if,” the “then” follows automatically, without our having to think or track our goal. The identification of the “if” doesn’t require us to have willpower to make, as the first part of an if/then statement.

As Gray-Grant observes, making these if/then statements “allows us to conserve our self-control for when we need it and compensate for it when we don’t  have enough.” So we can set up goal-directed behaviour as a response “to a particular future event or cue.”

She concludes that by “deciding in advance when and where we will take specific actions, [we] can double or triple our chances of success.”

What do you think of using if/then statements to attain goals and to become more productive and accountable for them? Try practicing some if/then statements for a few days and let me know: do they help you to exercise and apply your self-control, as an entrepreneur, writer or artist?

And here’s to a happy, healthy and productive 2016!

Do you find yourself missing deadlines or lacking the energy and drive to complete your work? How can the alternative of if/then statements create opportunities to live and work more effectively?

Please share your comments on the “contact” page of my website (www.elizabethshih.com). I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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“Word Nerd’s Corner”: Verb Usage with “Neither . . .Nor”

The negative construction of “neither . . . nor” takes a singular verb when the alternatives are singular, or when the second of the two alternatives is singular—e.g.: “ ‘Neither the radiator nor the water pump leak [should read: leaks]’ ” (Magliozzi and Magliozzi, “Amarillo Daily News,” 21 August, 1993, B5, cited in Garner, December 4, 2015).

Garner advises further that “the verb should precisely match the form of the second of the two alternatives—e.g. “ ‘Neither Barton nor I am saying that equities aren’t a great long-term place to be’ ” (Farrell, in “Fortune,” 18 August, 1997, 68).

When both alternatives are plural, the verb you use should be plural—e.g. “ ‘Neither those goals nor the overall themes of the conference fit the extremist image conjured up by some of the critics of the gathering . . .’ ” (“A China Agenda for Mrs. Clinton,” “New York Times,” 30 August, 1995, A14).

Do negative constructions leave you grappling to choose the correct verb number? Please send me your usage issues and bugbears on my “contact” page and I’ll use them in a future blog or issue!

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“Ask an Expert”: Writers at YouInc Discuss How not to Procrastinate in 2016 . . .

Writers at the ezine, “Youinc,” have anticipated our new year with recent articles on how to avoid procrastination.

Many writers and creatives whom I know procrastinate regularly. With busy schedules that hold competing priorities, something urgent is always waiting to get done. Many people leave projects or commitments  until the last moment, when they rush through it to “get it done,” (sometimes even slipshod) rather than doing it in well and in a calm, methodical way.

Procrastination limits us and our businesses.  Writers from YouInc.com have offered several tips on how to “push through” procrastination:

(1)   We tend to procrastinate when a task seems too huge to manage. Instead of feeling overwhelmed (and then avoiding the task, altogether), try breaking the project down into several steps. Then focus on only one task (or even one portion of one task), at a time.

If the “overwhelm” still persists, then tell yourself that you’ll work on the task for only ten minutes and that you’ll then take a break. As Maria Locker of Mompreneurs Showcase Group Inc. writed, in her November article, “often the toughest part is just getting started.”

(2)   Everyone wastes time in their work, such as by visiting social media, playing video games, reading email and making telephone calls. Remove temptation by shutting off the computer, tablet, smartphone, etc. and stop distracting yourself from the work itself.

(3)   Don’t start at the beginning. Just because your work may finally appear in a linear form does not mean that you have to create it that way. If getting started is difficult, try to work on another part of the project that feels easier to you. Work from the easiest to the least familiar (or hardest) parts, building confidence and momentum, as you go. That process will subvert the overwhelm.

(4)   Be aware of your fear of success. Sometimes the success associated with making your entrepreneurial dreams come true can be overwhelming, in itself. Locker says that people will unconsciously fail by not developing a proper business plan, not reading about the market and by overlooking other variables that you already know to be crucial to your success.

(5)   Avoid all-nighters. In the December 8  issue of  “YouInc,” psychologist Cindy Wahler writes that adulthood will find you unable to cram, as you once did, for exams. The world is far more complicated and “furious scrambling” won’t add up to “quality output.  . . . you can no longer dance as fast as you could.” So invest daily in working methodically and consistently: avoid creating your own internal world of an all or nothing approach.

(6)   Focus on thinking how each task will help you to achieve your goals. Reminding yourself of the larger purpose of your work will keep you optimistic about how the nitty gritty of a work day brings you to achieve larger things.

(7)   Don’t be afraid of failure. Wahler notes that entrepreneurs put in intense hours and “tough slug” their ways through work. When you feel yourself holding back, remember that you are, as she writes, “on target and basically a tiny sliver away from execution.”

Don’t let perfectionism halt you over small details, so as to “protect yourself from perceived failure,” when you’re actually  very “close to winning.”

Some signs that you are procrastinating include failing to plan, being disorganized, having tunnel vision, not anticipating unforeseen events, not applying due diligence and more . . . .

Wahler says to “pay attention” to these seven  strategies above, or else your shortsightedness may become a “kill switch” to your business.

Procrastination denies and avoids the reality that business requires us to work hard, much of the time. No one can take those tasks away from us. So overcoming this  tendency to “put off” reality will help you achieve productivity and, with it, success.

Do you tend to work in an “all or nothing” pattern, avoiding some of your work, much of the time? Please share your experience  on my website’s contact page at   www.elizabethshih.com.

I’d be delighted to continue this conversation.

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Shop News . . .

After a wonderful holiday party (December 17) with the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (whose chef was Monica Kreuger), I have continued with editing Praxis business curriculum.  Having a chance to read about the theory and practice of entrepreneurship as I edit is fascinating and I can warmly recommend the training opportunities that the school provides to novice entrepreneurs.

I continue to promote my new ebook, Getting Past It: Five Creatives Face Adversity, that debuted in mid-December. Feedback from colleagues and friends has been very positive. (Planning has already begun for the second volume in the series!) Special thanks again to Julie Barnes, Monica Kreuger, Lesley-Anne McLeod, Tracey Mitchell and Wilf Popoff for their responses. And a final thanks for excellent design and editing work to Kat Bens (Saskatoon) and for website design work to Oliver Sutherns (Toronto).

The Raj Manek Business Mentorship Program (RMMP) held its monthly seminar on January 12, featuring Greg Sutton from “TinyEye” Speech Pathology. Sutton talked of the need to get beyond fear as our entrepreneurs, by viewing ostensibly negative returns as valuable feedback. He also addressed the work of building a company culture, in which culture exceeds strategy in importance for building a business.  Sutton was a compelling speaker and many thanks go to Kanchan Manek for organizing the event.

And after having a mild start to January (perhaps partly because of it), I look forward to an end to this latest cold snap and to creating another winter of your marketing and communications materials. Please contact me with your ideas and projects!

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About Us . . .

Since 2011, Elizabeth Shih Communications has provided B2B marketing and communications services on the Prairies and across Canada.

Do you need help writing your “marcom” materials? Please contact me through my website, via the CASL-compliant email form, on the right-hand side of each page (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I have received your permission, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters, blog postings, promotional emails, press releases, case studies and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (www.elizabethshih.com).