I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Archive for the ‘project management’ Category

Analyzing needs, scoping deliverables, scheduling talent, quantifying effort, managing review, tracking progress.

9 Minimalist “Chores” Streamline Project Management

Posted by contentgrrl on February 28, 2012

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

I am a big fan of Michael Greer ( I first became a fan while I was an instructional designer with his ID Project Management, which I used successfully along with other tools to continually trim my ratio of design hours to student lesson time, whether it was a classroom/lab manual, live video training, or an e-learning program.

Now I do a host of other kinds of projects, including emarketing, knowledgebases, wikis, software release announcements, crunch time preparation, Webinars, video scripts, and newsletters.

Greer’s Project Management Minimalist is a godsend to those who are intimidated and even offended at the breadth and depth of professional PMI certification.

For example, check out his one-pager on page 10 of the free preview “Quick Start Checklist: The Absolute Least You Can Do“.

It shows 9 minimal “chores”:

  1. Mini-Charter (Get a statement about the “tangible finished product” approved.)
  2. Team (Gather contributors, users, and stakeholders.)
  3. Go Wide (Team brainstorms a complete wish list.)
  4. Slash & Burn (Team divides wish list equally among “Must”, “Could”, and “Can Wait.”)
  5. To-Do (Team assigns “Must” tasks to specific contributors.)
  6. Schedule (Team estimates time and sets deadlines.)
  7. Start (Team will start the “Must” tasks, “Keep moving,” and “Handle scope changes”.)
  8. Inspect & Correct (Check punctuality, quality, completeness, then discuss obstacles, assistance required, changes required and gain consensus.)
  9. Post Mortem (Review “lessons learned” for future projects.)

I LUUURVE “Slash & Burn”! Unfortunately, it seems to be missing from his more detailed one-page 10steps.pdf.

So many projects suffer from:

  • analysis paralysis
  • technology that doesn’t do what you think it will and must be rethought
  • directional changes that veer contributors off course
  • great ideas that come up in the middle but break the budget

But now for thoughts from you — have you done projects at work? Large-scale? Small-scale? In between? DIY projects at home?

What have been your biggest challenges in managing your projects?

Posted in performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

GTD like Your RPG Avatar Builds Real-Life Character

Posted by contentgrrl on April 8, 2011

I love lists. I’ve used so many systems: daily checklists on my tear-off-a-day desk calendar from the ’80s, Franklin Covey and Success Management Institute in the ’90s, FlyLady’s Control Journal in the 2000’s. Post-it notes to be rearranged and updated daily on my wall. Folders/binders front and center for each duty or project, with immediate next steps clipped on top. Calendar time reserved for a couple of weeks ahead when I need to devote my attention and dissuade distractions and ding reminders.

And I gotta say I’ve accomplished a lot: master’s degree, happy career, healthy family, some spiritual development along the way, and forays into wide-spread interests. Not perfect by any means; always room for improvement.

Now I’m an iPhone app hound :P, especially for recurring tasks so I don’t have to write them down again.

My two current faves:

  • At home, I use [url=]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=][/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
  • For both home AND WORK, I use [url=]EpicWin [/url]for its chores to-do lists inspired by role-playing games (RPGs). I build (“level up”) character in real life for quests, and feats of strength, stamina, intellect, social, and spirit. I use mine for work and various project to-dos.

I also get virtual loot, and can update Twitter and/or Facebook as follows: “I’ve been doing my chores and just scored a Undercover Shrubber – Epic Win!”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.

One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=]Sparkpeople[/url]. But it is so rich in content, tools (menus, calorie counters, tracking databases, reports) and community (login point spinner, groups, blogs, forums, gifts, statuses) that it can be overkill. Eventually it becomes a time-sucking distraction from actually getting out and burning calories.

I keep falling off the wagon there. I tried to simplify – merely log in to note that yes I’ve exercised for 20 minutes today, and I’ve drunk 8 glasses of water, and eaten 5 fruits & veggies. The SparkPeople iPhone app is more about logging calorie intake and burnoff, which is not my program.

Now I can do my three simple daily health to-dos on my iPhone in HomeRoutines and/or EpicWin.

How do you get things done?

What do you do to build your own real-life character?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in games, grrly, heroes, heroines, performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Me & My Authentic Niche(s)

Posted by contentgrrl on March 5, 2010

Isn’t the point of blogging to offer insight, value, and entertainment?

But I abandoned blogging for several months, partially because it became inauthentic. It didn’t feel like me. And I have precious little time to be anyone else.

My new profile pic.

Here is reality. For proprietary reasons of course, I don’t reveal much if anything about what I’m working on for my paycheck company or even my freelance work. I have also been escaping from housekeeping, procrastinating administrative tasks, spoiling my kids and then struggling with their behavior, stuck behind boxes of un-scrap-booked photos and memorabilia, losing and gaining the same five pounds, and wallowing in unfulfilled yearnings in my spiritual journey.

There: transparency. 🙂 Sounds just like hundreds of thousands of other working moms slash writers out there.

But I love writing, and I love having a blog. I would like to publish an blog entry weekly. I could even schedule a poll/survey or book review for when I’m in crunch time elsewhere.

Maybe I can spend time with an editorial calendar, leaving a bit of leeway every month. My interests are so broad, and something new is always happening!

Maybe I can narrow it down to a niche of topics I actually care about, that can help mentor other people. Something that makes me shiny and happy.

Something may come to me as I purge and reorganize my bank of drafts. Some of my older essays discuss things I don’t actually want to associate with my name. For example, even though I did well years ago to train in JavaScript, ASP and MySQL, I have to admit I am not a programmer; it’s use it or lose it.

Better, I like to use and polish my wordsmith skills to make life and work easier for people.

My own niche is in there somewhere. I can spend some time formulating my direction and exploring the passions where I will invest the next 10 years or so of my life’s work. I can’t even think about moving to my own hosted URL until I’ve got this down.

I tried an elevator speech:

“I translate experts from various industries into plain, compelling English (and sometimes images), making them look even better on paper and online.”

But elevator speeches and mission statements may not be enough.

Here’s the big question:

Does contentgrrl need to split into two or more niche blogs, or disintegrate?

Here are some possible splits:

  • writing & inspiration from news, media, TV, movies & books (Some gems may go to my freelance editor’s site,
  • wife, mom, home & gaming stuff (these get more hits, but newer material may go to Facebook & BigTent)
  • spiritual stuff (I thought I would blog more about the heroes who influence me, but I never seem to do them justice. I may just return to my favorite forums, like

Related links/tweets:

@cywitherspoon “You can’t build a reputation on what you are about to do!” -Henry Ford (1863-1947)

anything on

Entrepreneurs Who Blog Well Foster Trust Among Prospects, Partners, Industry | Mashable

30 Tips On How To Make Your Company’s Blog Rock

StoryToolz: Readability Statistics, another online tool with FleshKincaid reading level and detailed counts

Good tool for bloggers on the go, per @10000Words: – not only spellcheck, grammar, but style guidelines too

Posted in community, grrly, learning, project management, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

the secret behind lorem ipsum dummy content

Posted by contentgrrl on February 6, 2008

For the latin text that supposedly served as the source of the “lorem ipsum” dummy placeholder content, see

According to this site, it’s from The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero in 45 BC:

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

There’s even an English translation:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

The site also has an application that generates so many paragraphs of the stuff from the source. You can use these generated paragraphs in your template layout designs to test styles and image placements, without  distracting your reviewers with the actual content. At least until they approve the design and the real content can take its place.

Posted in culture, learning, project management, publishing, reading, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

using DATEDIF to figure years of service in Excel

Posted by contentgrrl on December 19, 2007

For our employee birthdays and anniversaries message, I get the data from HR in a spreadsheet. But it’s pretty raw, a mere list of employee names & their dates of hire. People like to know how many years of service are being celebrated, so I’ve worked out the following formula.

=DATEDIF(VALUE(C4),”1-Jan-2008″,”y”) & ” y “


  • The fomula is by default DATEDIF(startdate,enddate,unit)
  • The start date variable (hire date) is in cell C4. However, since I actually concatenated columns that included Month, Day, and Year into a string, and strings don’t work for calculations, I needed to get the VALUE of C4.
  • The end date for comparison should be the first day of the following month. You could use the variable Now(), which tells the system to use the current date and time, but then the number of years would be off for a few folks.
  • I’m only looking for years of service, so I use the unit code “y”. This is in quotes so as not to be confused with the Y column.
  • To make it clear to readers that this number is a year, I added the string &” y” to the end of the result.
  • This formula is copied down a new column for all employee names & dates.
  • The spreadsheet is sorted by hire date.
  • Then I just copy & paste the cells into a message blast to our employees.

You could also use this formula to calculate age, but I wouldn’t recommend sending that information out to a world where many people prefer not to reveal their age!

You could also use this formula to calculate project time, using the NETWORKDAYS function. For more tips on this and other Date functions in Excel, see

Posted in community, office, project management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

best ways to help adults learn difficult concepts through interactive design

Posted by contentgrrl on November 8, 2007

I know this doesn’t sound much like the “adult” way to learn, but…Let them PLAY!

When I worked for Creative Education Institute, a good portion of the target audience for the reading and math software was adult literacy programs. They may not seem like difficult concepts, but tell that to someone who can’t read or figure. The programs are very interactive, designed for specific cognitive goals. In the math program, manipulatives (like learning toys) are used in tandem with animation to teach basic operations including addition and division of fractions.

When I taught DOS way back when, one of my most effective lessons was having the students role-play parts of the computer during startup. It was fun, and they actually remembered the sequence. has tons of Try It examples, where you can play with different HTML, CSS, and other script source code and see the results.

When I was at the SBC (now at&t) Center for Learning, most of the network tech training consisted of lecture and lab. That’s a good thing, as long as the lab exercises are real-life tasks, and it’s fairly easy to restore the system if a student screws up.

Back in ’97 I was lucky to be involved in the design of a telecom technician training simulation, that turned out like a video game. The tech was first instructed with animation how to use metering equipment and a little bit of theory (with quizlike questions interspersed), and then was given a job assignment in a virtual world. Assuming their truck was well equipped, they had to perform all the troubleshooting techniques and procedures required to solve the problem.

But the simulation program had to run on special Silicon Graphics machines, which SBC (now at&t) had to have an instructor travel around with on a truck. And once the monitoring equipment was upgraded (a frequent occurrence), the simulation became outdated. It was expensive to maintain.

Nowadays the game engines are so advanced that it’s cheaper to develop and much cheaper to distribute and maintain. Granted, the last games I’ve actively played/watched were:

  • Planescape Torment — a great RPG exploration of factions holding philosophies such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on.
  • San Andreas — a stupendous playhouse of a first-person shooter/driver/dancer/whatever. My husband thinks that game companies should integrate all kinds of play, so you only have to have one world, but be able to play all kinds of games in it, including his favorites: golf, racing, and shooting.
  • Half-Life 2 — a groundbreaking sci-fi first-person shooter that gives the user control over so many unexpected items in the environment.

SecondLife looks interesting as a mechanism for developing such environments and training labs, where a gamer or trainee won’t hurt anything in the real world, and I’ll be watching to see what comes out of it.

Posted in games, learning, performance, project management, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

7 Web conferencing technology providers compared (part 2 of 2)

Posted by contentgrrl on November 5, 2007

In part 1, 7 Big Considerations When Shopping for Web demo or conference services (part 1 of 2), we looked at seven questions you need to answer before you begin shopping for a Web conferencing technology.

In this part 2, let’s take a look at the pricing and particulars of 7 Web conferencing technology providers. Most of the following rated well in a Patricia Seybold Group report on web conferencing technology, but Linktivity and Ilinc were positively responsive to my queries even though they weren’t on that report:

  1. Linktivity has a hosted service that gives you 10 connections for 30 days for $450 (5 for $300). We’ve been really happy with our Webdemos and Virtual Classes, hosted ourselves on our own server. Our setup is limited to 50 concurrent connections for the visual portion of each demo or class. We have audioconference lines set up through our Telecom provider.
  2. ReadyComm/Genesys I saw 24 cents per minute per user on their site for both audio and Web.
  3. ilinc Under Buy ilinc, I saw 10c/min for audio plus 10-30c/min for the web conferencing portion, depending on how much collaboration you choose.
  4. Macromedia Breeze had options of 32 cents per min per user, or $375/mo for 5 users, or $750/mo for 10 users. Partnered w/ Premiere Global for audio, but can’t tell if audio is included in price. Like Webex, Microsoft and Adobe/Macromedia may charge an additional 20 cents a minute for each audio connection, or let you rely on your telecom provider.
  5. Microsoft LiveMeeting had similar options of 35 cents per min per user, or $375/mo for 5 users, or $750/mo for 10 users. Again, can’t tell if audio is included.
  6. seems like more of a long-term provider, requiring you to purchase and install software in order to manage your conferences. I couldn’t tell you about their pricing.
  7. WebEx. The current Pay-Per-Use rate is $0.33/minute per user with an additional charge of $0.20/minute per user.

Posted in learning, marketing, performance, project management | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

7 questions to answer before buying Web demo or conference services (part 1 of 2)

Posted by contentgrrl on November 4, 2007

I wanted to share what I’ve learned while shopping for online demonstrations or Web teleconference services. Here are seven questions you need to answer before you begin shopping.

  1. How many? Gather the information about the number of users you want to meet, and how many sessions.
  2. How long? Do you want a small, short-term solution to train a customer who has remote sites? Do you want a hosted solution, rather than install the software on your own server? How long each session is going to be?
  3. How will your audience connect? Can you assume your customer’s users all have broadband Web access, Windows, Internet Explorer 5.5+, and enough administrative privileges to install a requisite browser plug-in? Some corporations previously standardized on a specific older version of Netscape. Make sure you understand the end-user minimum requirements for the conferencing system you choose, and maybe check with your client’s IT department to be sure they can comply.
  4. Is Audio separate or integrated? Some conferencing systems rely on a separate teleconferencing line, and some integrate audio with the web. But your customers’ PCs may not have the sound cards or speakers that will deliver the audio to your audience. You’d hate for them to miss out on your trainers’ words. If audio is integrated, look for an alternative phone number to be made available and easy for participants to find.
  5. How easy is it to use? Your should be able to schedule and host a session with ease, and it should be crystal clear for your clients to connect and get support if necessary. The fewer steps the better. Ask for a pre-sale demo from cradle to grave that includes scheduling, hosting, user connecting, and any post-conference reports, which can help you determine whether the initial sessions had technical difficulties that you need to address with the provider.
  6. What’s the cost basis? Pay-per-use can be 20-40 cents (US) per minute per user, or you may be limited to a 5-10 seats for $300-750/month. With pay-per-use, look to be charged for actual minutes used. If you’re charged for all the minutes you reserve, it can certainly cost more.
  7. Can you customize with your branding? If it’s important, consider a hosting provider that lets you show your logo on the registration page and/or web conference interface.

In part 2, 7 Web Conferencing Technology Providers Compared (Part 2 of 2), we’ll take a look at the pricing and particulars of 7 Web conferencing technology providers.

Posted in learning, marketing, performance, project management | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »